Matthew 5:3a (NIV)
Wendy and I were on a cruise last week with our friends, Chad and Shay. Cruising has become Wendy’s and my favorite form of vacation, though perhaps not for the same reason that many enjoy it. Being on the water has always held a spiritual connection for me. To be honest, Wendy and I spent much of our time last week together inside our cabin or on our small verandah staring out over the vast ocean. It was heavenly.
I read a couple of books as we sailed along. One of them was called The Ninefold Path of Jesus by Mark Scandrette. It practically, simply, and deeply explores a familiar passage in the Great Story found in today’s chapter, traditionally known as “the beatitudes.” The beatitudes are the opening of the most thorough record we have of Jesus’ teaching, a message Jesus gave His followers on a hill by the Sea of Galilee.
Each of the nine beatitudes describes those whom Jesus says are “blessed.” What immediately stands out is the contrast to those whom we often think of as “blessed” in this world: the rich, famous, popular, powerful, influential, famous, privileged, talented, and elite. Jesus makes it clear that those who are blessed in the Kingdom of God look very different. In fact, they are much the opposite of what subjects of the Kingdom of this world typically consider blessed. In God’s Kingdom, Jesus states, those who are blessed are:
poor in spirit (trusting God for their provision)
mourning (lamenting their brokenness, and what is broken in this world)
meek (holding any personal power in check)
hungry/thirsty for righteousness (seeking justice in life and relationship)
merciful (having compassion, even for my enemies)
pure in heart (acting, speaking, and relating with right motives)
peacemakers (finding and choosing ways to deescalate conflict)
persecuted for doing the right thing (radically loving others)
Perhaps my choice to begin reading Matthew’s biography of Jesus on the chapter-a-day journey this week was subconsciously influenced by my meditation and contemplation of the beatitudes last week. As I read them anew this morning, my head and heart were still full of all that I pondered as I watched the ocean waves roll by this past week.
As I continued on into the rest of the chapter, and the continuation of Jesus’ message, I realized for the first time that Jesus subsequent teaching about murder, curses, adultery, lust, divorce, making oaths, revenge, and love for one’s enemy all connect back to the be-attitudes of trust, lament, meekness, mercy, motive, peacemaking, and radical love. In essence, the beatitudes are the table of contents for everything Jesus is going to say after. I realize that if I don’t have my “being” and “attitude” right, I’ll never act, speak, and relate as Jesus goes on to describe.
Wendy and I have been repeatedly asked this week how our cruise went. We’ve enjoyed sharing our experiences, though I sometimes wonder if people are surprised by our description. We spent a lot of time in our cabin. We slept a lot. We read books. We talked about life on our verandah. We stared at the ocean. We watched a dolphin jumping in the water. We saw the distant, misty eruption of a whale’s exhale. As I continue to look back on it, Wendy and I spent the week trying to get our “being” centered and aligned so that the onslaught of “doing” that faced us upon our return might look more like “the nine-fold path of Jesus” and less like the vain pursuit for what the kingdoms of this world describe as the “good life.”
Note: If you’re normally one who reads my blog post or listens to my podcast, but you don’t actually read the corresponding chapter, let me encourage you to take a couple of minutes today and the next couple of days to actually read Jesus’ message on the hill in Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7. I think it’s worth it.
If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.