“When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: ‘Blessed are…’”
Teen burglars broke into a department store one night thinking they would have some fun. But it’s not what you think. They didn’t steal a thing. Rather they swapped price tags on merchandise in the store. Values were changed. You can imagine the shock to shoppers the next morning as they discovered big screen televisions for $12.99 and paperback books for a whopping $3,700.00!
This, sadly, is an image of our world, where values are so misplaced and distorted. But Jesus comes proclaiming the good news of God’s kingdom (Matthew 4:17, 23). He turns an upside down world right side up, placing right value on the things that really matter.
In the beatitudes Jesus is revealing what the reign of God looks like as His will is done on earth as it is in heaven. N. T. Wright helps put Jesus’ beatitudes in their historical context:
They are announcing a new state of affairs, a new reality which is in the process of bursting into the world. They are declaring that something that wasn’t previously the case is now going to be; that the life of heaven, which had seemed so distant and unreal, is in the process of coming true on earth (After You Believe).
Notice that in both the first and last beatitudes Jesus conveys the same blessing: “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…’
‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’
By talking in this way Jesus is using a common rhetorical device called “inclusion”. He uses the first and last beatitudes like bookends to frame all the other beatitudes. It was an artful way of saying that all the beatitudes have to do with God’s kingdom. Any who would follow Jesus must know they belong to a wholly different kingdom with wholly different values.
Like all spiritual growth, the beatitudes move from the inside out. They start with attitudes before God (vertical) and move outward into actions toward others (horizontal). When they are all put together they form a composite picture of the blessed life.
“Follow me!” King Jesus commands. Be in the vanguard of God’s new kingdom of turning the world right side up. Be His agents of change in the world. Live as His salt and light.
PONDER AND PRAY
“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks.”
- What values of this upside down world are most tempting to you?
- What excites you about being part of God’s new kingdom? What challenges or frightens you about being part of His kingdom?
- What do You want To Say To God?