Prepare to Listen. In a moment of stillness and silence, rest in God’s assurance: I have called you by name, you are mine. (Isaiah 43:1)
Prayerfully Read Matthew 5:1-12
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
3‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
8‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’
Up a mountain, far from the clamoring crowds, Jesus “began to speak and taught [his disciples], saying….” Up a mountain (Sinai) God gave Moses the law, a manifesto for how Israel was to be and to live. Up a mountain, Jesus revealed his manifesto for how his followers are to be and to live (chs 5-7). It describes the way the world should see us, that is, as Stott states, “Different! Jesus emphasized that his true followers, the citizens of God’s kingdom, were to be entirely different from others.” Not in the future, but now and always. Therefore, the first two weeks of Lent will focus on Jesus’ words in Matthew 5-7, as we seek fresh encounters with the living Christ.
The Sermon begins with nine “Blessed are….” The blessed (the Greek word means happy) aren’t the successful, healthy, prosperous, powerful, as we sometimes think today. The blessed are the poor in spirit, mourners, meek, hungry and thirsty, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers and yes, even the persecuted. Jesus describes an upside-down world that we’re invited to join. Blessed are doesn’t mean, you must be…. As N. T. Wright notes, “if we think of Jesus simply sitting there telling people how to behave properly, we will miss what was really going on. These ‘blessings’, the ‘wonderful news’ that he’s announcing, are not saying ‘try hard to live like this.’ They are saying that people who are like that are in good shape. They should be happy and celebrate.”
As a Lenten practice, memorize the beatitudes, one at a time, daily repeating it so that it shapes your heart.
Respond in Prayer
Lord, I don’t often understand your teaching, but I know it takes time and patience to do so. Help me live with your words, one beatitude at a time, so that I experience you more deeply and live more like you. Amen.
Live Obediently. Listen to Jesus’ words and live with them today.
 Stott, John R. W. Christian Counter Culture: The Message of the Sermon on the Mount. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. 1978, p. 18.
 Wright, N. T. Matthew for Everyone Part 1. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press. 2004, p. 36.
Despite having frequently read and taught Matthew's Gospel, preparing these daily devotions, taking that second gaze, has surprised me with newness.