Joy in Jesus Brings Joy in Troubles
The 4th Sunday after the Epiphany
Sermon on Matthew 5:1-12
Joy in Jesus Brings Joy in Troubles
Text: Matthew 5:1-12
Makarios. It means blessed, happy, or fortunate. Jesus used that Greek word nine times in the first 10 verses of his famous sermon on the mount. Obviously it is the key word of this section often called the Beatitudes (Beatitudes is a Latin word meaning blessings).
But maybe Jesus was missing something. Maybe this was his first real big crowd to listen to him and he was a little nervous. Maybe he hadn’t perfected his preaching yet. Because Jesus, I’m not sure you know what you are saying! Makarios? Blessed, happy, fortunate?
Being poor in spirit does not make me happy. I don’t like being spiritually weak. I don’t like being imperfect. I don’t like faltering and falling. I don’t like that I sin and I have nothing to offer God. I don’t feel so blessed.
Mourning does not make me happy. I’m tired of shedding tears. I don’t know if I have any more tears to offer. I’m worn out from mourning over my guiltiness. I’m exhausted from feeling the weight of my sins. I’m beat down from all the death and sickness around me. If one more thing goes wrong or if one more person dies, I don’t think I could handle it. I don’t feel so blessed.
Being meek doesn’t make me happy. Yeah, yeah, yeah—the first shall be last and the last shall be first. Fine. But you know what? I’m sick of being trampled on by others. I can’t stand that celebrities and athletes are pathetic examples of role models. They can do whatever they want, buy whatever they want, go wherever they want. And I’m stuck here in this life with no money and getting no reward for making good choices. I don’t feel so blessed.
Pursuing righteousness and the ways of the Lord doesn’t make me happy. Where has that gotten me so far? I still don’t know everything I should know about the Bible. I still can’t grasp the simplest of concepts. And doing what God says sometimes makes my life more complicated. I don’t feel so blessed.
Being merciful doesn’t make me happy. Others need to pay! Why should I be the one at a loss all the time? How come I always have to suffer? Maybe someone else needs to know what it feels like for once. Who’s going to be merciful to me? I don’t feel so blessed.
Pureness of heart doesn’t make me happy. How come everyone else gets to have fun? All these other people are living it up and having a great time! But not me. Even when I try to have a pure heart, I can’t do it anyways. So why bother trying? I don’t feel so blessed.
Peace doesn’t make me happy either. Not in these times. At any moment another plane could be hijacked and crash into a skyscraper. At any moment a car bomb could go off or anthrax could be let loose. Who knows when New York or LA or Orlando will break out in riot like Cairo in Egypt! I don’t feel so blessed.
And being persecuted and insulted doesn’t me happy. I don’t like being the butt of jokes. I don’t like being restricted about where I can pray or what I can believe. I don’t like that Christians are still being martyred around the world and some day I might end up as one. I don’t feel so blessed.
Makarios? Blessed, happy, fortunate? Are you serious, Jesus? I haven’t felt makarios in a long, long time! How do you expect me to do that? Not in this world. Not in my life. Not here. Not now.
Ah, but friends, like all good sermons, you need to keep listening! Jesus had much more to say in this long sermon, but what he says next is of greatest importance to these Beatitudes. Listen to him in verse 12: “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.” Rejoice! Be happy! Be glad! Be grateful! Your reward is coming.
With our American ears we hear the word reward and we think of something we earn. You do a great job at work so you earn the employee of the month award. You are the best player in the Super Bowl so you earn the MVP award. You made the greatest advancement in science and you win a noble peace prize. We are used to the concept of earning a reward.
That’s how some look at the Beatitudes of Jesus’ sermon on the mount. If only I’m meek and mild and humble pure and peaceful, then I will receive the reward of the kingdom of heaven. But that interpretation is simply not possible. There is no way, no how that I could ever earn the reward of heaven.
God demands far more than being meek and mild and humble and peaceful. God demands that we do all of these things all the time, every time. God demands that we follow his commands perfectly. Even though I might do some of these things sometimes, there are more times that I do not do them. That sinfulness does not earn me any rewards. In fact, it earns me just the opposite—death and hell.
No, this is a different kind of reward that Jesus is talking about. This is not a reward that we earn. This is not a reward that we deserve. This is a reward that is freely given. This is a reward given by grace. This is a reward that was earned by Jesus.
Whereas God demands us to be meek and mild and humble and pure and peaceful and righteous—Jesus did that his entire life. Not sometimes. All the time. He was perfect! Whereas God demands punishment and payment for sin, death and hell as a consequence for sin, Jesus went to the cross and died in our stead. It was his life and death in our place that earned the reward.
Imagine this: After the Super Bowl tonight when the Packers are crowned champions because Aaron Rodgers throws four touchdown passes and has zero interceptions they give him the MVP trophy. But instead of keeping that valuable reward that he earned with his hard work, blood, sweat, and tears, he willingly and freely gives it away to some guy wearing a cheese head in the stands. That would be amazing! That would be spectacular! That would be loving and gracious!
Yet that still would be miniscule and minute compared to the reward that Jesus earned and freely gives to us. Jesus died to win forgiveness. Jesus rose to life to prove he won eternal life. Now he willingly and freely just gives away that reward of eternal life in heaven. I don’t know about you, but I think I would take life with Jesus forever in heaven over a Super Bowl trophy any day.
This work of Jesus and this reward change us forever. Not only does the free reward of heaven give us hope for the next life, but it also gives us joy for this life. It causes us to rejoice and be glad. It makes us be grateful and happy. This reward makes us makarios—blessed, happy, fortunate.
Look at how our joy in Jesus changes our outlook on the Beatitudes: Yes, I may be poor in spirit. I might be spiritually poor and very sinful. Yet I can be joyful because heaven belongs to me. I am so blessed!
I mourn at times. I mourn over my sinfulness and guilt. I mourn over the problems of this life. I mourn over the loss of a loved one. Yet I will be comforted by Jesus himself who promises that he is always with me and that all things work out for my good. I am so blessed!
I might be meek. Maybe I’m a nobody. Maybe I seem insignificant in this world. Maybe other celebrities and athletes run around the world like they own it. But come Judgment Day, I and all believers will be the ones inheriting the earth. I am so blessed!
I hunger and thirst for righteousness at times. I want to know more. I want to grow in faith. I want to do what is right. And I won’t be denied. God promises to give me my fill with his Word and his love. I am so blessed!
It’s hard to be merciful. We want vengeance. We want others to pay. We want repercussions for wickedness. Yet God has shown me so much mercy and forgiveness. I am so blessed!
It’s even harder to be pure in heart. There are so many evils around us. Everywhere we turn there are temptations. We fall into sin so often. But Jesus has given us a pure heart because he has washed me clean. Thus, we will see God face to face in heaven. I am so blessed!
I want to show peace. But these aren’t the most peaceful of times. There are little wars and insurgent coups all over the world. There are riots. There are terrorists. There are threats and there are actual attacks. Yet God has given me spiritual peace through Jesus. As I then live a life of peace it will be a testimony to others of the peace I have been given. That makes me a child of God. I am so blessed!
I can’t stand being persecuted. I don’t want to be made fun of. I want to preserve my freedoms and my rights. I don’t want to become a martyr. Yet God’s people who have gone before us have always been treated this way. Besides, even if we are persecuted and finally martyred, the kingdom of heaven is ours! I am so blessed!
Makarios. It means blessed, happy, fortunate. As we struggle through this life filled with sin and sorrow, trouble and turmoil, it sure seems hard to feel blessed or happy. But listen to Jesus himself this morning, preaching a much better sermon than mine. Listen to him! You are blessed, happy, and fortunate! How can that be? How can you find joy in this life? Friends, Joy in Jesus Will Bring You Joy in Your Troubles. He has made you blessed, happy, and fortunate by giving you the free reward of heaven. So rejoice and be glad.
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