Christ’s Blessing Will Prevail - All Saints Day
Rev. Charles Westby, Pastor
Matthew 5:1-12
November 01, 2020

It is the festival of all saints today. We see the vision of the Apostle John, the vision of the multitude of Christians triumphant in the victory Christ won for them (Rev. 7:8-17). They stand in the presence of God in peace and everlasting joy. They got there because of how Christ has redeemed them through His atoning death and resurrection, and because His blessing will prevail.

Speaking of Christ’s blessings, we hear Him speak them in the Gospel reading from Matthew 5:1-12. One day Jesus climbed a little way up the side of a mountain. A large crowd of people was gathered to hear Him. His disciples came to Him. He opened His mouth and began to speak. By the time He got done speaking, the faithful in Israel must have recalled the words said often in the Prophet Isaiah: “The mouth of the Lord has spoken” (e.g., Isa. 1:20). Yet, what a mystery that the mouth of this man should be the mouth of the Lord, but so it was and so it is and ever shall be: “In these last days, God has spoken to us by His Son” (Heb. 1:2). His Son is Jesus.

On this occasion, Jesus speaks blessing and promise. His word is like this: “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11 NKJV). And it has accomplished its purpose for we see the multitude in John’s vision, standing before the throne in triumph and glory. And God wipes away every tear from their eyes (Rev. 7:17).

In His blessing, Jesus overturns the world’s judgment. He says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Mat. 5:3). The poor in spirit are those who regard themselves as sinners before God and in need of redemption. The world would say, blessed are those who have much to boast about in terms of their own moral achievement. There is no blessing in being poor in spirit because that is so negative. The key is to lift yourself up.

Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn” (Mat. 5:4). The world would say that they are blessed who have no need for mourning. But the world has no answer when the loss comes anyway.

Jesus says, “Blessed are the meek or humble” (Mat. 5:5). The world would say that the proud and those who take boldly are blessed and inherit the earth.

Jesus says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Mat. 5:6). The world mocks at the very thought of hungering and thirsting for righteousness. What you should hunger and thirst for, according to the world, is fame and popularity and riches and power and be willing to do anything to get them.

Jesus says, “Blessed are those who are merciful” (Mat. 5:7). But the world would say that the merciful are weak.

Jesus says, “Blessed are the pure in heart” (Mat. 5:8), let us say the honest and sincere and those who value what is good and right. But the world teaches that if you must lie to get ahead, do it, and pursue whatever desire you have.

Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Mat. 5:9). But the world would say, blessed are those who make war and use violence as a means to get ahead, because they are the ones who get what they want.

Jesus says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted on account of righteousness” (Mat. 5:10). But the world cannot even conceive of suffering on account of righteousness.

Jesus says, “Blessed are you when they revile you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil things about you without any basis because of your faith in Jesus, for your reward is great in heaven” (Mat. 5:11, 12). But the world says why would you continue to believe in this Jesus anyway.  

We can be tempted to think that maybe the world is right because being in any of these situations does not seem like much of a blessing. But then we can also realize that denying the reality of one’s moral failure does not make that moral failure go away and provide the basis for making peace with one’s conscience and one’s Maker. And then we can realize that the world is an ugly place, full of violence and injustice, when the violent and the arrogant take whatever they want and dare anyone to stand in their way. And then we can realize that self-indulgence of whatever desire one has just makes a person selfish and entitled and unable eventually to even know what is true and right, much less have the moral character to pursue it. And then we can realize that no one can live very long with cruelty and harsh judgement, that is, without mercy. And then we can realize that we must be willing to suffer and fight with moral courage and the courage of faith for what is good and right or the good and right will soon be gone. And then we realize that the world and its ways have no answer for the loss that makes us mourn, and ultimately the loss of death. It strikes our humanness as cruel and merciless for the world to say that these realities of loss are just the way it is; just get used to it. And so then we realize that Jesus is right and good in what He blesses, and the world is quite wrong.

So we hear Jesus, the Lord God in the flesh, speaking God’s blessings and making wonderful promises. His blessings are grace: Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who are feeling poorly about themselves because they are quite aware of their moral shortcomings and failure before God and their own conscience. His blessing is grace because we could take it as absolution spoken in a promise: theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

And Jesus speaks blessing upon being humble, and merciful, and seeking peace, and seeking to be just and fair and good with others. And He speaks blessing upon turning away from desires one has in the heart just because one has them in order to direct those desires according to God’s truth.

And Jesus speaks blessing upon those who mourn because He speaks a promise: they shall be comforted. They shall be comforted with my presence and strength in the midst of loss. They shall be comforted because their eyes will one day see My victory of life over death, and sorrow and sighing shall be no more.

And Jesus endorses and encourages the merciful with the promise that they will receive mercy. And He encourages us to be willing to suffer for what is good and right with the promise: theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

And so He speaks the truth. And He speaks His grace. But He also backs it up with action. For He lived the talk and walked the walk. And then He died to wash our sins away and He rose in victory over sin, and death, and the world. His blessing and the promises are backed up with the true life He lived, His sacrificial death, and His indestructible victory, all of which He did for you and me. In what He did for us we enjoy life in God by His grace and are led by Him in the green pastures of what is good and true, merciful and kind.

And so we see them there before the throne, that great multitude that no one could number, no one except God of course, for He knows His people. They have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb. See yourself among them, having washed your robes in His blood, that is, in the forgiveness and grace His shed blood has won for you, and trusting in His promises. The one who has promised, our Lord Jesus Christ, will surely do it, for He has overcome sin, death, and the world, and because of Him, you will too as you trust in Him.

Amen.



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