1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Jesus announces blessings in the Beatitudes. However, we do not feel very blessed, in fact, just the opposite. We feel cursed. We begin to wonder, “How could a God who promises to love us allow us to be surrounded by so much hate? How could a God who promises to care for us let us feel so alone? How could a God who promises to have mercy on us let us feel so guilty?”
Now, there are times when we feel blessed. When the sun is shining, when your spouse is smiling, when your kids empty the dishwasher without being asked, when you get a promotion with a big pay raise, when your parents let you play video games all day, then you feel blessed. You can start to think that your life is one blessing after another. God does give us those times for our enjoyment, but that is not when Jesus says that you are blessed.
So, because we feel so unblessed and cursed, we take these beautiful words of Jesus and make them into Law, into things that we should and must do. We hear these words from Jesus and think, “If I want to have God’s blessing, then I’d better do these things. I’d better be poor in spirit, meek, merciful, pure in heart, and a peacemaker.” However, Jesus says that we are blessed precisely when we feel so cursed.
Jesus says that you who are poor in spirit, you who feel empty, you are blessed. To you belongs the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus says that you who mourn, those of you whose guts are wrenched by sorrow, you are blessed. Comfort will be given to you.
Jesus says that you who are meek, you who get trampled down by the strong, you are blessed. You will inherit the new creation.
Jesus says that you who hunger and thirst for righteousness, you who feel your guilt and shame because of your sins, you are blessed. You will be filled with Christ’s righteousness.
You don’t feel it, but don’t let that surprise you. As our Epistle text (1 Jn. 3:1-3) says, “Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto you, that you should be called children of God, and so you are.”
The world will not recognize this. If you do not know the parent, how will you recognize their children? The world will not identify you as children of God because the world does not know who God is. That will change. When Christ returns, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord. You will be revealed to be sons and daughters of God, and you will be like Jesus because you will see Him as He is. And even now, you hope in Him. And you are pure.
In the vision that John saw in our first reading (Rev. 7:2-17), John saw you. John saw you who have come out of the great tribulation of this world which Jesus has overcome (Jn. 16:33). John saw you who have been baptized, absolved, have had your hunger and thirst for righteousness quenched by Communion, and have washed your robe white in the blood of the Lamb. You have Jesus, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, as your Shepherd.
Dear saints, you are blessed. Jesus says that you are blessed here and now. You may not feel it, but who or what are you going to trust, Jesus and what He declares or your feelings?
We are going to sing a wonderful hymn For All the Saints (#164 in your hymnal). Turn there, please because this hymn contains so much Scriptural comfort.
- For all the saints who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest.
We sing blessing to Jesus for all the saints who rest from their labor because they confessed faith in Jesus before the world. This isn’t just talking about those who have died in the faith. You are praising Jesus because He has saved them, and He has saved you. You rest from your labors. You are forgiven, absolved, restored. You do not have to work and labor your way back to God. Alleluia! Alleluia!
- Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress, and their Might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well-fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
Dear saints, Jesus is even now your Rock, your Fortress, your Might. He leads you into battle against the devil, the world, and your own sinful flesh. In this present darkness, He is your one true Light. His light shines into your darkness and the darkness will never overcome you. Alleluia! Alleluia!
- Oh, may Thy soldiers, faithful, true, and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
You pray for yourself and for the saints who are with you and will come after you. “God, grant that we may continue to fight the good fight of faith. May we come into the unspeakable joys that await us.” The crown of life is awaiting you. Alleluia! Alleluia!
- O blest communion, fellowship divine,
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Those who have died in faith are not separated from you. Like them, you also are in Christ. You still struggle in this world with your sin and temptation, yet Jesus is with you. They shine in glory around the throne of the ascended Jesus. And at this altar, you will join with them as you eat Christ’s body and drink His blood which is a foretaste of the eternal banquet that is to come. Alleluia! Alleluia!
- And when the fight is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave again, and arms are strong.
When you are weary of the fight, when the war seems unwinnable, when you reach the end of yourself, hear the victorious battle song. Remember that the battle has been won. On the cross Christ, your Savior, defeated all your enemies. Be encouraged. Stand again. Fight with a heart made brave and arms made strong by Jesus’ body and blood. Alleluia! Alleluia!
Dear saints, God invites you to this altar. And as you come here to receive Christ’s body and blood, you, “come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (Heb. 12:22-24).
You who feel so cursed, Jesus says you are blessed. Jesus declares it, and so it is. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.