Jesus begins the Beatitudes by saying blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Jesus then describes what it means to be poor in spirit. They mourn. They are meek. They hunger and thirst for righteousness. They are merciful. They are pure in heart. They are peacemakers. They are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. It’s good to be some of those things. However, it’s not good to be most of those things.
The life of success and easy living are not what Jesus says is yours in the Beatitudes. Neither are these words that being the Sermon on the Mount something that He expects you to achieve. These words are who you are as a saint. Yes, you are a saint, a holy one of God. You are a saint because you are holy in Christ’s holiness.
A bit of grammar review is necessary here to explain why you are a saint. Jesus’ grammar in the Beatitudes uses future passive verbs. Before the future passive verbs, Jesus uses present verbs, specifically third person plural: are. He’s talking about the saints, the holy ones in God. This includes not only those who have gone before us in the faith, but also you. As the holy ones asleep in Jesus were these things when they were alive, they are now these in their slumber. You are these right now as you live. When you die, you also remain these things.
Why don’t we have the kingdom of heaven, consolation, inheritance, satisfaction, mercy, a clear view of God, and sonship with God at this moment? We do have them, but not in its fullness. It would be nice to have all these things to the maximum this side of heaven. It would be nice not to have to suffer for the sake of the Christian faith. We have it better than we deserve.
Last week was the circuit Reformation service in Steger. The preacher brought two men who are members of his congregation. The preacher’s family has all but turned their back on him since his conversion from Islam to Christianity. One of the men, an Egyptian, is also facing family persecution for his conversion. Both men can never go home. There were pictures of baptisms at his congregation on display, but the people’s faces were blacked out on the pictures. Even here in the USA, there are people who would do whatever it takes to have those who convert from Islam to Christianity killed. Kind of makes our whining about being a Christian in America a whole lot of hot air, doesn’t it?
Though these converts have every right to be downhearted about having their families shun them and perhaps desire their deaths, the kingdom of heaven is theirs. Consider the physical and emotional scars you bear right now because of sin. There is much to be poor in spirit about when you have to deal with ailments and disappointments. It would be better for you to fall asleep in the Lord and live with Him now. In the midst of the hurt, you remain who you are in Christ Jesus: a holy one, a saint.
The life of a saint in Christ Jesus is a life of being given to by God. God gives you a Savior Who knows what it is to be human because He was a human being as well as being divine. Jesus Christ made Himself of no reputation to suffer what you deserve because of sin in order to make you what He is: holy, righteous, perfect, and pure in heart. How blessed are they whose toils are ended. They rest in Christ, awaiting the final resurrection. They will have their reward, and so will you.
You don’t have that glory before your eyes, in your hands, or even below your feet. The life of the world to come is yet to come. Nevertheless, as Saint John says in today’s Epistle: we know that when [Jesus] appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is. As it stands before our heavenly Father, you are like Him because you are covered in Christ’s atoning blood. When Jesus appears, you will stand before the Father with those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. The robe of righteousness put on us will be washed in the blood of the Lamb and made white. All those wonderful things mentioned in the reading from Revelation chapter seven will be ours, even as they are ours now, but to come.
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. You are a child of God in your baptism. You are a saint. You have a share of resurrection joy because of Christ. He will make all things new, even your decrepit body and soul. What will be is already now. Believe it for Jesus’ sake.