Do you ever envy the saints in heaven, those who have gone before us? Do you ever long to be with those who are with the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven? In our first reading, the glorious vision of St. John, believers from every nation are clothed in white robes washed in the Blood of the Lamb, and are crying out, “Salvation belongs to our God Who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
They are the saints who struggle no more, neither do they hunger or thirst. They have no more tears, no more pain, they have no more sin, and they will never again experience death. We long to be with them, joyous, righteous, pure, forgiven, and cleansed. But as for you, you are a baptized child of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. We still struggle in this world and on this earth, but God’s Son, Jesus, He is with us every moment of every day.
Early in Jesus’ ministry, He was baptized by John in the Jordan River, and tempted by Satan in the wilderness for 40 days. Jesus then called His first disciples, and began teaching and healing in Galilee. He climbed a hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee and began teaching the Beatitudes, the gospel reading appointed for today. The Beatitudes were new to His disciples who, like us, were struggling to learn and live according to God’s will. But today, Jesus directs His words specifically to you!
*Blessed are you who are poor in spirit, for yours is the Kingdom of heaven. We are indeed, poor in spirit. By our very nature our souls are bankrupt, lacking any redeeming qualities of any kind. We treasure the material things in life, believing that they are what make us wealthy or not. We may take liberties with our tax returns or in some business transactions. We aggressively attempt to build our assets, believing that these things somehow define us and make us more important. The truth is, you can have all of the assets in the world and still be poor, or even bankrupt. That’s because faith and trust in Jesus Christ is what makes you wealthy. All of the riches of heaven are yours by virtue of being a baptized child of God. And each time you participate in Word and Sacrament worship, you become a little wealthier, and your spiritual assets grow.
Blessed are you, for Jesus takes your bankrupt soul to be His own. St. Paul writes, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich.” Each time you give Jesus an opportunity, He fills your soul with true riches. Just remember this: You are not defined by the wealth you accumulate in this world. You are ultimately defined by the wealth given to you by Christ – the forgiveness of your sins and everlasting life.
*Blessed are you who mourn, for you will be comforted. Martin Luther famously defined Christians in this life as – “simil justus at peccator” – both saint and sinner at the same time. This is another one of the distinctions we make exclusively in Lutheranism. We are by nature 100% sinful and unclean. Yet through the waters of Baptism we are 100% righteous and holy.
We mourn in this life because of sin – our sins and the sins of others that affect us. We are, in God’s sight, saints, pure and holy. Yet in reality we act as if we are completely sinful through and through. We build and destroy relationships, we worship our idols every day; we are guilt-ridden over the sins of our youth, and so we mourn.
*Blessed are you because Jesus Christ has entered death so that He can give you the resurrection of your flesh and life everlasting. The prophet Isaiah says, “Comfort, comfort my people…your iniquity is pardoned and your sins are forgiven.” We feebly struggle in this life, yet we rejoice with these words of Jesus, “Your sins are forgiven.” For all that we have to mourn on this earth, we are comforted daily with the reality of Christ’s victorious Easter resurrection. Because of that, Jesus says to you, “You are mine through the cleansing, life giving water of holy Baptism.”
You and I struggle every day to live in this sinful and fallen world, a world filled with sin, death, and destruction. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God gives you His Kingdom, His mercy, His comfort, all that He has to give. You are wealthy and blessed beyond measure. All of His gifts and His feelings toward you can be expressed in 3 little words, “Blessed are you!”