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Sermon illustrations

The Beatitudes

A Comprehensive Picture

The beatitudes paint a comprehensive portrait of a Christian disciple. We see him [or her] first alone on his knees before God, acknowledging his spiritual poverty and mourning over it. This makes him meek or gentle in all his relationships, since honesty compels him to allow others to think of him what before God he confesses himself to be. Yet he is far from acquiescing in his sinfulness, for he hungers and thirsts after righteousness, longing to grow in grace and in goodness.

Taken from The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7: Christian Counter-Cultureby John R.W. Stott Copyright (c) 1985 by John R.W. Stott. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

Cutting the Beatitudes

If you could cut one or two Beatitudes, which would you drop from the list? Perhaps the ones about the righteous or the persecuted or those who mourn? What might you add? “Blessed are the driven, for theirs is the kingdom”?

“Blessed are those who are true to themselves, for they will be happy”? I like “blessed are the comfortable, for they will never have to sacrifice.” And to borrow a line from rapper Kendrick Lamar, “Blessed are the liars, / For the truth can be awkward.”

Taken from Our Good Crisis: Overcoming Moral Chaos with the Beatitudes by Jonathan K. Dodson Copyright (c) 2020 by Jonathan K. Dodson. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

 

A Few Minutes with the Beatitudes

Just a few minutes spent reflecting on the promises that come attached to the Beatitudes can lift us up like the whirlwind of God’s love in a revival tent meeting: inherit the earth, yours is the kingdom, you will be satisfied, you shall receive mercy, and you shall see God. Jesus himself wants these promises, and his moral goodness, to break in now—in our lives, churches, communities, and countries.

Taken from Our Good Crisis: Overcoming Moral Chaos with the Beatitudes by Jonathan K. Dodson Copyright (c) 2020 by Jonathan K. Dodson. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

 

The Future Orientation of the Beatitudes

In his thoughtful book, Our Good Crisis: Overcoming Moral Chaos with the Beatitudes, Jonathan K. Dodson describes one of the keys to understanding the beatitudes: live faithfully now, experience Gods blessings in the future:

Another way to read the Beatitudes is as a promise of future blessings for the present. Live poor in spirit now, and you’ll benefit immediately—get a foot in the kingdom, so to speak. Hunger and thirst for righteousness now, and you will get a taste of eternal satisfaction.

This certainly fits with the “future logic” of the New Testament, in which there are frequent exhortations to do something in the present based on future realities: “For this perishable body must put on the imperishable. . . . Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:53, 58).

Taken from Our Good Crisis: Overcoming Moral Chaos with the Beatitudes by Jonathan K. Dodson Copyright (c) 2020 by Jonathan K. Dodson. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

 

The Golden Chain in the Beatitudes

The fourth-century preacher John Chrysostom emphasized the orderly nature of the Beatitudes by stating:

Therefore, you see, in each instance, by the former precept making way for the following one, He [Jesus] hath woven a sort of golden chain for us. Thus, first, he that is “humble,” will surely also “mourn” for his own sins: he that so “mourns,” will be both “meek,” and “righteous,” and “merciful;” he that is “merciful,” and “righteous,” and “contrite,” will of course be also “pure in heart:” and such a one will be “a peacemaker” too.

Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew in A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Volume 10, ed. Philip Schaff (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1975 reprint), 96.

John Newton Experiences his Spiritual Poverty

It was while reading Thomas à Kempis’s Imitation of Christ that John Newton, the author of “Amazing Grace,” came to the blessedness of knowing his spiritual poverty. Before that encounter with Jesus, Newton was a skipper on an English slave-trading ship. He thought of himself as “quite a decent chap,” thank you. Then the light broke through, and the kingdom of heaven invaded his life. And his hymn is his personal testimony:

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me.

“A wretch”: It is his own self-designation. No one else called him that. No one needed to. In the presence of Jesus Christ, what else would a slave-trader say? He did not have a self-esteem problem. He simply saw how short of the glory of God he had fallen.

I once was lost but now am found, Was blind but now I see.

“Now I see” that before the Living God I am woefully poor in spirit. That is why he goes on in the second verse to sing, “Twas grace that taught my heart to fear.” Grace taught him to fear? Yes, for grace first makes us see ourselves as we are apart from grace. The gospel of God’s new order first caused Newton to see how wretched his part in the old order was. But then he made the greatest discovery of his life. The new order, the kingdom of heaven, is for those who recognize how wretchedly poor they are before God. And so he sang, “and grace my fear relieved.”

Darrell W. Johnson, The Beatitudes: Living in Sync with the Reign of God, Canadian Church Leaders Network, 2021.

Meekness Consists of…

According to the Puritan pastor Thomas Watson, Meekness toward other people consists of three things: the bearing of injuries, the forgiving of injuries, and the returning of good for evil.

Thomas Watson, The Beatitudes (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1971)

Putting Ourselves in the Way of Sick and Needy Sinners

Here is the first step of prayer in a universe where God has put on flesh to be with us: we must put ourselves in the way of his friendship to sick and needy sinners. The heart naturally resists this posture and disposition. If we see ourselves as healthy and self-sufficient, invulnerable and spiritually impressive, we will miss Jesus’ healing and friendship. “Go and learn what this means,” he says. It takes time and honest observation of our hearts.

Taken from The Possibility of Prayer: Finding Stillness with God in a Restless World by John Starke Copyright (c) 2020 by John Starke. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

The Shipwrecked or the Landlocked

Brennan Manning spent most of his life as a priest before the light of the kingdom dawned on him. He suggested that the poor in spirit are like the survivors of a shipwreck. Out at sea, all the things they used to rely on—past achievements, accumulated treasures, titles and degrees—simply do not matter. All that matters now is the plank to which they cling. Manning writes: The shipwrecked have stood at the still-point of a turning world and discovered that the human heart is made for Jesus Christ and cannot really be content with less. They cannot take seriously the demands that the world makes on them. … We are made for Christ and nothing less will ever satisfy us.

The shipwrecked have little in common with the landlocked. The landlocked have their own security system, a home base, credentials and credit cards, storehouses and barns, their self-interest and investments intact. They never find themselves because they never really feel themselves lost.… The shipwrecked, on the contrary, reach out for the passing plank with the desperation of the drowning. Adrift on an angry sea, in a state of utter helplessness and vulnerability, the shipwrecked never asked what they could do to merit the plank and inherit the kingdom of dry land. They knew that there was absolutely nothing any of them could do.

Darrell W. Johnson, The Beatitudes: Living in Sync with the Reign of God, Canadian Church Leaders Network, 2021.

Who are the Mourners?

The mourners are those who have caught a glimpse of God’s new day, who ache with all their being for that day’s coming, and who break out into tears when confronted with its absence. They are the ones who realize that in God’s realm of peace there is no one blind, and who ache whenever they see someone unseeing. They are the ones who realize that in God’s realm there is no one hungry and who ache whenever they see someone starving.

They are the ones who realize that in God’s realm there is no one falsely accused and who ache whenever they see someone imprisoned unjustly. They are the ones who realize that in God’s realm there is no one who fails to see God and who ache whenever they see someone unbelieving. They are the ones who realize that in God’s realm there is no one who suffers oppression and who ache whenever they see someone beat down. They are the ones who realize that in God’s realm there is no one without dignity and who ache whenever they see someone treated with indignity. They are the ones who realize that in God’s realm of peace there is neither death nor tears and who ache whenever they see someone crying tears over death. The mourners are aching visionaries.

Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1987), 84.

Who is Blessed in Jesus’ Eyes

Commenting on the word “makarios,” which is often translated, “blessed,” Mark Scandrette comments on just how unique Jesus’ Beatitudes were:

What’s surprising is who Jesus calls fortunate. At the time, people assumed that only the most wealthy, attractive, or powerful were blessed. Poor, sad, and suffering people were thought to be cursed. Still today it can feel like our circumstances, identity, or previous choices exclude us from the blessed life. With these strange blessings Jesus announces that a thriving life, under God’s care, is available to anyone. Whatever your story, whatever your struggle, wherever you find yourself, this path is available to you.

If we look only at the first three Beatitudes, it might seem like the whole point is that a blessed life is available to unlikely people. But the next four Beatitudes celebrate noble qualities: a hunger for justice, mercy, purity of heart, and peacemaking. This shift  suggests that Jesus is introducing a more comprehensive picture of what the blessed life looks like and how to experience it.

Taken from The Ninefold Path of Jesus: Hidden Wisdom of the Beatitudes by Mark Scandrette Copyright (c) 2021 by Mark Scandrette. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

 

 

See also Illustrations on Meekness, Mourning, Peacemaking, Purity of HeartRighteousness, The Sermon on the Mount

Still Looking for inspiration?

Consider checking out our quotes page on the Beatitudes. Don’t forget, sometimes a great quote is an illustration in itself!

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