The Beatitudes: A Study in Boat-Rocking

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In previous articles, we’ve discussed each of the beatitudes individually and what they mean for us, but let’s step back for a moment and think about the significance this upside-down sermon had for those who heard it. We have heard it so many times that it almost becomes white noise to us. We might associate it with sleepy Sunday mornings or monotonous clergymen, but coming from Jesus, this was no humdrum homily. This was a direct and outrageous threat to the entire power structure of the culture he was addressing. This was a scandalous, revolutionary, countercultural declaration of war on the spiritual princes and principalities of this world. This was the kingdom of God breaking through into the here and now and turning everything everyone thought they knew right one its head. This kind of talk could get you killed. This kind of talk did get Him killed.


Here is Jesus, this Jewish carpenter upstart, standing before men and women raised in an honor-shame culture and a religious hierarchy of power and position, and naming the last and the least of his hearers as honored! He didn’t stop there. In a mirrored sermon given in Luke chapter 6, he goes on to warn those in the positions culturally regarded with honor and call them to mourn for their honored positions!

This kind of talk could get you killed. This kind of talk did get Him killed

No wonder the religious and political rulers of the day feared Him and His message! Their entire systems of living were based on the prosperity blessing assumption, held by the “friends” of Job, that a position of honor or esteem was a validation of a person’s character and divine appointment to their station. Now Jesus is here declaring that it will not be so among his followers, that the last will be first and the first will be last. To people acclimated to a dynamic of power-rulership, this must have seemed like a threat of revolt, of top-down government overthrow, rather than the infinitely more powerful prophecy and instruction for self-sacrificial Christian living, that we now recognize it to be. (1 Corinthians 7)

We can see how this was a boat-rocking message to shake the powerful to their cores, especially when they looked upon the numbers of rapt listeners flocking to hear it. But oh what a message of hope, of relief, of affirmation to those struggling under their yokes. In a culture where poverty, grief, illness, or loss were not just afflictions to be borne, but indications of shame and unworthiness, to be told that those very afflictions are blessings, are badges of honor? How life-altering must that change of perspective have been for them?

We can see how this was a boat-rocking message to shake the powerful to their cores

This was not just a message of instruction in godly living, though it was that too, this was a message to straighten the necks and the backs of all those who were heavy-laden, an affirmation that in Christ their very trial was evidence of His favor and regard! Truly His yoke is easy and His burden light in comparison to that of humiliation and shame. And truly it remains so today for all of us, as we struggle in a world that always wants to turn itself back upside down, we can take comfort in the one who turned it right-side-up by making himself the lowliest of all.

posted by Daily,
October 24 18

Daily Nourish serves to encourage Christians to honor God with all their heart, mind, soul & strength and to love their neighbor as themselves. Thanks for stopping by!


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