I remember seeing a photo-realistic chalk image of a cavern drawn on a city sidewalk. It looked like you were going to fall right in. You weren’t. It was a visual trick, a mind-freak.
In the Gospel of Matthew people must’ve had a similar mind-freak when they heard the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, the part we call The Beatitudes from Matthew 5:1-12.
But it wasn’t a trick. It’s the first big-time thing Jesus does in the gospel. It’s his declaration that people we think are losers are blessed and embraced by the presence of God.
Jesus is talking about people who know they’re humble and small. The people who stare into the broken places in the world and mourn. The people who are gentle and merciful. The people who make things right with peace and not violence. The people who – whether they know it or not – follow the path of Jesus.
We know these people are losers. If they’re not losers, they at least always lose, and that’s the same thing, right?
But here’s Jesus using his first big speech to tell us that this is wrong. We’ve got to pay attention to that.
A way of paying attention is suggested by a commentator named Charles James Cook, and it means we seek…
Simplicity… If these people are blessed in God’s sight, then we let Jesus shake up our way of looking at the world. Simple. Hard.
Hopefulness… If these people are blessed in God’s sight, a better world is possible. We need not be cynical about “might making right” and other such garbage.
Compassion… If these people are blessed in God’s sight, then our hearts become more tender to our struggling neighbors and to ourselves when we struggle.
This is a mind-freak, but it’s good news.