And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be you poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.
— A fitting text for Christ's first sermon, for He came to this earth to bless. His life was a life of blessing; His one thought how He might bless others, make others happy. He died to bless, and His arms outstretched on the cross, His hands wide open, told how He yearned to bless to the last. He rose to bless, and with words of blessing He greeted those who mourned Him as dead. And when He ascended, He was still true to the work of His life, for the last His disciples saw of Him as He disappeared, were His hands outstretched in blessing. And still He lives to bless; on high He ever liveth to make intercession for souls; here on earth He draws nigh to bless in every Sacrament, in every act of worship, in each meditation, in each sermon, in each hour of prayer, always present by His Spirit to bless.
I. HAPPINESS WAS THE END FOR WHICH MAN WAS CREATED. God's intention for man was a life of beatitude. From God there came to him nothing but blessing. That the curse took the place of the blessing, misery of happiness, was not God's work, but man's, in abusing the power of freewill. But God would not leave man in his self-wrought misery. And so Jesus came to take away the curse of sin, and to bless mankind.
II. THIS BLESSEDNESS CAN ONLY BE OURS ON CERTAIN CONDITIONS,
1. It is a blessedness to be found in God alone. To reach it, we must climb. Above the city of Edinburgh there is a great rock, overhanging it like a crouching lion. It is a dim, misty, foggy day, such as sometimes envelopes even the modern Athens of the North. We leave the busy streets, go out of the town, and find ourselves on the path which leads up the side of Arthur's seat. We have hardly taken a few steps ere we feel the mist is thinner, and we breathe more easily. Still we climb on, for the top is far above us; we can see it through the fog above us standing out sharp and clear against the sky. Still we climb, and the air becomes at every step more keen and bracing, and our lungs drink it in more freely, until at last we stand on the summit in the brightness of God's sunshine, while at our feet lies the city buried in the mist. Cannot you read the parable? We are always seeking for happiness; we cannot help it. It is a craving of our being as irresistible as that of hunger or thirst. It will not be crushed out or destroyed. And there are times when we think we have attained to it, and we laugh and sing as we stand in the sunshine. But it is short-lived. The mist creeps over us again, we shiver as we feel its cold dampness, and we murmur and complain in our disappointment. What is wrong? Ah! we have forgotten to climb. We have thought to find what we want on earth, apart from God, and we have failed, as thousands of souls have failed before us.
2. Jesus tells us this blessedness may be ours now. He speaks of the beatitudes in the present tense. Some people will tell us that the innocent joys of earth, the pure affections of home, the pleasures of the intellect, the beauties of nature or art, are only as the fading tints of the sunset, or the falling golden autumn leaves. Ah! but they forget that there is a Power which will fix these fleeting colours, permanize these passing joys. Use them as God intends, as guide-posts to Himself.
3. But Jesus tells us this blessedness is hereafter too. If He speaks in the present tense, He speaks still more in the future. Yes, it must be so, for true blessedness is in God, in God known and realized; and here we see through a glass darkly, here we know only in part; it is yonder that in a fuller knowledge of God we shall find a fuller blessedness.
4. Blessedness can never be selfish. No one can be happy save as he seeks to share his happiness with others.
5. There are degrees of blessedness. It is a mountain which we have to climb.
(C. J. Ridgeway, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.
WEB: He lifted up his eyes to his disciples, and said, "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God.