For thousands of years, the people of Israel oriented their lives around the way of Yaweh, called the Torah. When Moses comes down from Mount Sinai he carries with him 10 laws (or commandments) that will help shape the newly freed slaves of Egypt into a nation God intends to be a blessing to all nations. Over time, those 10 laws become 613 as the Jewish people commit themselves to living a clean and holy life as Yahweh commanded.
This is the context in which Jesus enters the picture. In the first teaching of the first gospel (Matthew), Jesus goes up to a mountain side with a handful of his disciples and introduces a teaching that has been talked about for thousands of years since, the Sermon on the Mount.
When Jesus gathers his disciples together, he begins to teach what they had been taught for a lifetime in a completely new way. Jesus was moving the focus from doing to being. Laws are great for a good number of reasons. They help keep us organized as a community and create boundaries for behavior. But laws are disconnected from the heart and Jesus was going to re-oriented that way of legalized living toward heart connection with God and others.
Jesus begins this revolutionary teaching with the Beatitudes (Mark 5: 3-12). A beatitude is a blessing, but also more than that. When the bible was being translated in the early church from Greek to Latin, St. Jerome chose the word “beati” which more accurately means “happy” or even “rich”. So, when Jesus says to his disciples, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” we can translate that to “You are rich when you’re at the end of your rope.” This is of course counterintuitive. Nobody feels rich when they’re down. But such is the way of Jesus.
For the next six weeks we will be walking through this incredible piece of scripture together on Sundays and in community groups. If we do this right together, this teaching of Jesus should challenge the way we see God, ourselves, and the world around us. Like the people of Israel we might be confused or even disoriented by Jesus words, but Jesus doesn’t leave us in the dark. His life is a living example of the sermon he gave on the mountain side. We only need to show up with an open heart, a curious mind, and a surrendered spirit to allow God to begin the renovation inside of us from doing things for God to being the people of God.