Psalm 149; Revelation 7:2-17; 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12.
Pure, Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure (vv. 2, 3).
This is to say, “like recognizes like”. We are God’s children now! Who we are does not appear to physical sight; rather to spiritual eyes in blessing. Jesus’ Sermon on The Mount inaugurated those becoming disciples to a new identity for knowing and seeing God “as he is”.
The Beatitudes are roundly misunderstood as promoting the virtues of the law’s impossible demands, yet overcome by God’s gospel word (cf. M. Luther). Instead, the church must recognize Jesus’ words for what they say; imparted blessings for a new status as children of God now!
God’s kingdom is present among us in Word, by which we are a work in progress of the HS “perfecting” us from faith to faith (Mt. 5:48). Jesus’ blessings speak our “sealing” for being new Israel on earth, the church’s militant 144,000 (Rev. 7:3, 4, 8).
Heading-up the Beatitudes for taking-hold the Kingdom of heaven is “poverty of spirit” (Mt. 5:3). There will be no rich people attending heaven’s end-time banquet; we have nothing to bring to the wedding table, but Thanksgiving. By Jesus’ blessings we enter the heavenlies, now and on the Last Day, having lain aside all pride and self-merit; receiving robes of joy and gratitude (cf. Mt. 22:11-14).
Baptism effects our “sealing” into heaven’s spiritual poverty; we come before the Father clothed only in Jesus’ flesh: crucified, obedient, and dependent on God for all things. Jesus entered humanity as Suffering Servant for our atonement; and so, God exalted him above all (Phil. 2:5-9) with us following in his train.
The Beatitudes reveal a clear progression of empowerment. Baptized into Jesus’ body, we are minted into his humility for mercy’s sealing; empowering us to be merciful as he is merciful; “we love because he first loved us” (1 Jn. 4:19).
By poverty of spirit, we learn to mourn in meekness over sin’s wrack and ruin. Enrolled into the 144,000, the church militant, we are sustained by word and sacrament as we are “coming out” of the world’s tribulations (Rev. 7:14). Thus, the Baptized are garbed in robes of Jesus’ purity for worship of God with heaven’s innumerable multitude (v. 9).
How will we be recognized at Jesus’ Second Coming; is it not by the community’s martial-like fidelity to word and sacrament for an on-going sealing. Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day we are being purified “as he is pure”; so that, “like recognizes like”.
Blood is God’s cleansing agent for life (Gen. 9:4). Jesus’ blood, shed for forgiveness is our tangible blessing for purity before God. As Jesus knows the Father in holiness, we by faith behold his face in true worship.
The Psalmist describes our sanctified worship, “Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart… who seek the face of the God of Jacob” (Ps. 24:3-6b); conveyed in word and sacrament, we process up Mt. Zion.
Look to liturgical east, the direction of the rising Sun at our Altar, where we recognize Christ, “appearing as he is” in the “breaking of the Bread” (Lk. 24:30, 31, 35; Acts 2:42). Ascending Mt. Zion Jesus continues to speak his blessings for our coming-out from our place of worship, the body of Christ, and finally the world’s tribulations.
The church’s two final blessings are peace and reconciliation; these continue Jesus’ miracles for wholeness in the new heavens and earth. Be warned that “peace” through the church’s gospel is not universally welcomed. Peace with God is not peace with the world; expect this blessing in persecution. The church mirrors the experience of her Lord; and for this reason, the church militant must continually be sealed.
Later, Jesus would explain about persecution (Mt. 9:35-11:19). He had come into the world for division by a “Sword” (10:34). Jesus is the church’s “eternal gospel” out of heaven (Rev. 14:6). His presence confronts all men with a choice about his identity.
If we love worldly families more than Jesus; if we refuse his leading to the cross, then we are unworthy of his beatific salvation (Mt. 10:34-39). Tribulation in the world will deal with the gut-wrenching fact, that “one’s enemies will be those of his own household” (v. 36) both physical and spiritual.
On the level of spiritual families, we observed last Sunday, the “violence of violent men” against “an eternal gospel” within broader Christendom, (Mt. 11:12) justifying our celebration of the Lutheran Reformation over-against schismatic denominations.
Jesus’ presence in the world, brings crisis to families. In some, his “peace” is received with hospitality (Mt. 10:12-14); as for attendant persecutions generated in crisis, Jesus’ peace empowers our faithfulness for “Righteousness’ sake”.
Peace, forgiveness, healing, purity, and restoration is Christ’s work alone bestowed in faith, by which he beholds our final “perfecting”. In him, we are sons and daughters worshipping God with all the angels and saints now and on the Last Day. Amen.