Who Are the Blessed? by Pastor Roger Rohde

Who Are the Blessed?

November 1st has been designated as All Saints’ Day in Christendom.  Since we did not have worship services on that day, we observe the All Saints’ Day celebration on this Sunday.  Through the appointed lessons for this occasion, we hear the Lord speak to us about the saints in heaven, who trusted in Christ while they were here on earth.  The Gospel Reading, which is the basis of our sermon, focuses upon the saints now living on earth who trust in Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

Our Gospel Reading is the opening portion of Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount.  The words before us are known as the Beatitudes and speak of the characteristics that the saints on earth possess.  What Jesus has to say about them stands in conflict with what the world would consider blessed people to be.  Then again, the world looks at life from a temporal viewpoint, while Christians view life from the perspective of eternity.  Let us hear how Jesus describes those people who are blessed.

First, Jesus notes that the blessed ones are those who are broken and live by faith in Christ.  This concept is foreign to the world’s emphasis on self-esteem.  Jesus says that the “blessed are those who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.”  What message does Jesus have for His disciples here?

Notice that Jesus is speaking of being “poor in spirit.”  Jesus is not talking about living in physical poverty, but about the importance of recognizing our spiritual poverty.  Jesus taught in the parable of the Pharisee and the publican in the temple that he who supposes himself to be good and righteous before God will depart the temple in an unjustified state.  He who is blessed by God acknowledges with a repentant heart, “God be merciful to me, a sinner”          (Luke 18:9-14).

It is significant that in our Lutheran worship we open most of our worship services by acknowledging that we do not deserve to be in God’s presence.  We properly confess that we are “poor, miserable sinners” who have sinned against God and deserve God’s temporal and eternal punishment.  Those who are blessed with God’s saving grace in Christ are those who come to God with “broken spirits and contrite hearts.”  The Psalmist wrote: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).

A blessed person is one who hungers and thirsts after the righteousness that comes through the death and resurrection of Jesus.  God blesses the repentant sinner with the forgiveness of sins.  Through God’s Word and Sacraments such a person clearly and personally receives deliverance from the guilt of sin.

Have we reached that point in our spiritual development where we have seen ourselves like the repentant thief on the cross?  That repentant thief had been touched by Jesus and rebuked the other criminal that was crucified with him by saying: “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve.  But this man, referring to Jesus, has done nothing wrong.”  Then he prayed to the Lord: “Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom.”  Jesus answered him: “Today you will be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:41-43).

He is blessed who see his sins, mourns his sinfulness, and with a humble heart looks to Jesus and His righteousness.  He shall be filled.  He shall be comforted with the forgiveness of sins and everlasting life in heaven.

Second, Jesus notes that the blessed are those who have been shaped by God’s love.  They are merciful, pure in heart, and peacemakers.  These qualities exist in the blessed, because God has bestowed these blessing upon those who have been changed by God’s love in Christ Jesus.

The change of life with which God blesses the believer in Christ is described in the following passages: “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought; but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you” (Romans 12:3).  “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).  “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another” (I Peter 5:5).

The challenge in living out our Christian faith is that the Christian faith is contrary to the ways of the world and our old sinful flesh.  We have a tendency to think of ourselves first.  We want things done our way.  Yet, God calls us out of the darkness into His marvelous light not only to bless us with the gift of salvation, but to give us a new life so that we can to live for the Lord, so that people might see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven (I Peter 2:9; Matthew 5:6).

Has the love of Christ shaped us so that we are about bringing the message of Jesus’ saving work to others through our words and deeds?  Blessed are we as God’s mercy, holiness, and peace shape our lives to be ambassadors for Christ.  As Paul told the Christians in Rome: ‘Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to Him as instruments of righteousness” (Romans 6:13).

Third, the blessed are those who stand up for Christ as all costs.  Jesus in His Sermon of the Mount speaks not only about being blessed by the forgiveness of sin in Christ Jesus and walking in the new life that we have in Christ, but He speaks of us testifying of the Lord in every and all situations in life we encounter.

Jesus is not here telling us to intentionally stir up opposition by sharing the Christian faith, but He is instructing us never to back down from the truth of God’s Word and the difference that Christ Jesus can make in a person’s life.  He tells us that those who are persecuted for belonging to Christ are blessed with heaven’s glory.

One of the problems we face in life is that we want immediate gratification.  Trusting in Christ and living for Him doesn’t always bring about immediate gratification.  As we live out our faith, people will shun us, call us names, and sometimes do bodily harm to us.  Most of the original twelve disciples who heard this sermon saw their lives filled with beatings, imprisonment, and even death.

That which drew them to fight the good fight, finish the course and keep the faith was God’s promise that whoever remains faithful unto death will receive the crown of life (Revelation 2:10).

All Saints’ Day is a time for us to remember the “great cloud of witnesses” that have gone to eternal glory having fixed their eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2).  This not only includes such people as Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  It also includes the father who saw his primary purpose in life to raise his children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  It is the mother who imparted to her children a life of prayer and study of God’s Word.  It is the spouse who was a spiritual light and encourager in the marriage relationship.

Today we celebrate God’s grace in blessing us with people who influenced our faith in Christ and have now gone to glory.  We also rejoice in the blessings God has given us that we might bear the Christian torch of the Gospel that others may be blessed by God’s saving grace in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

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