Thought for the week - 13 February
The central part of our Gospel passage today is one of the most famous and perhaps best loved passages in the New Testament. We call the collection of phrases the Beatitudes, so called because of the meaning of the first word of each line, blessing - or rather blessed, meaning in context, blessed are you, with a clarifying phrase following.
“Blessed are you if ….” is the formula. A set of conditions leading to a blessing.
But there is a phrase in that Gospel which puzzles me, makes me wonder what is going on. Have a look with me.
“Jesus looked up at his disciples and said” - then follow the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes are aimed at the disciples. So, what is going on?
The disciples have been called, initially the fishermen, who were amazed by the miracle of the huge catch of fish we heard about last week. Now, here is Jesus performing yet more amazing miracles. Jesus is driving out devils, healing the sick, probably as in other episodes making the deaf hear, the blind see, lepers cleansed. People come in their thousands clamouring to see the miracle worker.
So, what did Jesus see when he looked up? Well, I think he may have seen a rather smug group of people. A group of people basking in the glow of what their leader - THEIR leader is doing, sharing in the adulation. Later, Jesus had to reprimand some of his disciples for their pride and their grasping after fame and glory. Perhaps this is what Jesus is doing here. Jesus looks up and sees his disciple in pride and false comfort. They are rich instead of poor, full of pride instead of hungry for justice, laughing at their good fortune instead of weeping with those who weep.
What does Jesus see when he looks up at you and me? What are our priorities in life, how does our discipleship of Jesus affect and influence our life as and attitudes to wealth, comfort? What truly makes us happy?
And Jesus’s last killer word to his disciples - what do we care more about - being well thought of, or sitting alongside the poor and the hungry, weeping with those who weep.
Following this passage comes another teaching passage of Jesus to his disciples. A passage which speaks about not judging others, about forgiveness and about sacrificial generosity.
The passage ends with a question:
Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?
We are not told directly how the disciples responded to what Jesus said, but I bet they stopped laughing. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’d be laughing either,
- then or now!
But thank good ness that’s not the end of the story for the disciples – or us. Over and over again Jesus teaches, forgives accepts as we are and through His grace changes us.
Each of us needs to see Jesus look up at us, hear his reprimand for sure, and then be willing to change.
But Jesus goes further still – so must the disciples and so must we. Remember, Jesus is speaking TO the disciples. If they are to follow Jesus, the they – and we - will be the ones to mourn and weep, go hungry, become poor and be rejected.
An introduction indeed to the Lenten discipline ahead!