July 30, 2019
Scripture Mark 5:1-9
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
Matthew 5:7-9 NRSV
Here in Matthew Jesus is proclaiming that things have changed. And, they have changed for the good. But, the message is disturbing to the more affluent, the more powerful, and the politically connected among those hearing him. They have this reaction because Jesus states that God is bringing joy, comfort, and profound peace to everyone- except them! Now, later in this Gospel, and in the other three, we hear responses from those that Jesus is rubbing the wrong way. But, here they are silent. And, if you read past the Beatitudes you will see that Jesus does not stop there. He describes the underlying nature of those for whom God offers hope, support, peace, and ultimate joy. It is unexpected news for all concerned.
Jesus mentions the merciful, “for they will receive mercy.” (Matt. 5:7) The term mercy in a religious context today concerns people who exhibit kindness as agents of God’s mercy, sparing others and giving of themselves for the good of the other. Of course, this is not popular in our culture. Typically, we harden our hearts with vicious verbal attacks against our opponents from all sides. But, in his ministry Jesus demonstrates that we are to be something else entirely: We are to be caring and kind. He reinforced this with the familiar parable of the dreaded “heathen” Samaritan who picked up, and cared for, an injured man. This detested person, the Samaritan, showed mercy while the two officials involved with worship a the temple, a Jewish priest and a Levite, failed to take any action at all (Luke 10:25-37). The Samaritan, the one outside of the Jewish faith, showed mercy. In this statement in the Beatitudes, Jesus tells us that this activity of mercy is God at work. It is the kingdom come. It is the heart of the Gospel.
In the Beatitudes, Jesus spells out particular individuals who are worthy of God’s blessing and communion with God. They are hardly the folks that we would find today at our tall steeple churches or among the leaders of a congregation. Like the peacemakers, they are people who either escape attention or who are derided and ridiculed for who and what they are and the views for which they stand.
Jesus is telling us that we are not the judges for them or for anyone else. That is a role for God alone. Our job is to show kindness and to love impartially, even when it hurts to do that very thing. If we are living in Christ, these aspects become second nature. Jesus asks us: Do we dare to have a faith that is like Christ: founded, grounded, and lived out each day in love and charity? Are you and I able to extend a helping hand to whoever is in need?