Are You Crying? Are We Making Progress?
A few weeks ago, I preached on “The Miraculous Catch of Fish” from Luke 5:1-11. Jesus, after commandeering Peter’s boat, preaches a message to the crowd of people who had gathered on the banks of the Sea of Galilee (or, as Luke insists on calling it, the Lake of Gennesaret). Here’s how Luke records the Lord’s sermon:
“Then He sat down and taught the people from the boat.
When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon…”
Luke gives us no clue as to the content of that message, but I would imagine that it might have contained some of the same material that we find in the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew chapters 5-7. During this huge, Galilean period of Jesus’ ministry, he seemed to take just about any opportunity to teach. The fact that Matthew and Luke have slightly different versions of some teachings would indicate that Jesus taught some of his material over and over, and like any great teacher, would discern the needs of his specific audience at any given venue and customize his presentation to his hearers.
In our reading today – Matthew 5:4 – Matthew records these words of Jesus: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted”
Luke records Jesus’ words like this: “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.”
Those two sayings are different because they were to delivered in two separate locations to two different audiences. But they say basically the same thing. Both are probably based on Isaiah 61
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
This is the sort of thing Jesus was thinking about when he preached from the boat in Luke 5. You thought I had forgotten about the boat, right?
* * * * * * * * *
Notice that in Matthew, our reading today follows this verse in Matthew 5:3:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
So, is there a PROGRESSION between verse 3 and verse 4?
- Without an initial admission that one is included in the “ALL” of Romans 3:23, one cannot even begin a spiritual walk with God. Romans 3:23 says, “ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” If such a realization doesn’t produce some sort of serious mental and emotional response (“mourning” or “weeping”) then it has probably been too superficial to bring the promised BLESSING.
- So, a spiritual journey begins with a great sense of personal spiritual poverty and need. This sense of need engenders a heartfelt response. A heartfelt response enables an openness to God, in Whom all positive change is possible through the enabling presence of the Holy Spirit.
- The Holy Spirit working in a life that has freely yielded to God will result in a BLESSEDNESS .
- Whether or not there is a progression between verses 3 and 4, and all the rest of these eight “Beatitudes” is debatable. What is absolutely certain is that no progress will be made without God’s help in our lives.