CMC Eps 12 – MATTHEW 5: 1-5 – LETS GO CLIMBING

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Podcast #12. Matthew 5:1-5

 

Hi.. I’m Gene Ort.. and you’re listening to the common man commentary..

 

This is podcast #12..  We will be looking at MATTHEW 5:1-5

 

The Title for this podcast is  : “ Let’s go climbing.. ”

 

In podcast 11, we talked about the fame Jesus was experiencing because He healed everyone.. crowds came from all around ..  they wanted and needed something from Jesus.. but others were curious.. it was the best show in town !

 

I’ll be reading from the message version, Matthew 5:1-5

 

“When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:

 

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.”

Matthew 5:1-5  the message version.

 

I will admit right off the bat, that it seems a bit odd that Jesus would appear to be wanting to seperate himself from the crowd. That is certainly not the way of popular celebrate in our culture. But here it is.. Jesus sees the crowd.. and appears to deliberately want to distance himself from them. 

 

One of the ways you can distance yourself from anyone is to create a little cost. In this case, its the cost of energy. It takes some effort to climb the hills around Galilee. It’s a very hilly place. When I visited Israel a few years back, our guide loved to trek us up into these hills. Part of the idea he had was to recreate these teaching experiences in the style of Jesus. The Rabbi’s of Jesus day would often take their students on these teaching experiences and use the environment as a tool. 

 

We can learn a lot by paying close attention to what is going on around us. If you paid attention to the cover art for this podcast, you would see me with trekking poles at the base of Masada. This was just one of many ways we got to experience the geography and be taught at the same time. 

 

Matthew draws special attention to the group who follows Jesus up the hillside. Eugene’s Peterson’s interpretation calls them the apprenticed and committed.  Other writers call them students but most refer to them as the disciples. At this point in time, the 12 specific disciples later to be called apostles or sent ones, have not yet been chosen, so the number of followers ( yet another name for this group ) is not known. There are indications that a group as large as 70 including men and women may have followed him up the hill. There is no real way to know for sure.  My personal thoughts would lead me to think the number may have been higher.

 

One of the benefits of journaling for a long period of time and keeping a reference in my paper bible to that date corresponding to the verse is that I can pull up that point in my journals very easily. It’s a bit like traveling back in time.. in my own history. I can re-discover what I learned at that specific point in time. In this specific verse, I looked back at something I wrote to myself in 2014.

 

And I quote : “ Jesus taught his climbing companions.. I am counted amount them..a learner, a student a disciple, a follower.  “ unquote.. 

From an even earlier journal I had written down a note to myself  about an observation I believe The Holy Spirit gave me about myself.

 

I am a hill climber, and I tend to make things harder for myself than I need to. I see the path up the hill, I find the hardest way! I am still working on that. 

 

I travel a lot. I have the same problem almost every time I pack. I try to take to much stuff. I weigh myself down and then later feel the regret of it. This is true of me with internal baggage as well.  The past can be an extremely heavy load to drag along behind you. If you are going to try and follow Jesus up the hill … metaphorically speaking, you are going to have to lighten the load, eject some excess baggage. 

 

A little later in the gospels, Jesus says, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. “ Matthew 11:30.   I like the sound of that … a lot. 

 

Back to the hillside. The quiet place.. Jesus took everyone who followed to a quiet place. This is super meaningful to me. I crave quiet places.  Jesus was leading them up and away from the noise. I am reminded that Jesus` teaching is not always with words.. but also with actions and behaviors. So as Jesus is preparing them to be taught with words, he is teaching them how to prepare themselves to be taught with words. The chaos of the crowd is not the best place to try and absorb deep truth and understanding. Especially things that are going to challenge long standing beliefs and presumptions.

 

Every fall, I attend a Notre Dame football game with a best friend. I love it! The energy is electric.. it’s usually cool and crisp and ..lets just say.. crowded ! You are jammed into a giant bowl with about 90 thousand other crazy people to witness a game. Notre Dame fans do not lack enthusiasm.  When you are up in the stands, you are a good distance away from the playing field. It almost looks like the boys are running in slow motion and they just don’t look all that big.  Until you see them in action up close. Then you realize the truth, they are huge and fast.  My wife Mary is a fan, and she records every game. It’s common for me to come home after the game I attended in person and rewatch part of it on TV. What a different perspective !  The concept of TV football is to get you as close to the action as possible. They want you the hear every impact.. see the hits and experience it up close. They have many cameras positioned everywhere to accomplish this. Each experience, the stadium and the living room offers a different perspective. 

 

I think Jesus is teaching us how to choose the right perspective for each kind of teaching. The large gatherings in buildings we call church services serve one kind of purpose but it’s not the way you are going to delve into the deeper meanings of Jesus teaching. If you find yourself wanting more out of your faith journey, you will likely need to find your way out of the noisy chaos of life and follow Jesus into some quiet place to at least metaphorically sit at his feet.     

 

And here we are..  setting on the mountain side.. the Sea of Galilee visible in the distance.. Jesus sits down..  thats a cue to everyone that He is about to teach. Everybody scrambles around to find a nice rock to sit on or a small tree to sit under.  

 

And then Jesus speaks : “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.” 

 

This is where I am tempted to insert some sound effects.. screeching tires.. a needle scratching a record .. for those of you old enough to know what that means.

 

The end of your rope is an idiom for “out of options” , you have located the limits to your patience, resources, abilities, energy ..  you are done ! 

 

What about that is going to make you blessed.. or happy ?      Nothing !      Because its not the poverty of the situation that is good, its the awareness of a reality that it brings you too that is good. 

I have heard it said that there are only two things in life that happen to us that bring about true change. They are extreme beauty and extreme pain. 

This verse address’s both.

 

The extreme pain comes when you find out you really don’t have any control over almost anything.. or at least what you want to control the most.

 

The extreme beauty happens when you discover God is there to meet you in that very moment, and that He is indeed beautiful, good and kind and that His kingdom is a Kingdom of beauty, goodness and truth. 

 

You throw your hands up in the air in defeat only to find you are caught. 

 

You trade in your hands full of thorns for hands full of roses.  Beauty for Ashes.  

 

So you see right at the beginning of Jesus teaching He is using paradox, an absurdity.. designed to create a sort of “ wait a minute “ moment. What is he saying ? It’s good to be poor ? It’s good to be “ out of options “ ?  No, its good to be in a place where you discover truth.. you discover God. 

 

You can easily see how a literal interpretation of this passage could lead to great confusion and misunderstanding. And it has. This method of paradoxical teaching will become a foundation for understanding much of the rest of Jesus teaching to come. He does not always use paradox, sometimes He says things that are outright sarcasm, when calling out an oppressive cultural norm so people can hear how completely ridiculous it sounds when its said out loud.  He even pretends to agree with some oppressive traditions to expose the ugliness and absurdity.

 

We don’t easily learn new truth from direct confrontation, sometimes a story can be more effective at getting to truth. Jesus is a master storyteller. He is a surgeon with words that cut past everything we hide behind to get to the truth,…  and surgery is painful. 

 

Jesus said : “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. “

 

Who could have guessed that a broken heart can also be an open heart.  They say if you cut yourself off from feeling pain, that you simultaneously cut yourself off from pleasure. A hard heart is just what it sounds like, impenetrable. A soft heart is what it sounds like, receptive. When you have lost someone precious to you and experienced pain that cant be described with words, it can create an opening. It is in this opening you will find God ready and waiting for you. He is close to the broken hearted, but it’s a club nobody wants to belong too. 

 

The paradox again. In extreme loss, you find what’s most needed.  God collects our tears and one day they will all be wiped away forever.

Unfortunately not all loss leads to this beautiful opened hearted receptivity.  Some people when they experience great loss, shut their hearts down altogether. This is tragedy upon tragedy and it’s not God’s desire.  

 

Jesus said : “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.”

 

Wow !  So this is where all the therapists and physiologists got their shtick. 

 

To be content with who you are !  Is this not the greatest desire of almost everyone ?   

Contentment defined, “a state of happiness and satisfaction”. 

 

I think this one is a little tougher to sort out than the previous two.  To say you are content with who you are almost sounds like you have arrived at perfection..the red carpet gets rolled out for you wherever you go. 

We all know that nobody is perfect, so that must not be what Jesus is referring too.

 

So, “who you are “ must not be referring completely to your looks, personality, character, list of achievements or failures . Then what’s left ?

 

Identity.  Identity defined : “ the fact of being who or what a person or thing is.”

 

As a Jesus follower, I have been told ”I am a child of God “ and that as a child of God, I am loved unconditionally.  I have given intellectual ascent to this statement throughout my Christian experience. But, was it my identity ?

 

Lurking in the back of my mind, i had received an identity when I was a child. It said, “ I am not enough and I will never be enough “. This became a core identity and even though I was not always conscious of it, it was a driving motivator behind nearly everything I did. Every failure, big or small bringing with them guilt and shame would awaken this message and it would roar its way to the foreground and remind me in no uncertain terms: “ you are not enough! “.  

 

What Jesus is saying is when you truly discover that you really are a child of God and are loved perfectly in the current state you are in, then contentment is the natural outcome. 

 

But in order to feel the truth of this statement, you have to reject the other lies you have been told and believed. That can take a little intentional self parenting and some good friends to walk with through it. 

 

You will never be able to believe that you are a child of God, and loved by God if you secretly believe God is angry with you, is barely tolerating you or is only letting you in the heaven club because you signed the contract and pay your dues. Also known as raised your hand and pay your tithe. 

 

Love and fear cannot occupy the same space. You either feel completely safe with God, or you are still hiding from Him. Consciously or unconsciously.  Hiding is what we do when we think we are going to be punished.  

 

For what ever reason, the Jewish religion had adopted a view of God that was punitive. He was watching you and just waiting for you to make a mistake so he could smite you. This was the prevailing understanding of God. 

 

Something good happens to you, God must like you. Something bad happens to you, God must be mad at you.   A lot of this kind of thinking is alive and well today.  

 

A central part of Jesus rescue mission was to correct this misunderstanding about who God really is, 

His Identity !  He is love. He loves us. He is for us. He is speaking Peace to us. 

 

This contentment with your identity with God is stated as being more valuable than anything money can buy or anything else this world has to offer !

 

Well thats enough to think about for now..

 

Until next time ..  I am Gene Ort and Thank you for listening to the common man commentary. 

 

I’D LIKE TO LEAVE YOU WITH This “ blessing :

 

Love God. Love Yourself. Love the next person He puts in front of you.