I'm in a men's Community Group that meets during the week to study the Bible and do life "shoulder to shoulder," and right now we're working slowly through the book of Matthew. For the last few weeks we've been in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, and as part of that we read "the Beatitudes" in Matthew 5:3-12:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
Understandably, these "Beatitudes" (think of them as ways to be blessed) can be abstract, and many of them sound foreign to our 21st century Western ears. Therefore, in the men's group of which I'm a part we spent the bulk of our time discussing what these Beatitudes look like as they're actually lived out. What does it look like to be "poor in spirit"? How about "meek," or "pure in heart"? How do we embody the Beatitudes?
A key part of the answer that was suggested is that we look at the life of Jesus. As the perfect, sinless, and sent "God-man" (fully God and fully man), how did Jesus live out these values?
Below I've included a number of ways I see Jesus embodying these Beatitudes - what follows is very brief, certainly isn't exhaustive, and I'm guessing a few people might quibble with one or two of the things I bring up. But these will hopefully get your own mind thinking about how Jesus embodied the Beatitudes AND give you a better sense of how you can live out these values yourself, in your situation.
Jesus as poor in spirit
The example I think of here is simply the reality of Jesus "making himself nothing" and "taking the nature of a servant, being made in human likeness" that we read about in Philippians 2:5-8. Rather than clinging to his status and entitlements as the second Person of the Triune God, he "did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage." Rather, his equality with God was manifested in his willingness to become human, suffer, and ultimately die before being raised again to God's right hand. This lack of attention to our "rights" and "entitlements," this focus on others at the expense of our comfort, is a powerful picture of being poor in spirit.
Jesus as one who mourns
What made Jesus cry? What made him mourn? Two examples come to mind: when Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus in John 11:35, and when Jesus wept over Jerusalem in Luke 19:41-44. In both of these cases, Jesus wept over sin. In the case of Lazarus, he wept over the consequences of sin taking shape in human death and grief. In the case of Jerusalem, he wept over the hardness of heart and blindness to God's activity that characterized the city. Do we weep over these same sorts of things?
Jesus as meek
If meekness is defined as "strength humbly channeled into service," then perhaps a good place to look for this is in John 13:1-5. This passage begins by telling us that Jesus KNEW all things were "under his power," that "he had come from God" and "was returning to God." Rather than using this as an excuse to "coast" through to the end or exert his privileges as Son of God, the next phrases we read show that Jesus got up and washed his disciples' feet. This is humility. And gentleness. It is strength channeled into service. In other words, it's meekness. Do these last few phrases characterize your actions and attitudes in the last week? How might you apply these phrases in this coming week?
Jesus as hungering and thirsting for righteousness
In John 4:34, Jesus says that "my food is to do the will of him who sent me and finish his work." Jesus' greatest hunger wasn't for food, and his greatest thirst wasn't for water. His greatest hunger and thirst was knowing and furthering God's will and work for him on this earth - which Jesus ultimately accomplished by securing the righteousness of all who would believe in him through his sacrificial, substitutionary death for us on the cross (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21). What are we hungry for?
Jesus as merciful
There are lots of examples of Jesus' mercy. Some obvious examples include Jesus showing mercy to the woman caught in adultery as recorded in John 8:1-11, and Jesus extending grace to "the least of these" in society (e.g. Mark 5:25-34 or Mark 10:13-16). But other examples could surely be considered as well, including the many times Jesus surely "bit his tongue" rather than correcting wrong thinking of either his disciples or the crowds, or the times he went out of his way to minister to someone who would today be considered an "extra grace required" person.
Jesus as pure in heart
To be sure, Jesus as pure in heart doesn't mean he was never tempted (cf. Matthew 4:11 and Hebrews 4:15). Rather, Jesus' purity in heart means he chose to respond to temptation by depending on God and his Word (see the passages in Matthew 4 and Hebrews 4 above). Jesus' purity in heart means he was focused on God's will for his life. Jesus' purity of heart means he was devoted to his Father without any idolatries "polluting" this commitment. We pursue this same purity of heart today by responding to temptation as Jesus did, and genuinely mimicking his whole-hearted devotion to God.
Jesus as peacemaker
The ultimate example of Jesus as our peacemaker is how he accomplished peace with God for his followers, by his death on the cross (cf. Roman 5:1 and Romans 5:6-11). Jesus's work of peace-making was initiated by himself - the offended party - rather than the offender (us). Jesus' work of peacemaking was costly, asking of him the greatest sacrifice. And Jesus' peacemaking was generous, offering reconciliation to any who would follow him. May our own peace-making efforts be in line with Jesus' example!
Jesus as persecuted
As the Lamb of God that was led to the slaughter, Jesus' time on earth culminated in his suffering and persecution for following God's will on his life - ultimately leading to his death on the cross. In 1 Peter 3:8-22 we read that we should not be frightened if we suffer for doing what is right. Rather, Jesus is our example of patient - and victorious! - suffering in the face of undeserved persecution. This doesn't mean we go out of our way looking for persecution! Rather, it means that if (when?) we encounter persecution and suffering as we faithfully follow Christ, we should look to Jesus' example and reward for strength and perseverance. And if we're never persecuted - even in the smallest of ways - for following Christ, perhaps we should ask how visibly we're living for him (cf. 2 Timothy 3:12)?
Are there ways Jesus embodied any of the Beatitudes that you've thought of, that I've not brought up in this post? Mention them here!
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