Did Jesus Really Say… Persecution is a Blessing???:
A Sermon on Matthew 5:1-12
An important key to knowing someone at the very depths of their soul is discovering their favorite Disney movie. So I hope you wont judge me too harshly to learn that my favorite is the classic Alice in Wonderland. I think I enjoy it so much because everything is crazy, illogical and out of order. Every attempt that Alice makes to figure out a way home only results in nonsense and frustration. The Chesire Cat is increasingly useful until he disappears only leaving behind a haunting smile. Then there is my favorite of all scenes where Alice encounters the Mad Hatter and the March Hare. Her attempts to find the white rabbit are flat out ignored in preference of being constantly served tea and singing the unbirthday song constantly.
Alice’s request for help was so basic and easy, but she was the one speaking gibberish in Wonderland. It was the bizarreness of such a world that always interested me, a bizarre world that thought itself normal. A 24/7 tea party makes more sense than a simple request for directions.
Perhaps it is because places like Wonderland intrigue me that I find myself to the teachings of Christ about the Kingdom of God. Jesus invited us to experience a similarily bizarre realm he called the Kingdom of God. Yet, today we lose the sense of Christianity as something strange or weird. Our culture is firmly shaped by Christianity, and most today are familiar with its basic tenets and many would agree that Christianity might be best described as normal, whatever that means. So we hear the words of Christ from the sermon on the mount. We hear it soaked in the waters of familiarity, its basic good sense, good advice. Care and love for others, and all that jazz. Being in the 21st century, we don’t hear Jesus as saying strange things. We don’t see the message of Christianity as what Paul would call “foolishness,” nor do we often think of how bizarre they seemed to the Romans and the Jewish authorities.
Jesus is baptized, tempted and now he teaches from the mount. Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted. To these people belong the Kingdom of Heaven.
If you know anything about the Sermon on the Mount, then you know Christ makes some very high requirements for defining what discipleship is all about. These can be daunting and overwhelming. I’ve felt uncomfortable reading the sermon on the mount because Jesus asks a level of perfection I feel I just cannot achieve in my life. What was Jesus trying to accomplish with his brash talk and high idealism? Some scholars have theorized that the goal of the sermon on the mount is to push these idyllic, unreachable goals of perfection upon us with the goal that we might feel guilty about our own place in life, and maybe just rise a notch or two in our lives. In other words, that Jesus was trying to guilt us to be better people. I cannot believe that that is all there is too it. Continue reading “Did Jesus Really Say…”