Day 5: Matthew 4:23-5:20
This passage brings us to the Sermon on the Mount. I think many of us read all of these “blessed” statements as comforting, as if they are meant to make us feel better. However, the last couple of beatitudes should be read as challenges for most of us. At least in the developed world, most of us Christians will never personally know persecution, and for this, we should give thanks. However, I think the gospel is suggesting that if we are really following Jesus—if we fully accept his invitation to be faithful—our very lives will be both witnesses to Jesus and challenges to the world. When we “proclaim the good news of the kingdom”, we are subverting the empire of our time. Much of our culture will prefer shadows and will not appreciate the “light of the world.” Following Jesus is extraordinarily difficult, demanding righteousness greater even than the scribes and Pharisees. I haven’t heard very many sermons about this aspect of the Christian life—trying harder than the Pharisees! Perhaps we do well to read the Sermon on the Mount as a challenge, not as a sentimental, greeting-card-worthy collection of sayings. If we are really following Jesus, we will get ourselves into trouble. Matthew assures us here that even then, Christ will be a blessing to us.
Do you agree that following Jesus may get us into trouble? Have you ever experienced this or known someone who has? Was it a blessing? Why did so many people embrace Jesus’ call to follow him, given his dire warning?
Lord Jesus Christ, give us courage and strength to follow you where we are called to go, not just where it is easy. Amen.
The Rev. Scott Gunn Executive Director of Forward Movement Cincinnati, Ohio
Crafton, Barbara Cawthorne. A Journey With Matthew: The 50 Day Bible Challenge . Forward Movement. Kindle Edition.