4th Sunday after the Epiphany

by Crossings

THE BLESSED VINDICATION OF THE VILIFIED
Matthew 5:1-12
(Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany)
analysis by Janet Racen

1When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: 3″Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. 8Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”


DIAGNOSIS: Vilified

Step 1–Initial Diagnosis: Reviled and Persecuted
The rewards of heaven (v. 12) seem far removed from the very evident and difficult times on earth for the poor, mourning, meek, hungry, and persecuted. Their experience is more like being in the darkened valley of the looming mountain on which Jesus speaks. There are still plenty of poor, mourning, and hungry people, and those who seek to change those circumstances-the meek, the merciful, the peacemakers-do not seem to escape the deadly consequences of being “persecuted for righteousness’ sake” (v. 10).

Step 2–Advanced Diagnosis: Poor in Spirit
Our temptation is to avoid learning from Jesus and learning instead from the world. In worldly reality, the aggressive ones gain, not the meek. In our hearts and in our lives, we come to cherish the rewards of the world, not the rewards of heaven of which Jesus speaks. However, that is the signal of our own impoverished state-that the only rewards and resources on which we can draw are those which we can manufacture.

Step 3–Final Diagnosis: Burdened/Buried
Would that that were the only burden-to try to make a go of it on our own. But in the process, we find that we can make little headway. There are plenty of people who will try to bury us in our endeavors to get ahead, and even our own selfish desires for gain take their deadly toll. In the end we cannot escape the final toll of our own death. But the largest problem, which we may too often overlook, is that God is, all along, inhibiting us, criticizing us, and eventually burying us.

PROGNOSIS: Blessed with Victory

Step 4–Initial Prognosis: Raised
The One who “went up the mountain” to teach would also be raised up upon a mountain to die for us. This was part and parcel of his “blessed” journey, and it turns out to be a blessing for us. In the face of our deadly encounter with God, this Jesus the Christ bring the greatest rewards of heaven to us by himself getting buried under God’s paralyzing criticism. He pays the toll, so that we may reap the reward, no longer burdened by our sin but free to rise from the dead.

Step 5–Advanced Prognosis: Glad
No wonder that the word “blessed” really means “happy.” For instead of having little to look forward to but another day of impoverished toil and/or misery, we have the glad spirit that Jesus is with us today. And we get to be glad (= rejoice) in the new day that is dawning through our raising Lord, even in the midst of those things which try our spirit.

Step 6–Final Prognosis: Rewarding
As part of the reward, we also get to lift up the poor in spirit, comfort the mourners, praise the meek, fill the hungry and thirsty, show mercy, be pure in heart, bring peace, accept persecution as a sign of faithfulness, and give love to those who revile us. Nobody said it was going to be easy, least of all our Lord. But each day until the final day, we are always rewarding as we are so deeply rewarded by our blessed/blessing Lord. Imagine the haven-indeed, the heaven!-that brings to the earth.

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  • Crossings

    Crossings is a community of welcoming, inquisitive people who want to explore how what we hear at church is useful and beneficial in our daily lives.

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