"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Matthew 5 - The Beatitudes Concluded

Today we will continue with the remaining Beatitudes. As I mentioned yesterday author Kenneth Bailey devoted two chapters to this topic in his book, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes. Here are a few more notes I thought were worth discussing. Please let me know your opinions. Matthew 5:1-12 -- "The Beatitudes."

6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.

"Those whose drive for righteousness is as pervasive, all-consuming and recurring as the daily yearning to satisfy hunger and thirst....[this] can only be satisfied by God." (pg. 81)

As for what is righteousness ... I wrote Could This Be Righteousness? a few weeks ago that discussed it more fully and I'll refer you there if you are interested.

7Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.

As for mercy there are two basic meanings:

1. "Compassion that is composed of feelings and actions"
2. The other is "profoundly related to forgiving and being forgiven"

In his explanation of the second one the author writes:

To show mercy or to forgive is extremely difficult for those who have been deeply wronged. But the alternative is self-destruction through nursing grudges or seeking revenge. Such grievances are often passed on from generation to generation and become a destructive force in the lives of individuals and societies. The bless-ed escape these self-crippling cycles, for they are merciful. ... [Additionally], this Beatitude claims that the merciful "shall obtain mercy." ... That is, the merciful will obtain the mercy of God. The mercy of their fellow human beings may be in short supply but the mercy of God will never fail them." (pg.83)


8Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.

Outside cleanliness is not enough! As we learned from the story of the prophet Samuel on assignment from God to anoint Israel's next king, humans look on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart. The purity of our hearts is more important to God than our clean hands and faces.

The pure in heart don't have "a multiplicity of motives" nor hidden agendas. Rather their feelings, mind and will are transparent and "what you see is what you get." (pg. 84)

9Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.

Peace in the Bible doesn't mean lack of violence and end of war. It "includes the finest of loving relationships between individuals, within families, communities and nations. Peace also includes good health. ... [It] is primarily the peace of God, which includes all of the above and 'passes all understanding.'"

"Peacemakers are different from peacekeepers and pacifists. Peacemakers work for healed relationships on all levels and will be called 'children of God.'" (pg. 87)

10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

This doesn't mean someone opposes you because you are untrustworthy, got fired from your job because you were lazy and unable to get along with others. Only when you are persecuted for the cause of righteousness can you legitimately claim this distinction.

11"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

A critical shift has now taken place in the Beatitudes. Up to this point, all of them can be explained out of the Hebrew Scriptures. Yet something has been creeping up on the reader. These eight lofty standards have their finest expression in the life of Jesus. The reader gradually comes to this conclusion as the list lengthens. In the ninth Beatitude loyalty to the person of Jesus is openly introduced. That same loyalty is inevitable if the reader turns to Jesus as a model for the fulfillment of the pattern of righteousness here portrayed.

...

With the conversion of Emperor Constantine to the Christian faith, "the age of martyrs" officially ended. But the twentieth century saw far more Christians die for their faith than was known in the early centuries. In Armenia, Russia, China and the southern Sudan, millions in the modern age have died for their loyalty to Jesus Christ. This final Beatitude, with its expansion, still speaks powerfully to the global church. (pg. 86)



Do you agree with Kenneth Bailey's conclusions on these verses? Do you have other viewpoints we should consider? Thoughts? Questions?

5 comments:

Nocturnal Queen said...

"To show mercy or to forgive is extremely difficult for those who have been deeply wronged. But the alternative is self-destruction through nursing grudges or seeking revenge..."

Yep.

"[Additionally], this Beatitude claims that the merciful 'shall obtain mercy.' ... That is, the merciful will obtain the mercy of God. The mercy of their fellow human beings may be in short supply but the mercy of God will never fail them.'"

God has been merciful to me while going through what we're going through, but I'm still waiting on His mercy to bring us out of this completely. As I've said before, It's time for the nightmare to be over. *sigh*

Wrestling said...

I'm still reading, and enjoying your posts on Matthew. I guess my feeling about the beatitudes is that they are so counter-intuitive, they really make you stop and think. That seems to be Jesus's style. ;)

Susanne said...

Niki, I know. I want your nightmare to be over too! :(

Sarah, thank you! I'm glad you are still reading along with me. I enjoy your comments. :)

Amber said...

I like the commentary from Mr. Bailey. Seems to be very spot on to me.

Forgiveness is the *hardest* thing. At least for me, that is. I struggle with it with one person in particular, and I think that's going to last until the day I die (because I'm certain my hatred is going to outlive him...). I think it's hardest because it is impossible for the harm to ever be made up for. In forgiving, we're being asked to count as 'balanced' something that can never really be balanced. A person can say they're sorry. They can pay for an object they broke, etc. but that doesn't ever undo what was done. As a friend of mine likes to say, she'll forgive, but she won't forget. She won't keep bringing up the 'incident' (whatever it might be), but she never forgets about it. She judges the person according to this knowledge. What we're asked to do here, though, is to forgive *and* forget. Because that's what we'd like God to do for us. Forgive our sins and 'forget' them. Don't look at us and see them, anymore.

Oohh...the paragraph about the critical shift and how Jesus is the perfect example of all the Beatitudes is excellent.

Susanne said...

Amber, glad you liked so many things from K. Bailey's thoughts on this topic! I enjoyed them as well.

I'm sorry forgiveness is such a struggle in relation to this one person. Actually I'm really sorry someone hurt you that badly. I pray that one day God will enable you to do the impossible with His help. Not for "his" sake, but for your own. Because YOU are worth it. (Didn't that sound so trite?) :-/