In an old dusty school I found myself preparing to wrestle in hopes of securing a state championship. Experience had led me to the conclusion that it was a good possibility, along with the state rankings that came out that affirmed it also. I had arrived at practice awaiting to run through drills. Drills I had done before, drills i had perfected, drills I had made my own. The coach arrived with a new drill..
It was the same though. It was not as though his words were new but when he spoke them they pushed me to a level I was not familiar with. ‘Run’ became run past where you have been. ‘Drop’ and ‘Get Up’ now pushed me to an intimacy with the floor made me notice that the wrinkles in what appeared to be a smooth mat. He pushed and push, and we tried to respond as best as we could only to watch our bodies give way to fatigue, our minds well beyond what they were capable of, and our spirits stripped of any hope of making it past the day let alone a championship.
Then he said “now you’re ready to start practice.”
In Matthew 5 Jesus is with his disciples and on the side of an unnamed mountain we find a group of battered people arriving in hopes of something? Another healing? This new leader to step up and overthrow the government? Whatever their motives it is no concern to Jesus as He is providing just what was needed. A kingdom citizen is one that has looked at himself and seen all the disgusting things we wallow in. They have been pushed to the limit, given up, and realized their limit was not must further than the start of the race.
Jesus opens his mouth and grace flows out. Where he could have justly destroyed all who arrived instead He tells those who have been brought low by the powerful hand of God, “congratulations.”
The beatitudes are not for the self-assertive, the self-righteous, self-serving, or even self-motivated. They are gracious exhortations about a people who really belong to God. Gracious in that God takes the eternal truth of poverty, mourning, meekness, and so on and eternally associates them with the children of God. Exhortation in that there is no question that these trains are something God has to do to His own.
The beatitudes remind us of our state of depravity apart from the gracious gift of God.