Matthew 5:1-12 (NRSV)
Chapter 5When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Verse 2Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
Verse 3"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Verse 4"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Verse 5"Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Verse 6"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Verse 7"Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Verse 8"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Verse 9"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Verse 10"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Verse 11"Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Verse 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
We may be so well acquainted with the story of Jesus teaching his disciples and the crowds in his Sermon on the Mount that we might be desensitized to the surprising nature of the Beatitudes. "Of course Jesus stands up for the poor, the shunned, the powerless," we might think. "That's what he's supposed to do."
But those original disciples and the crowd probably had no such expectation. And if we reread Jesus' words with fresh eyes, we might we see anew not only the novelty of his message, but the downright craziness of it. One might be justified in asking, "Really, Jesus? These are your only weapons? Against an empire? Seriously?"
But, as N.T. Wright puts it, God "doesn't send in the tanks. God sends in the meek, the broken, the justice-hungry, the peacemakers, and the pure-hearted." In other words, God sends the blessings of God's kingdom because of God's steadfast love for us. Then God sends us out to do God's work in the world.
Lord, thank you for the faith and love you show us through the light of your Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.