The Beatitudes teach this joy. We return to them throughout our lives and each time they broaden our understanding of what it means to be blessed by a loving Savior. They are like filters through which we strain our souls, becoming purer with each pass.
When I was a young boy my grandfather and I made cider in an old grinder. We picked the apples, dumped them into the grinder and took turns with the crank handle. At the bottom of the grinder juice drained from a metal chute into a bucket. It was murky and mixed with pieces of apple core, so we strained it through a porous cloth over a large kitchen pot. We repeated the process several times until the juice was clear. And yes, it tasted great!
There is a sense in which our apple grinding is a metaphor for all of scripture. Life-experience has a way of changing the perspectives from which we view God’s Word. But if this is true of scripture in general, I believe it specifically pertains to the Beatitudes. For example, as many times as I have contemplated the implications of being “poor in spirit” I am still trying to come to grips with the level of selflessness and spiritual reliance it requires.
As we begin this journey into Jesus’ kingdom vision for our lives, I encourage you to do three things: 1) Remember spiritual growth is a process. Just as God’s kingdom is expanding gradually through the ministry of His people, it is assuming new places of prominence in our hearts, 2) Recognize kingdom truths require kingdom action. Jesus’ teachings are not merely an academic exercise, and 3) Remain focused on the mission. The purpose of this discourse is to learn how to present Jesus to our world in the purest form possible. Obviously, as imperfect humans, we will never be conduits through which Jesus flows in His purest form. Yet, the goal of “100% Jesus” is a good one. If nothing else, there will be moments in our lives when we come close; when the Lord moves in, though and around us and the people who see us see Him with great clarity.
We have one more stage to set before we address the Beatitudes in detail. Context is important, and it is good to understand the significance of the Sermon on the Mount as a whole. I can’t help but think Jesus had the mission in view as He used this teaching to established a kingdom mindset for His followers. The mission is still in view, and we are on the front lines delivering God’s grace to our generation. To do so, we must be different. The Sermon on the Mount helps us know how.