“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. — Jesus
Who would you secretly nominate as a person or a people group with whom God might be irritated? And, if truth were known, you are secretly hoping they don’t find favor with God.
Maybe they are people of color.
Maybe they wear their pants sagging and their hat sideways.
Maybe they were buttoned down oxford shirts and power ties.
Maybe they speak with a clipped northeastern accent. Or with a thick southern drawl.
Maybe they have a confederate flag flying outside their house.
Maybe they are loud and proud.
Maybe they wear scarves over their faces and turbans on their heads.
Maybe they are chronically addicted.
Maybe they are obese.
Maybe they are ugly.
Maybe they are super attractive.
Maybe they are young.
Maybe they are old.
Whoever you thought of is who Jesus is speaking to on this mountainside. They had no spiritual qualifications. They had no credentials. They were religiously illiterate.
There are a lot of folks like that in our day, maybe you are one of them.
The people sitting on the mountain side don’t know the Bible. No one’s asking them to teach Sunday School. They’re spiritual zeros, didn’t get the faith-gene.
When you read the stories just preceding this you find that Jesus was busy loving, healing, serving, and touching the untouchables of his day…
So, let’s say that Jesus sees in the crowd someone that has been brought to Him that He’s just helped. Maybe it’s a man who was brought to Jesus because he had been demon-possessed, emotionally tormented, out of his mind, a spiritual zero. Never part of a faith community; nobody would ask him what does he think about God.
But now he’s calm and in his right mind. Why? Because even though he had done nothing to deserve it, Jesus just comes up and touches him, and heals him. And so Jesus has him stand up, and they smile at each other.
And Jesus turns around and has him face the crowd. Jesus says, “You want to know who’s blessed? This guy right here; blessed are the spiritual basket cases. Blessed are the faith-challenged. Blessed are the religious disasters, for now theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
He goes, maybe, to a middle-aged woman. She has always been sad her whole lifelong, because she was unable to have children. That’s always a sad thing. That day it was desperately broken. And now her husband has died and she’s alone. And she’s penniless. To tell the truth, she would have supported herself by becoming a prostitute because that was the only way. But now she is too old even to do that.
She has no hope. She comes to Jesus in utter desperation because she’s got nothing else to do.
He sees her, and He whispers to James and John, “You watch out for her, now. Because that’s going to be one of our core values, caring for widows.”
And Jesus goes to this widow. And He has her stand up and He puts an arm around this woman’s shoulder, and He has her face the crowd.
Jesus says, “Want to know who’s blessed? Blessed are those who mourn. Not because it’s a good thing to mourn, but because the reality of the presence of the Kingdom is coming down to the mourning, and they shall be comforted now. You just watch what happens in the life of this woman. In my kingdom, things will be different for the likes of her. Better, much better.”
And on and on he goes.
It’s important to remember that the Beatitudes are NOT instructions on how to be blessed. The Beatitudes are not instructions on how to do anything. The Beatitudes are designed to shock people into realizing that now the blessing, the good and beautiful life—that we all drive ourselves crazy and frantic and busy trying to grab a hold of—the life in the Kingdom is now available to anybody who wants it through personal contact with this man Jesus.
And no one and no thing can shut you out.
What about ‘The Blessed’ in Our Day? If Jesus were giving them right here? What would they sound like?
Who are the people that our culture says are shut out of the good life?
Blessed are the geeks.
Blessed are the nerds.
Blessed are the wimps.
Blessed are you when you have dandruff and blemishes and all manner of bad breath.
Blessed are those who have no fashion sense.
Blessed are the uncoordinated.
Blessed are the middle-managers.
Blessed are the wrinkled.
Blessed are the anxious.
Blessed are the unemployed.
Blessed are the homeless.
Blessed are the “deplorables.”
Blessed are the drop-outs and the burn-outs and the left-outs.
Blessed are the chronically angry.
Blessed are the liberals.
Blessed are the sexually addicted and the sexually frustrated.
Blessed are the mentally ill.
Blessed are the HIV positive.
Blessed are the parents who failed.
Blessed are the children who ran away.
Blessed are the divorced.
Blessed are the barren.
Blessed are the pregnant out of wedlock.
Blessed are the failures.
Blessed, blessed, blessed, blessed…
Is this good news for anybody yet?
Here’s the Kingdom, now, available to you through Jesus to begin now and to know in its fullness one day and enjoy into eternity.
Anything’s possible with God.
Now, of course, lots of people rejected Jesus. But it was because they didn’t want His Kingdom. It was never because He gave them the subtle vibe that they really weren’t Kingdom material.
Because for Jesus everybody was Kingdom material: Everybody’s welcome, nobody’s perfect, anything’s possible.
I think in a lot of relationships I have a lot of moments in my life when I put up a “No Trespassing” sign where Jesus would roll out a welcome mat.
Not long ago, I met with a pastor and I began to speak ugly about another brother in Christ. I began to paint a picture of him to my friend in a way that made him look silly and shallow.
My wife was gone and I sent her a text: “I spoke ugly about a pastor to another pastor and feel horrible about it. I am an idiot. Please pray for me.”
She replied: “I know.”
I have been called to speak words like “apples of gold in settings of silver” and yet often I find myself speaking words that tear down rather than build up.
I have thoughts that cause me to blush in shame. I am in a perpetual state of repentance. I am daily, sometimes hourly in need of course correction because I fall so far short of the life I want to live for King Jesus.
Nobody needs the Kingdom more than me.
But you want to know who’s blessed?
I’m blessed. Not because I ever get it right or have anything together or am well-gifted, because Jesus came to me almost 50 years ago. I don’t know why. He just did.
You know who’s blessed?
Not because you live in a well-managed. Not because you’re well-off, well-fed, well-dressed, well-educated. Because, truth be known, underneath our nice well managed life we are a mess…a hot mess.
Oh, how I wish we could conjure the spirit of the late Brennan Manning. We need him now more than ever. As Manning reminded us in his final book,
Blessed is the…
The inmate who promised the parole board he’d be good, but he wasn’t…
The dim-eyed who showed the path to others but kept losing his way…
The liar, the tramp, the thief; otherwise known as the pastor, speaker, and author…
The disciple whose cheese slid off the cracker so many times he said ‘to hell with cheese ‘n’ crackers’…
The younger and elder prodigals who’ve come to their senses again, and again, and again, and again…
The favor and flourishing of God has come to all of those who feel left out of the good life in this world.
That’s good news. The good news of the Kingdom. Are you in the Kingdom or are you trying to make it on your own