“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Jesus great teaching in the Sermon on the Mount is addressed to His disciples. He paints a picture of the qualities that would begin to reveal themselves in His followers both individually and together. They stand in stark contrast to the ways of the world.
The teaching commences with the Beatitudes, the blessings in which constitute the privileges of the Christians concerned – both now and in the future. God bestows them on the ones in whom He is working the character described. In humility and awe we discover that these are not just statements but joyful acknowledgements of a grace and truth that nothing can destroy. It is all God’s grace from start to finish.
Right at the beginning of the Sermon Jesus challenges and refutes all human judgements and all nationalistic expectations of the kingdom of God. The kingdom is given to the ‘poor’ – not those full of themselves and their wealth, power, intellectualism, social standing and independence.
Jesus drew towards Himself those who knew that they were so poor in a real and spiritual sense that they could offer nothing and claim nothing – the publicans, prostitutes and rejects of society. All they could do was to cry to God for mercy, and He heard them. The publican in Jesus parable cried out with downcast eyes, “God, be merciful to me a sinner.” And, as Calvin wrote, ‘He only who is reduced to nothing in himself, and relies on the mercy of God, is poor in spirit.’ And so here we also find Peter – a different person after the resurrection from the one who had boasted beforehand. Their understanding is that ‘Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Your cross I cling.’
To be poor in spirit is to acknowledge our spiritual poverty before God, to be emptied completely of self-importance, achievement and our attachment to and dependence upon material things – so empty in fact that there is also no basis for comparison with any other person. Emptied completely of self, and turning to put our trust in the Lord, we open the way to the real fullness of the Spirit.
The glorious wonder of it all is that He does have mercy. And, through the wonderful sacrifice of Jesus, He changes our rotten garments for the robes of salvation, our exclusion as outcasts for the intimacy of sons and daughters, our poverty for His richness and our death for His eternal life, love and joy. It is His Kingdom instead of our imaginary one, His all for our nothing. How blessed we are indeed – and when we accept the reality it becomes a shout of wonder and joy!
Decide to step increasingly away from worldly attitudes and values into the freedom of Christ.
Lord, help me not to look for excuses or exceptions but simply to acknowledge my truth before you and allow You to reveal Your truth to me. Thank You Jesus. Amen.
Photo: (c) Catherine Bondonno