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Rethinking the beatitudes (part 2)

Every society has definitions for who are the people that are well off.  These often include the healthy, wealthy, wise, powerful and well connected, and the politically and religiously correct.  First century Palestine was no different.  The revolutionary message of Jesus was that the blessing of being in God's Kingdom was now available to all. 

So at the beginning of the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5) Jesus is surrounded by a great crowd of people - the great unwashed -  many if not most of whom would not have been regarded as well off - unwell, demon possessed, religiously illiterate.  I can imagine that many of the faces of the recently healed and accepted by Jesus would have been beaming with joy.  Then to his disciples Jesus points out these people some of whom were spiritually bankrupt, others who were mourning over tragedies in their lives, others who had been trodden on by others, some who wished they could break out of life controlling sinful behaviours, the perfectionists, and the people who were the proverbial meat in the sandwich between warring parties.  He said that these people were blessed NOT because of their conditions but because they were being drawn into God's Kingdom.

In my sermon last Sunday I suggested that our society has its own versions of those who are not well off, those who are not 'blessed', those who are hopeless - these include the fat, the ugly, the unemployable, the frail, the abused, the criminal, and maybe most of all the paedophile.   Jesus says that the Kingdom is available to all of these, even me, even you.  We can all experience God's blessing through the person of Jesus whatever our condition, whatever we have done.

Having demonstrated that the Kingdom of God is open to all, Jesus then goes on to teach about the Kingdom sort of righteousness that goes beyond the righteousness of the Pharisees and teachers of the law and that leads to the sort of life that can withstand all of life's storms (Matthew 5-7).  Jesus doesn't want us to stay where we are - he wants us to move into a different sort of life, an eternal sort of life.

David Wanstall, 17/04/2008