Sermon for Sunday, November 5th, 2023, All Saints’ Day (celebrated)
The Lessons: Ecclesiasticus 44:1-14; Psalm 149; Revelation 7:9-17; Matthew 5:1-12
The Text: Matthew 5:1-12
There was once a man named Samuel Scull who settled on a farm in the Arizona desert with his wife and children.
One night a fierce desert storm struck with rain, hail, and high wind. At daybreak, feeling sick and fearing what he might find, Samuel went to survey their loss.
The hail had beaten the garden and truck patch into the ground; the house was partially unroofed; the henhouse had blown away, and dead chickens were scattered about. Destruction and devastation were everywhere. While standing dazed, evaluating the mess, and wondering about the future, he heard a stirring in the lumber pile that was the remains of the henhouse. A rooster was climbing up through the debris, and he didn’t stop climbing until he had mounted the highest board in the pile. That old rooster was dripping wet, and most of his feathers were blown away. But as the sun came over the eastern horizon, he flapped his bony wings and proudly crowed.
That wet, bare rooster could still crow when he saw the morning sun. Like that rooster, we must still sing God’s praises, even when our world may be falling apart, or life may be treating us badly. If we trust in God’s goodness, we shall pick ourselves out of the rubble and sing the Lord’s praise.
The beatitudes of our Lord as recorded by St. Matthew focus on the blessings of the Lord’s disciples even when they are facing various trials, blessings which are divine reversals lifting the saints out of the rubble of their troubles.
THE BEATITUDES AS SIGNS OF THE SAINTS
The beatitudes spoken by our Lord at the start of his Sermon on the Mount are not a series of congratulations on the achievements of the faithful. Nor do they eulogize those whose lives are characterized by apathy. The confluence of all the virtues proclaimed here by the Lord emphasize the attitudes and spiritual outlook of all who truly follow the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lord begins by proclaiming the blessedness of those who are poor in spirit. The poor in spirit are those who are deeply aware of their need for God, being dissatisfied with themselves. They deeply desire God’s Spirit to fill them, take control of their lives and lead them to fulfill God’s will. They stand in contrast to many today who are so busy with other things that they set aside no time for God nor for learning his word and his ways. The Greek word used for “poor” here means “like a beggar,” describing the dependence of the faithful on God to direct their lives and to meet their needs. All who have such an attitude of love for God and dependence on him already have the kingdom of God, in that God rules in them and directs the course of their lives.
The blessing proclaimed on those who mourn is proclaimed on those who mourn whether for one reason or another, but chiefly those who mourn over their own sinfulness before God, or for the fact that God’s kingdom has not yet come, or his will is not yet being fulfilled universally on earth. Their blessing is that God will comfort them. He will minister to their souls, deep within. For these people realize their desperate need for a Savior. God comforts them with the good news of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Even those who mourn because they have been bereaved will be comforted by the loving presence of the Lord Jesus Christ and the healing power of his word.
The blessing of the meek is that they shall inherit the earth. This attitude is described in Psalm 37:1-9. To be meek is to be humble and gentle, following God’s will in all things, and being subject to one’s fellow Christians out of reverence for Christ. These are those who do not draw attention to themselves but are intent on serving others as they serve Christ. Somehow God makes a way for them on this earth, so that they receive favor which others cannot gain by selfish ambition.
The next blessing is proclaimed to those who “hunger and thirst after righteousness” (Matthew 5:6a, KJV). Surely anybody in his right mind would eagerly desire righteousness, or to be righteous. Not so! Many are not in their right mind spiritually, and long for the opposite, or simply don’t care about being righteous, as if it counted for nothing. But those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, pray that God will not only count them righteous, as he does when they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins, but make them righteous, and more so, day by day, so that their desire to do what is right will always dominate their will, their words, and their actions. The reward of all such is that God will fill them with his righteousness. This he does through his indwelling Holy Spirit who sanctifies the faithful.
These virtues of the saints are not only planted by the Holy Spirit, but they are watered and grown by the Spirit through God’s word, and they grow in the faithful all their lives, as they follow the Lord.
Having received so much grace from God, including forgiveness and the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit, the faithful show mercy, for which their blessing will be to receive God’s mercy. Mercy lies at the heart of forgiving all who have sinned against us or hurt us in any way. If we show mercy, we shall receive mercy. If we show mercy to the needy, we shall receive mercy in our own time of need.
The Lord proclaims the blessedness of those who are pure in heart (Matthew 5:8), the blessing of seeing God. If we take this virtue seriously, we shall purify our thoughts, words, and deeds from everything that is impure or sinful, and we shall cooperate with the Holy Spirit in doing so. If we are pure in heart, we shall obey this command of St. Paul on all occasions:
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
(Ephesians 4:29, KJV)
A pure heart will be revealed in all our conversation and behavior. It will not be a virtue that only God sees.
Another virtue of the saints for which they receive the blessing of being called the children of God is that they are peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). What do peacemakers do? They help bring reconciliation between those who are at odds with one another. They act as mediators, or they at least encourage reconciliation and peaceful relationships. Bringing strife and quarrels is not a saintly characteristic, but reconciling people is.
The final two beatitudes are concerned with showing the blessedness of those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. All who are so persecuted show that they belong to the kingdom of heaven, and it belongs to them. Hard though it may be to rejoice when they are persecuted, reviled, and falsely slandered, Christians should rejoice and be very glad, for their reward in heaven is great (Matthew 5:12).
CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION
If people look at your life, will they see these virtues of the saints displayed, or will they not see any difference between you and someone who does not believe in Christ?
 pp. 411-412, Craig Brian Larson & Leadership Journal: 750 Engaging Illustrations for Preachers, teachers, and Writers. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2002, Second Printing, 2008.