Who benefits from Jesus’ kingship? (No, it’s not “everyone.”)
Jesus launched his most famous sermon with promises of blessing. Who were they for? What was he promising?
Was he telling those of us who are privileged and blessed how to be our best selves, how to be more blessing? Or was he promising that the world under his kingship would be different, that those who had missed out would finally be blessed?
Did you hear the one about the art lover who found an original by someone she and her husband admired? She texted the details to get his opinion. Between meetings, he rushed back a reply, “No. Price too high.” But his fumbling fingers missed the full stop. The text she received read, “No price too high.”
Did you hear the one Jesus told about the pearl merchant? He found the one he’d been waiting for, the elusive pearl with flawless shape, glistening tone, and perfect lustre. He traded everything away to have the thing he’d been waiting his whole life to find.
For Jesus, God’s reign over the world is that one thing worth trading everything for. Like the pearl merchant you might recognize it as the thing you’ve been searching for. Or you may not have been searching; perhaps you just stumbled on it, like treasure buried in a field. Either way, when you see it for what it is — the possibility of everything on earth functioning as beautifully as it was designed to do — what value do you place on it? Continue reading “What’s the value of God’s reign? (Matthew 13:45-46)”
The Beatitudes are revolutionary. They’re cameos of what happens when God turns the world back up the right way, overturning evil, restoring his reign. Release from oppression brings exuberant joy. Those who’ve missed out receive the kingdom. Those who’ve grieved receive comfort. The powerless receive the earth. Those who’ve yearned for justice are finally satisfied.
The heart of this joy is the untwisting of our humanity. All the injustice and power struggles and grief and poverty stem from abusing the power God gave us to rule his creation. We were designed to image his character by managing his world. Instead people have grasped his power and wielded it violently, destructively, oppressively. But all this evil is untwisted as God, in Jesus, brings us back under his reign.
So Jesus proclaims great joy on those who are genuinely human. Blessed are those who stop revolting, and reflect the image of our heavenly sovereign instead.
He gives us four cameos of what that looks like. It’s treating each other with mercy, so people see God’s mercy (5:7). It’s acting out of a pure heart, so people can see God rather than our image (5:8). It’s working for peace, so people see the family resemblance (5:9).
People understand what Jesus said in different ways, but there’s one foolproof explanation of his teaching we often miss: his life. Jesus’ words interpret his actions; Jesus’ actions interpret his words.
That’s how we understand people anyway. If you suggest something and your friend says, “Oh, sure!” you look at what they’re doing to see what they mean. If they grimace and roll their eyes you interpret it differently than if they nod enthusiastically. Sometimes what we do and what we say doesn’t add up, but that complication doesn’t arise with Jesus. Continue reading “The best way to understand Jesus”
When I was young, someone told me that Beatitudes were Be-attitudes — attitudes I should be. They’re not. Jesus did not say we should try to be poor, sad, or squashed with injustice. “Try to be persecuted” is patently absurd. No, the Beatitudes describe the people to whom the Father gives the kingdom.