Resources: “Jesus Clear and Simple in Times of Struggle” James G. Friesen
“The Divine Conspiracy” Dallas Willard
1. Let Jesus be your rabbi. We embrace the “yoke” of our rabbi Jesus.
“Come to me all who are weary and carrying heavy loads and I will give you rest; take my yoke upon you and learn from me and you will find rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
- In Jesus’ time, the phrase, “”take my yoke” was another way of saying, “you need to let me be your rabbi:”, “You need to become my disciple.” The “yoke” of a rabbi in Jesus’ time was his teachings, his way of life. Jesus invited his disciples to let him be their rabbi, take on his “yoke”. His yoke “fits us perfectly”. A disciple doesn’t just want to know what the rabbi knows. A disciple wants to be like the rabbi and to learn got do what the rabbi does.
- “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30, The Message, Eugene Peterson.
2. Our rabbi Jesus teaches us to pray. “Our Father who art in heaven….” The Greek word for heaven is plural in Matthew’s Gospel. “Our Father in the heavens,” is different than “Our Father in heaven.” In Hebrew thinking there are three heavens: (1) the first heaven, in biblical terms, is the atmosphere, the air that sounds us—our personal space (2) the sky and universe (3) where we go when we die. A father who is far away “in heaven” does not seem near at all. To acknowledge our Father’s immediate availability in our personal space is how we are directed to begin our prayers. When Jesus was leaving his disciples He told them, “I am with you always.” Jesus’ words in the Lord’s Prayer about daily bread, forgiveness, and deliverance from evil refer to times of struggle. Our dear (abba) Father is always near and he will help us, especially in times of struggle.
3. Jesus’ initial teaching is “Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens has come near.” Matthew 4:17 “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching, proclaiming the gospel (good news) of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people Matthew 4:23
- The kingdom is right next to us. It is already here, available to us right now. Our Father is always ready to begin a relationship with us. Our lives are transformed when we invite our Father to help us. His power and guidance are available to us for the asking. We give our Father a chance. We talk everything over with our Father especially in times of struggle. We let our Father teach us how to think and act. He will change us from the inside out. He will help us our turn our life around. God will be right there to help us with every struggle we bring to him. It will be a very close relationship. We never give up because the presence of God has come to us right where we are. He will help us with anything the comes up.
- The kingdom is God getting his way, the effective range of his will. Our “kingdom” and “queendom” is whatever we have say over. We ask God to be in charge of our personal affairs, our kingdoms and queendoms. We surrender our kingdoms to his kingdom. We seek his kingdom above all else and let God reign in every part of our life. God will bring his kingdom (rule and reign) into every part of our life. The kingdom of God has arrived in our personal space to help us turn our life around (repent). Our Father will help us especially in times of struggle with anything that comes up by joining us in our personal spaces.’
4. We find the beginning of Jesus’ core message in the beatitudes at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. The beatitudes are examples of how of Jesus will help us when we invite him into our personal space. In the “beatitudes” Jesus takes up various kinds and classes of people that in his day were thought to be unblessed and unblessable, and he shows how the kingdom of God is available to them and how they too can be blessed. God’s blessing will rest on you even if you are poor, hungry, weeping and despised. “In this renewal, there is neither norJew nor Greek, (non-Jewish), circumcised uncircumcised (insider or outsider) barbarian or Scythian (barbarian’s’ barbarian), slave or free, but Christ is all and in all, everyone is included in Christ.” Colossians 3:11
- The Beatitudes are clear and simple and they are for you and me. Jesus was not saying it is good to be broken, sad or any of the other areas of struggle. The beatitudes are statements designed to show the nature of the rule of heaven by contradicting the ordinary human assumptions about who is well off and who is miserable.
- Matt 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens.”That is: “Blessed are the spiritually deprived, the spiritually bankrupt since they too can have the kingdom.” Blessed are the intellectually deficient, uneducated, religiously disrespectable, “deplorables”. The disciples whom Jesus chose were all of this sort. Jesus invites the “not-good-enoughs to let him be their rabbi. Jesus has confidence that we will be like our rabbi.
- “Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of “the brightest and the best” among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies”?” MSG 1 Corinthians 1:26-29
- The beatitudes are not commands on what we must do to be good enough to be blessed. The cause of the blessing is not in the condition in which the blessing is received but in spite of and in the midst of our “deplorable” condition. They announce that those counted by our culture to be in a hopeless condition are not, due to the availability of the kingdom.
- Simon and Garfunkel in their song “Blessed” describe creatively those who are blessed, “Blessed are the sat upon, spat upon, ratted on, meth drinkers, pot sellers, Illusion dwellers, the stained glass, window pane glass, the church service makes me nervous, penny rookers, cheap hookers, groovy lookers” Jesus is saying that even in all our struggles and difficult situations, our Father’s presence will bring something good from them.
- The beatitudes could be called “the blessings”. When Jesus began to preach the Sermon on the Mount he did not use that word. beatitudes”. That word is not in the Greek New Testament. The beatitudes are God’s blessings made available to us in the kingdom of God.
- God’s blessings promise that he will bring something good from all of our suffering. The blessings are for you and me. That is why Jesus taught them—so that people like you and I could receive God’s blessing. A blessing is more than a few kind words or a touch on the forehead. A blessings dwells with us, beats with our heart, finds its way into the middle of our struggles and somehow brings good out of them. Our Father’s gracious presence, abiding with us, is what makes a blessing come to life.
Eight Blessings: Promises of Jesus to Assist Us in Times of Struggle and Trouble
1. “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens.” God’s blessing rests on those who are spiritually broken. The kingdom of the heavens is for them, and it makes everything new. Dear Father, I am spiritually broken. Welcome me into your kingdom. Fill my life with your presence, which makes everything new.
2. “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.” God’s blessing rests on those who are overcome with sadness. God’s immediate comfort is always near. Dear Father, whenever I am overcome with sadness please provide your presence to comfort me.
3. “Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth.” God’s blessing rests on those who are humble, gentle, content with who they are, no more, no less. God will help them win in the end. Dear Father, help me tender towards my weakness. Please surround me with your presence, and help me not to give up.
4. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” God’s blessing rests on those who strive to live correctly. His guidance will bring them peace as they make daily decisions. Dear Father, you know how sincerely I want to follow you. Please keep me in your presence, so that I can be at peace as I make decisions today.
5. Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy. God’s blessing rests on those who are seriously drained from being merciful. His loving presence will keep them filled up. Dear Father, you know how much I want to spread your mercy. Please fill me with your loving presence, so that I will have enough mercy for others.
6. “Blessed are they pure in heart, for they will see God.” God’s blessing rests on those who struggle to keep their heart clean. They will see God is with them. Dear Father, you know my desire is to have a clean heart. Please help me to see that you are with me, helping me to be clean.
7. “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called sons of God.” God’s blessing rests on those who do not give up making peace. His children are peacemakers, and he will join them in their efforts. Dear Father, you know that I am devoted to bringing peace, but it is so elusive. Please be my guide me so I can become a better peacemaker.8. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens. God’s blessing rests on those who are persecuted for doing what is right. The kingdom of the havens is for them, and it makes everything new. Dear Father, please stay with me when I am persecuted for doing what is right. Help me to dwell in the kingdom of the heavens, where your presence makes everything new.
8. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. rejoice and be glad because great is your reward in the heavens, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. God’s blessing will rest on you while you are being insulted, persecuted and slandered because you follow me. Joy will arrive during persecution, because of God’s presence. His presence has always been with those who follow him despite opposition, like the prophets. Even during persecution his presence—the kingdom of the heavens—will give you overflowing joy. Great is your reward in the heavens” means your reward will arrive in your personal space. Our Father sends joy during persecution, and Jesus lets us know about this as an encouragement, “He will be with you and walk give you joy. This teaching does not mean, “Hang in there because when you get to heaven you’ll get a special reward for being persecuted.” It comes just after the 8 blessings (beatitudes), continuing the idea that our Father helps us during times of struggle.
We are walking in the good news of the kingdom when we go with confidence to any of the hopeless people around us and effortlessly convey assurance that they can now enter a blessed life with God. Who would be on your list of “hopeless blessables” as found in today’s world? Certainly all of those on Jesus’ lists, for though they are merely illustrative, they also are timeless. We can, following his lead as our rabbi ,share the good news of the gospel for those around us. Who would you regard as the most unfortunate people around you?