The Good Life Is…!
My Dear Faithful friend:
As we continue on the broadcast through the Gospel according to Matthew, each month here we will highlight special moments. This month it is the “Sermon on the Mount.” This is Jesus with no ordinary sermon, but more a series of concise comments, some of which are begin with the Lord’s declaration, “You have heard it said, but I say unto you!” But He initiates this all with a profound call to live very different as God’s people. To resist what the world values, and instead embrace what He declares are the values of what Matthew refers to as the Kingdom of Heaven. It is these values that Jesus is saying give life meaning, and which are those God will value for eternally.
Jesus in these few verses brings to the stale and callous first century faith of Israel new insights that has in its breath and depth strangely brought changes to every other religion on earth. This, when very few really understand what Jesus is actually saying. The “Beatitudes,” as we call them, begin this profound call to this new life. The word, which is usually translated “blessed,” “how happy,” or “how fortunate,” is a complex Greek concept, and fully means, “the good life,” “Here is the best of life,” or the “great expectations” of what is God’s Kingdom.
Such a wonderful and blessed life in God’s Kingdom is, however, not the vindication of God’s people, nor obviously the humiliation of the enemies of God be it Rome, or whoever might be seen the current antagonist. It is God’s call to His faithful to join in this “blessed” existence. An existence that is not for the haughty, or those that see this as their right. It is not for those that perceive themselves as the pure, but for the “poor in spirit.” That means those who are faithful, seek His presence, and don’t presume they merit God’s grace. Those who grieve over the lack of spiritual commitment and repentance in their midst, have submitted to the will of God, and will wait upon the Lord. They desire righteousness above all, which includes deliverance and salvation for others. And a new life inhabited by those that forgive, for they have, of course, “obtained God’s mercy.” It is those pure of heart, those that make for peace, who seek no advantage over others, but instead desire to reflect the very nature of our Lord. And because these are of God’s Kingdom they will be persecuted, and, naturally, they will be reviled, and “falsely accused of all matter evil.”
Such Jesus identifies as those of His Kingdom, and are the very salt to provide the savor, and healing for our world, and the light that might draw more to Him. This seems a stark and demanding calling, but to teach this is to be called “great.” But now before Jesus will deepen and internalize the Law of God, He will assert that our “righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, or you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt. 5:20). This is the key, for how is that possible? Just as is His later call that “you therefore must be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt.5:48)?
The key is, like so much of our faith, it is not up to us, but God! This all is not what we must do, but what God will do in and through us when we are open, seeking, obedient, and desiring His work in us. It is never about what we are able to do. It is not about our strength, ability, natural gifts, and certainly not our intellect. It is about His grace, mercy, and love for us, and then what He will do in, through, and for us.
This is the good life. This is any life in our Lord, our willingness, our desires to be used, and open to the urging of His Spirit. What He seems to require of us is obedience to His will. His commands are not rigorous, or even that demanding. His “yoke is easy, and burden light,” for He makes all this possible (Mt.11:30). The failure of Israel to remain faithful, obedient, and in dedicated service, was that they were not filled with God’s Spirit. Then it would only be found in the few, those called, or those that sought it diligently. Nothing has changed, other than we are to know that all are called, all can and should seek Him diligently, and that all our lives might be good, or “blessed.”
Here is the best of life, what is our expectations for God’s Kingdom.