Receiving Your Inheritance – The Beatitudes

Dear Friends,

More has been written on the Beatitudes than I could read in a week.  There can’t be anything new to say about them, can there?

Still, having read them in Luke’s Gospel, in the setting in which Luke places them, I am going to presume to say something I hope will be new to you.  It is to me.

I am writing you to encourage you to “receive your inheritance” so that you might one day feel rich enough to risk following Him radically, completely.  And as I read this passage today, as I read it in its setting, I find something unsettling.  What I find, in short, is this.  If you dare to receive the riches your Father in heaven has for you, you won’t have to do much giving up of the things the world values.  They’ll be taken from you.

Look at the Beatitudes in their setting.  In Luke’s setting, Jesus has just called His disciples to him, and has named the 12 who will be called apostles.  Now, Matthew has the naming of the twelve a bit later, but Jesus is still speaking to His disciples when he gives the Beatitudes.  What’s very important here is that Jesus isn’t telling all this to the crowds, to those who do not yet believe.  He’s speaking specifically to those who accept that He is who He says He is. 

But go back with me a few more verses.  In Luke, Jesus names the 12, then gives them the Beatitudes after spending the whole night in prayer.  The whole night.  As I meditate on this tiny little fact, a whole new reality opens up within it.  I can see Jesus, agonizing over the task He’s been given for the next day, seeking His Father’s will for His followers, and going again and again to His knees to pray not only for Himself but for the twelve He’s been told to commission as His apostles.  Then, as the night begins to fade, as morning begins to threaten the horizon, he comes to understand what it is that following Him will cost His dearest friends.  They will receive great blessing, but it will cost them everything.

Okay, so hear the Beatitudes again with me, in this setting…

Jesus, having prayed all night, having received His Father’s will for His friends, calls them to Him, and names twelve of them to become “apostles.”  Then, he lifts up his eyes upon them.  Can you see this?  He’s just named them apostles, they’ll be remembered forever, this is reason to celebrate, but Jesus is looking down at the ground.

So He lifts up His eyes upon them, and He gives them these amazing sayings about the poor, the rejected, the persecuted, those who weep.  And He adds those strange “nows” along the way.  He speaks of people who are weeping now, hungry now.

If we read these Beatitudes the way that we traditionally do, I can see His disciples looking around, wondering, “What does He mean?  No one here is weeping now.  We just had breakfast. No one is hungry.” 

What is Jesus doing?

He is, after praying all night, sharing with his dearest friends, what it will look like for them when He has ascended, when the Spirit has come, when they have been “blessed.”

What this requires is that we take another look at the way these Beatitudes have been translated.  You see, the original text doesn’t say, “Blessed are the poor.”  It says “blessed ones the poor ones” if you translate it literally.  Or, blessed the poor (all in the plural).  You and I have come to understand that this should be translated “Blessed are the poor.”  Treating “blessed” what is called a “predicate nominative” and “the poor” as the subject of the sentence.  This is often the way we translate Greek, but it isn’t necessary.  It can be reversed.

Now, let me ask you which makes more sense.

If we say “Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” what do we have Jesus doing?  Basically saying,  “Don’t worry if you’re poor, God will make it up to you, you’ll inherit the kingdom!”

An awful lot of poor people have been taught to put up with their lot in the world by means of that translation.

But if we translate it the other way around, it comes out something like this.  “The Blessed will be seen as poor, because the whole kingdom of heaven is theirs, and they long for nothing more!”

Let’s see if that squares with the rest of Scripture.  I want to look at Paul’s words, the direct experience of one of those apostles (remember that Paul understood himself to be one of them) to whom Jesus directed these powerful words.

“We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed;  as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.”  (2 Corinthians 6:9-10) 

Sounds pretty similar, doesn’t it, to the way I’m trying to read the Beatitudes.

The Blessed (ones) are poor to the world, because they have the kingdom, and don’t want anything more.  The Blessed ones can weep now, for they have known the Father’s laughter.  The Blessed ones seem constantly hungry, because they have been filled by God, and can find no satisfaction in the things that sate the world’s appetites.  The Blessed ones seem persecuted, rejected because the world doesn’t understand what it is to be accepted by God.

So, what does this mean for followers who seek to “receive their inheritance?”

I guess it means, “Be careful what you wish for.”  It means that the results of receiving the inheritance that God has set for you are even more powerful than I’d imagined.  It means that truly receiving what God has in store for you won’t just make you able to let go of other things.  It’ll make it inevitable.

I’m wanting to be an heir more than ever.¬†

You?

In Him,

Jeff

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