"You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
You're blessed when you're content with just who you are--no more, no less. That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought.
You're blessed when you've worked up a good appetite for God. He's food and drink in the best meal you'll ever eat.
You're blessed when you care. At the moment of being "care-full,' you find yourselves cared for.
You're blessed when you get your inside world--your mind and heart--put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
You're blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That's when you discover who you really are, and your place in God's family.
You're blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God's kingdom.
Not only that--count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens--give a cheer, even!-for though they don't like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble."
I really like The Message translation of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-12). To me, most translations make it sound like we are all in a static state and, if we “are” the things of which Jesus spoke, then we are blessed. If we don’t happen to be those things, well, sorry, but I guess we’re not blessed. The Message, though, makes it more apparent that, regardless of where we are today, we each have a calling as part of our Christian transformation to be content, cooperative, and compassionate. There’s also a strong sense in The Message translation that, if you are at a broken point in your life, God cares about you and He wants to bless you and raise you to new hope and a new life.
When it comes to the Bible, I strive to be a realist – it means what it says – and what it says is not up to interpretation. I do find, though, that The Message can often reach me in a way which allows me to more fully embrace the meaning of God’s word. It can drive me to deeper and fuller impact without changing the intent.
I suspect that, when Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount, he was teaching people in many shapes and sizes. There were people caught up in petty grievances one against another. There were people who were trying to hurt others to their own benefit. There were people just trying to get by as best they could. Sounds a lot like today, huh? There were also undoubtedly people who were caught up in self-righteousness, thinking that they had all the answers by following Old Testament and rabbinical rules. They probably had no idea what the next couple of years could do to those paradigms, if they only opened their hearts. The Sermon on the Mount was a call to action to these folks, just as it is a call to action to us today rather than just an iteration of nice “comfort” statements. To me, The Message offers that call to action, that call to change, that call to hope, and that call to true transformation.
We visited the Mount of Beatitudes when I was in Israel earlier this year. It was very easy to picture the sermon taking place there. There is, of course, a beautiful church built there now. The location is the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee. There really are not any “mountains” in the area but there are numerous hills. For speaking to hundreds or thousands of people at once, you need a natural amphitheatre – a place where your voice will carry a great distance.
The Mount of Beatitudes is a beautiful and tranquil spot, with lush gardens and flowers all around. There was no escaping the symbolism of looking out over the Sea of Galilee in sharp contrast to the desert environment that is most of Israel. The image of being in this holy place and looking out over the body of water which figured so prominently in Jesus’ ministry and the lives of the disciples is forever held in my heart and mind. It was easy to imagine the greatest teacher ever having been in this spot, talking to an audience full of people who wanted to know more. Wherever they came from, whatever stage in life they were in, they had come there to hear this man called Jesus. Most of them were searching for something. It is hard to imagine that they could have gone away anything but completely filled after hearing the words that He spoke that day, telling them how to be blessed for eternity.