CAPERNAUM, JANUARY 12, AD 27
In the highlands north of Capernaum, Jesus of Nazareth ordained his twelve apostles and “inaugurated the kingdom of heaven on earth” in what many are referring to as the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus declared that his apostles must now live as though they had actually been to a heavenly kingdom of light and life, and had returned as ambassadors to teach their brothers and sisters about this new and better life.
The kingdom was characterized by Jesus as nonmaterial, a disappointment for many who expect him to restore the material throne of David. Jesus then outlined his philosophy for the life of an apostle: a concept of fatherly love. Four faith attitudes, and then four attitudes of fatherly love were presented by the Master. The statements made by Jesus were at times perplexing, so this reporter spoke with the apostles to obtain information to better understand them.
Four faith attitudes:
1. “Happy are the poor in spirit, the humble.” To a child, happiness is the satisfaction of immediate pleasure craving. The adult is willing to sow seeds of self-denial in order to reap subsequent harvests of augmented happiness. All too often happiness has been associated with the idea of the possession of wealth. In Jesus’ story of the Pharisee and the publican praying in the temple, the one felt “rich in spirit”—egotistical; the other felt “poor in spirit”—humble. One was self-sufficient; the other was teachable and truth-seeking. The poor in spirit seek for goals of spiritual wealth—for God. And such seekers after truth do not have to wait for rewards in a distant future; they are rewarded now. They find the kingdom of heaven within their own hearts, and they experience such happiness now.
2. “Happy are they who hunger and search for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Only those who feel poor in spirit will ever hunger for righteousness. Only the humble seek for divine strength and crave spiritual power. But it is most dangerous to knowingly engage in spiritual fasting in order to improve one’s appetite forbspiritual endowments. Physical fasting becomes dangerous after four or five days; one is apt to lose all desire for food.
Prolonged fasting, either physical or spiritual, tends to destroy hunger. Experiential righteousness is a pleasure, not a duty. Jesus’ righteousness is a dynamic love—fatherly-brotherly affection. It is not the negative or thou-shalt-not type of righteousness. How could one ever hunger for something negative—something “not to do”? It is not so easy to teach a child mind these first two of the beatitudes, but the mature mind should grasp their significance.
3. “Happy are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Genuine meekness has no relation to fear. It is rather an attitude of man co-operating with God, “Your will be done.” It embraces patience and forbearance and is motivated by an unshakable faith in a lawful and friendly universe. It masters all temptations to rebel against the divine leading. Jesus seems to be an ideal meek man in this context.
In preaching the gospel of the kingdom, Jesus is simply teaching friendship with God. And this fellowship will appeal alike to men and women in that both will find that which most truly satisfies their characteristic longings and ideals. Jesus explained to his apostles: “I am indeed meek and humble in the presence of my Father.”
4. “Happy are the pure at heart, for they shall see God.” Spiritual purity is not a negative quality, except that it does lack suspicion and revenge. Jesus referred here to that faith which man should have in his fellow man; that faith which a parent has in his child, and which enables him to love his fellows even as a father would love them. A father’s love need not pamper, and it does not condone evil, but it is always anti-cynical. Fatherly love has singleness of purpose, and it always looks for the best in man; that is the attitude of a true parent.
Jesus told his apostles that to see God—by faith—means to acquire true spiritual insight, and spiritual insight enhances God’s guidance. In the end, these augment God-consciousness. When you know the Father, you are confirmed in the assurance of divine sonship, and you can increasingly love each of your brothers in the flesh, not only as a brother—with brotherly love—but also as a father—with fatherly affection. It is easy to teach this, even to a child. Children are naturally trustful, and parents should see to it that they do not lose that simple faith. In dealing with children, avoid all deception and encourage sincerity. Wisely help them to choose their heroes and select their lifework.
And then Jesus went on to instruct his followers in the realization of the chief purpose of all human struggling: perfection—even divine attainment. Always he urged them: “Be you perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” He did not exhort the twelve to love their neighbors as they loved themselves, although that would be a worthy achievement and it would indicate the attainment of brotherly love. Rather, he admonished his apostles to love men and women as he loved them—to love with a fatherly as well as a brotherly affection.
“In the story of the Pharisee and the publican praying in the temple, the one felt ‘rich in spirit’—egotistical; the other felt ‘poor in spirit’ —humble ”
(Extract from Chronicle of the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.
Published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.)