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Blessings Bring Joy November 6, 2016

Posted by sandhandrews in Sermons.
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Matthew 5:1-12

All Saints’ Day

November 6, 2016


Focus:  God blesses us through His Son.

Function:  That the hearers rejoice in the blessings of God.

Structure:  Walking through the text.


Blessings Bring Joy


You have a wonderful opportunity this week to spend a long, fall day with a good friend.  It might be with your spouse out doing some hiking in the woods.  It could with be an old friend out on the lake for a little more fishing.  Or with a close girl friend out doing some shopping.  Whatever it is that you’re imagining, you’ve spent the better part of the day together.  It’s been fun.  And right as you turn to them to discuss when you can do this again, they let out a loud sneeze.  And almost as if it’s a reflex you respond….bless you.

Do we even know what that means? I’ve heard that it was believed in the past that when you sneeze your heart skips a beat, and so we bless someone who just sneezed with ongoing life, that their heart returns to a normal rhythm.  I have no idea if that’s true or not.  But even if it is, who’s the one who’s actually doing the blessing?

We have other times we talk about the word “bless” or “blessing.”  Maybe we think of the way we might close a letter, “blessings.”  Sometimes we even use it to replace the word “good.”  “That’s such a blessing” is the same as saying “That’s a good thing.”  Some use it as another way to say the word “prayer.”  “It’s time to say the blessing.”   And then there’s that thing about giving someone your consent.  “You have my blessing,” like the man who grants permission for someone to become his future son-in-law.

But for as common a word as it is, I’m not sure we often think about what it actually means.  But we need to, because that’s vital to what Jesus preached in the most famous sermon ever recorded.

Our gospel text today is from the book of Matthew.  It’s the beginning of what we call the Sermon on the Mount.  And it’s the longest, single discourse we have recorded from Jesus, lasting from chapter five through chapter seven.  But unlike a typical Lutheran sermon that starts with the Law and ends with the Gospel, here Jesus does the opposite.  He begins with the greatness of the gospel message and then proceeds to share with us what we would call law as He tells us how to live as the people of God.

The gospel according to Matthew really does pick up with Advent themes, the coming Messiah, the coming of God’s kingdom.  And, more specifically, it identifies who that king is.  It’s Jesus.  He’s the King of the kingdom.  It’s His.  Not Herod’s as we see in the second chapter.  Not Satan’s as we see in the fourth chapter.  Christ is King.  And that’s going to go a long way in the sermon He preached.

As we begin chapter five, we see Jesus going up on a mountain to be alone with His disciples.  That’s the setting for the Sermon on the Mount.  Indeed, that’s where the name comes from.  And as He sits there with His disciples, He begins to teach them.

And what follows are nine blessings that we’ve come to call the Beatitudes.  But nobody sneezed, and nobody was asking Jesus’ consent for anything.  These blessings aren’t just words.  They’re oozing with gospel.  There’s a whole sermon in each one, but we’ll do as Jesus did today and keep it brief.

The first four blessings go together.  They’re a common theme. They’re not things that we have to do, but they’re who we are.  In Matthew chapter four, the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, He’s going around preaching to the people, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” – Matthew 4:17

Some people mistakenly read the Beatitudes as law.  Blessed are the poor in spirit means we have to make ourselves poor in spirit.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, well we have to strive for perfection.  If that’s how you read the Beatitudes, then the Sermon on the Mount is nothing but Law, and in the end, there’s no hope here.  Because no matter how hard I try, I can’t do it.  No matter how much I might want to be perfect, I can’t do it.  No matter how much I want to be comforted, I can’t make myself mourn.

These things are simply who we are.  We remember who Jesus is talking to.  The disciples and the crowds who’ve come out to hear Him.  They’re the ones who’ve repented; they heard the message that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, and they listened, they believed.  And so verses 3-6 aren’t something they do, these verses simply describe who they are.  Who we are.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  We aren’t talking about the impoverished, the starving.  This isn’t about being money poor.  Think of it instead like the Apostle Paul, bemoaning himself as the chief of sinners.  We are downtrodden, we have nothing, we bring nothing before God.  We are empty, we are poor.  And yet, this is the good news, Christ the King fills us. He gives us His kingdom.  We didn’t earn it, He just gives it.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”  This is something we all do.  We beat our chests over sin and death.  We mourn the tragedy that has befallen creation, every time we see it.  As we mark All Saints’ Day this weekend, we think of this specifically.  We’ve lost, we grieve over our loved ones who faced death.  And yet the Scriptures promise that we will be comforted, more than that, they promise a place where there will be no more tears.  This place is for all the saints, those past and present.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”  Meek, it means quiet, submissive.  If you call someone meek, you’re basically calling them a pushover.  They let the boss walk all over them, they let the bully have his way.  They won’t stand up for themselves.  They aren’t the powerful, and yet they get the earth.  They inherit the earth.  Christ the King gives it to them.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”  This isn’t about the rumblings of your tummy.  It’s about a longing, about a hope that we would be made right with God.  That we would be saved.  And Christ the King responds, they’ll have it.  In faith, we receive the free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ.

For the people of faith, for us who repent of our sins, these verses aren’t law.  They’re sweet, sweet gospel.  That in the cross of Jesus Christ, and in His resurrection, and in His Word, and in His Sacrament, we receive all of these things.  They aren’t mere words, they’re not even just promises.  These blessings are everlasting gifts.

And even at that, these gifts are so profound, they’re so abundant and overflowing that even though we’ve yet to receive them, we’ve yet to touch them in their fullness, they still cause us to rejoice.  The Beatitudes are us, they are our faith.  That in Christ, the kingdom is yours, in Christ, comfort is yours, in Christ, the earth is yours, in Christ, salvation is yours.  Good, great, blessed gospel!

There is a shift here.  The first four blessings were simply about who we are as the people of God.  The next few will be about what we do.  “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

These three call us into the life of Christ.  To live in this manner.  You might even argue that these things are letting the rest of the sermon play out.  That we hear the rest of chapters 5-7 and we take them to heart.  Even these aren’t our doing, we only live them out as gifts that Christ has given us.  Read them today when you go home.  Finish the sermon of Christ and digest His teaching.  That’s part of what it means to be a disciple.  We have the gift of learning from the King of creation Himself.  And that’s a gift to treasure.

And lastly, I think verses 11-12 actually describe verse 10.

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.


This gets back to being disciples of Christ, to simply being.  This isn’t about doing, it’s just who we are.  When our identity is fixed in Christ, we will do these things.  We will see persecution for the sake of the gospel.  We will be reviled, and have all kinds of evil done to us and spoken against us.  And Jesus looks at that and says: “Blessed are those…for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Do you see how that’s come full circle?  The Beatitudes introduction of the sermon begins and ends at the same place, that in Christ, you have all these things.  These words, these promises, these gifts are yours.  They’re yours right now.  And while you may not have experienced them in their fullness, while you may not have tasted them in their completeness, they are just as sweet.

We bring nothing to the table.  We are poor and meek.  We mourn our sin, we long for righteousness, we endure the attacks of Satan and his kingdom as they let out the final battle cries of a dying world.  And Jesus blesses us and all the saints before us with everything He has to give.  He gives us His own life in place of our own.

These blessings abound within us, they well up within us causing us to burst in joy.  And I don’t mean be happy all the time, but rather, joy is treasuring our salvation from God.  One of the analogies for joy the Bible uses is that of a woman in labor.  That despite all the pain, it all changes when she holds her child for the first time.  Pain and agony turn to joy.  She treasures the gift of life God has given her.  She rejoices and gives thanks to the Lord for her child.  This is joy.  We treasure the gift of life and salvation that Christ has blessed us with, and we give thanks.









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