When reading the Beatitudes in either their Matthean or Lukan edition, it is important to keep in mind the framework within which Jesus lived and worked. This was the understanding that God was going to establish his kingdom here on earth. He told the poor, who had been brought up to believe that riches were a blessing from God and poverty a punishment, that the Kingdom of God would be for them a great blessing. Their hunger and sorrow would be replaced with laughter and joy. To this was added the message that those being persecuted, despised or rejected because they believed in Jesus as God’s Deliverer could look forward to a great time of rejoicing. This is the time when the will of God will be done on earth just as it is in heaven. However, Jesus did not leave it as something limited to the future; he lived it and faced up to the consequences when he came into collision with the anti-God forces in the world. He calls his followers to live under God’s reign now even before God’s kingdom is established on earth. Jesus, then, can be seen as the one who has authority over how life ought to be lived; as Paul put it, “God has put all things under his feet.” His authority is to be given priority over all human authority, over governments and traditions or any power that might bring pressure to bear on how we live our lives. Throughout the years since Jesus lived, many, many people have sought to live under his authority calling him Lord and Saviour. These are they who are celebrated on All Saints Day. As we make our faithful response to God, we join a host of others, contemporary and gone before. None of us have done it perfectly, but God has used and continues to use this faithfulness to change the world.
- What were the consequences for Jesus when he faced up to the anti-God forces in the world?
- The Beatitudes (e.g.: Luke 6:20-13) announce good news to those who are despised or rejected. What is that good news?
- When, in your experience, has the authority of Christ come into conflict with human authorities?
- In our faith we are linked to a host of others who lived by faith in Christ Jesus. Why should that be important to us?