The Festival of All Saints - Matthew 5:1-12 (November 2, 2014)
1) God is hidden under the cross. This we see from the Scriptures. God does not reveal Himself to us through inner movements and thoughts of our hearts. That is enthusiasm and is of the Devil, not the Lord. God does not reveal Himself to us through coincidences of this life. That is Divine providence and only shows us His care for all created beings. The rain, after all, falls on both the wicked and the righteous. God does not reveal Himself to us in material blessings, so that we are to think that the rich are favored by God while poor must’ve done something wrong to end up in such a state. Wealth is a blessing from the Lord. Poverty is also a blessing from the Lord. Either way, rich or poor, the Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. The Lord only reveals Himself through the cross for the cross is how Jesus shows us just who exactly the Triune God is. This is what St. John means in the first chapter of his Gospel when he writes, “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” (John 1:18) If we want to see God the Father we must look to Jesus to show Him to us. And we can’t look at Jesus without looking at the cross. The doctrine of Jesus, the life lived under Mosaic Law, the miracles of Jesus, all of these point to cross and find their true meaning in the cross. So everything is hidden under the cross, under suffering, under persecution and death. Jesus makes no sense without the cross.
2) To human reason though, Jesus makes little sense with the cross. If anyone were to ask where true blessedness can be found, they most certainly would not look to the life of Jesus. “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Matthew 8:20) He has nothing to His name in this life, no possessions, not even a home. Who would look at this and call it “blessed?” Jesus says to the Pharisees in John 8:40, “But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God.” Jesus lives as one continually rejected by men for His doctrine. He withstands the putrid hatred of the Jews and their continual death threats. But who would look at this and call it “blessed?” Jesus teaches that He alone is the God-revealer and then endures the misguided scruples of men. He says in John 6:65, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.” The result in the next verse shows the terrible failure of the true doctrine of God among men, “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.” Rejection, death threats, outward failure in ministry, and no possessions or home. No one would look at Jesus to say, “This man embodies true blessedness.”
3) Yet Jesus is the embodiment of true blessedness. During His earthly ministry He is in His state of Humiliation, meaning that He does not make full use of His divine powers. He empties Himself. He “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:7-8) Christ emptied Himself of His divine prerogative so that He might approach humanity in gentleness and humility, that He might invite sinners to believe Him, and allure the guilty to Him, so that those burdened by an evil conscience from their sin might find their repose in Him. He empties Himself so that He might die upon the cross to atone for the sins of the world, so that He might make justification available to every man who will hear the Gospel and believe. Jesus hides all of the blessedness He has by virtue of who He is, the second person of the Holy Trinity, the Divine Word by which all things were created. He hides all this under the cross so that sinners might only know God through the cross. He hides all this under the cross so that sinners might receive their salvation, their forgiveness, and their justification before God by faith in Christ’s work upon that cross. He hides Himself under the cross so that in the cross true blessedness is given.
4) God is hidden under the cross and so His saints are hidden under the cross as well. This is what Jesus teaches us at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. The saints of God are known by their suffering since their Lord suffered. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” True blessedness begins by being spiritual impoverished. The truly blessed one has nothing to offer God. The saints of God approach God with open, empty hands which can only receive God’s good things. They bring no good works, no great donations to the church, no talents, gifts, time and treasure. They come only with open hands because they are beggars before God. Those who understand their spiritual poverty, those are the ones whose hands God fills with heavenly blessings of absolution, true righteousness, and the merits of Christ. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” True blessedness is admitting one’s powerlessness against death as it ravages our families, our congregation, and our own bodies. True blessedness mourns our condition because of sin and receives the comfort of the resurrection of the body on the Last Day, that though we deteriorate, die, and decompose, that is not the end of our life but only a portal to everlasting life.
5) “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Those who are gentle and humble of heart in this life, because of their Lord’s gentleness and humility in dealing with them, will be given the New Heavens and the New Earth on the Last Day. The saints will not inherit an earthly kingdom for a thousand years, for this is not the way Christ reigns. They inherit a flawless world in which to live and move and have their being. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” The ones who desire to rid themselves of sin and pant after God’s righteousness, innocence, and blessedness will be filled, not with earthly goods, not with fatty foods, and not with gold and wealth, but with their heart’s true desire: righteousness, that pureness of heart which can only be given by God. Those who desire a pure clean conscience receive it by faith in the words of Christ’s absolution spoken through His rightly called and ordained man. True blessedness is pursuing this righteousness of God through repentance and confession so that God freely and graciously gives it. This is why David sings, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit.” (Psalm 32:1-2) Receiving the forgiveness of sins by faith is the true blessedness.
6) “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.” Mercy, purity, and peace. The saints are merciful because they have received such great mercy from their Lord through faith in Christ. The saints are pure in heart for they desire the heavenly gifts and not the filth of this world with its temptations and lusts. The saints, “having been justified by faith, have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1) Having the peace which passes all human understanding by faith, they seek to bring that peace to others, speaking words of Gospel peace to their neighbors in their daily callings. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The saints, like their Lord Jesus, are hidden under persecution, cross, and suffering. Though they may not have much in the way of worldly peace because of their confession of the pure doctrine, they have peace with God. Though they may not obtain mercy from their neighbors for their sins, they possess the mercy of Christ through the Gospel. Though their outward garments are still stained and tainted with the mire of this world, their hearts and consciences are made pure by faith.
7) Their true blessedness comes from their connection to Christ, THE truly blessed one from all eternity. “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.” Not for their sake. Not for the sake of policy or cause. But for Christ’s sake. The saints of God, His holy ones of every age, suffer in many and manifold ways for His sake, for the sake of His true confession, for the sake of seeking true doctrinal fellowship, for their love of the “all things” Jesus gave us to treasure. This is true blessedness. Your blessedness is hidden with Christ under the cross. Your blessedness is not a visible, worldly, temporal blessedness that the prosperity preachers drone on about. Your blessedness is not in your health, not in your wealth, and has nothing to do with the things of this life. Your true blessedness is in being connected with Jesus in baptismal waters. Your true blessedness comes from eating His flesh and drinking His true blood for the forgiveness of all of your sins. Your true blessedness comes from hearing the Absolution of your pastor as if it were from Christ Himself, for it is from Christ Himself. Your true blessedness is that you belong to the Lord and that He, by faith, belongs to you so that all He has is yours and all you have is His. Rejoice, you saints of the Lord, in your poverty and wretchedness of spirit, for yours is the kingdom of heaven not by works, not by your merits, not by anything but faith in Christ, the truly blessed God, who loves to give the kingdom to His saints. Amen.