I imagine that as Jesus was growing up in Nazareth, those who knew His family and His story were probably pretty curious about Him. Knowing the divine story of His conception, they must have wondered and watched Him closely throughout His life, to see what great miracles He might perform, what great mysteries He might reveal about God.
For more than 25 years, however, we know that Jesus simply lived and worked as a carpenter in His community. He spent His days observing, learning. He observed the relationships of the people around Him. He knew who were considered to be wealthy, who were thought to be poor, who were the well-respected, and who were the lowest and most disdained. In those years there were no great sermons or healings that we know of. Jesus simply lived and learned what it meant, what it felt like, to be a man.
But Jesus was not just a man. He was God. He had come to save the world, that we each might know and experience God’s love. His observations all of those years were not just part of a study in social behavior. His desire was to understand and to reveal to us what it meant to experience the kingdom of God in this life – what it meant to be “blessed”.
The sermon on the mount is one of our first records of the words of Jesus as He began to share His observations with His disciples. He began by addressing the most crucial questions of mankind: How do we live forever, members of the kingdom of heaven? How do we see God?
This was His answer:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
I imagine that this may not have been what the people expected to hear this Great Teacher say! In fact, these truths likely contradicted much of what they had been taught by society and religion all of those years on who is “blessed”. I wonder if a few of them might have turned to their neighbor and whispered, “What did He say? Those who are ‘poor in spirit’ – ‘blessed’? That doesn’t make any sense. I don’t think I heard Him right.”
The other day, I was having a conversation over dinner with a well-respected pastor who was visiting Estonia, spending time praying with others and leading large, healing services. The work of the Lord through this pastor in this region over the years has been wonderful. Many people have experienced healing and freedom during her services.
She began to ask me what I do here, and I told her that I also have a calling to commit my life to prayer, and that I spend a lot of time praying with individuals about things going on in their lives and in the Church. I explained to her that I am also with my kids a lot right now, as they are still young and at home.
At that point, her tone changed almost to one of pity, as though she felt she needed to encourage me, when she answered, “Of course, at this time in a woman’s life, the children must be the first priority. But don’t worry, you will be able to do the kinds of prayer ministry that we are doing one day, as well! You have plenty of time!”
I knew her intentions were good in what she said, but I hadn’t expected her to feel the need to encourage me at all. Honestly, the meeting left me feeling defensive, and even a bit embarrassed.
Earlier on that same day I had been a part of a small prayer team. Interestingly, one of the people with whom we prayed was a young mother who’d given birth to her first child less than a year ago, and who was struggling to adjust to being a stay-at-home mom. She was dealing with feelings of isolation and worthlessness, and she had come to ask us to pray for her to be able to have a deeper experience and relationship with God. She said that she wanted to be free to submit all of herself to Him, submit only to His purpose and will for her life.
During our prayer, it became clear that the enemy was seeking to rob this young woman of the joy of accepting the power and the authority of her place and role in the Kingdom. He was feeding her the twisted lie that simply being a stay-at-home mother was menial work, and that as long as she was tied down at home she would never be as valuable in the Kingdom as others who were more free to serve in “bigger and greater” ways.
In the name of Jesus Christ, we rebuked that lie, and we asked the Lord Himself to restore His truth and freedom in the life of His precious daughter. Then I leaned over to her, and said quietly, “Do not let the enemy steal from you the joy of knowing who you are in the kingdom. Your role in that home, as you pray for your children, and your family, and the Church, and this nation, is one of great power and authority. It is through the humble, fervent prayers of the faithful that mountains are moved.”
The Lord’s great power was revealed to Elijah in a quiet breeze, to Samuel in the still of the night, to Jesus Christ as He wept and prayed alone in the garden. God’s greatest display of His power and love for us was not accomplished on a great stage in front of a massive, applauding audience. It was accomplished in the quiet, early morning hours, before the sun had risen, when Jesus Christ rose from the dead and took His place as our Savior – Lord of all lords, forever.
And yet still, many of us continue to serve from within the prison of the lie that “bigger and busier and louder is better”. We continue to seek man’s applause over God’s still, quiet voice. We continue to place men in God’s place on the throne.
That day preaching on the mountain, our Lord was describing to His disciples a life without the prison walls. He was revealing the mystery of a life lived in absolute freedom and truth.
Let us ask the Holy Spirit to humble us, that we may take Jesus’ words of freedom and truth to the throne of our Father, so that we will have the boldness to ask Him, “Father, who am I in Your Kingdom?”
Am I the poor in spirit? Am I among those who mourn? Am I the meek, one who hungers and thirsts for righteousness? Am I the merciful, the pure in heart? Am I the peacemaker, one who is persecuted for my desire and passion for righteousness, which comes from God alone? Am I one to whom will be given the kingdom of heaven, who will be called a child of God? Am I among those who will see Your face?