What does it mean to be blessed?
It’s not a word we really use anymore, unless you’re on Instagram or you’re around someone who sneezes. “Blessed” has been demoted. Once it was an adjective applied to a person or a family we envied, people with virtues or money we could only dream of having. Now it just captions the perfect snapshot or proves we have good manners.
To Jesus, though, “blessedness” means much more.
In our Gospel lesson today, Luke tells us that Jesus, after a night of prayer, hikes down a mountain only to find an enormous crowd waiting for him at its base. People had come from all over that region. Some were there for healing. Some were there for hope. And some people just wanted to have a good time.
But before he began speaking, before Jesus launched into the blessings and woes we heard just a few minutes ago, he did something else. He looked at the crowd. He looked at the crowd and saw how desperate all of them were. He saw how much they needed him.
He saw the wealthy merchant who could barely contain his grief at the death of his child. He saw the beggar who would steal his mother’s last coin for one more night at the bar. He saw the life of the party, the guy everyone likes, who was hungry for something more.
Jesus looked at the crowd; and he loved them, even though he knew the secrets of their hearts and the direction of their thoughts. And so it is that before he told them what his kingdom is like, he showed them.
Walking from group to group, Jesus stretched out his hands to the blind and the lame. He greeted the women and the children. He saw the grief and the anger and the pain that plague humankind and he didn’t look away. He came down the mountain for a purpose. And that is to lead us back up.
When he descended from on high, Jesus knew that every person — regardless of their physical health or social standing — needed a healer. As the Prophet Jeremiah wrote, the human heart is sick and deceitful. No one can understand it. We can’t understand it. Only God, who knows our innermost thoughts and desires, can do so. And he still wants to save us.
We may seek him out for healing or for hope or for one of the many other reasons people look for the divine. But as we stand in his presence, as we gaze at the one who knows us more completely than we do ourselves, we are changed. For it is the nature of God to bring wholeness to what is broken, to bring life where there is death. To show us what blessing really looks like by giving us his Son.
And there we have found our answer: To be blessed is to be with Christ, to look at him as he looks at us and to stay there, no matter what he says next. To be blessed is to cling to him, the Blessed One. Jesus is our sure hope. Our only trust during feast or famine. Jesus is our blessedness because he was never swayed by the counsel of the wicked or tempted by the way of sinners. His delight — all his energy and motivation and desire — was and is and will forever be caught up in love for the LORD.
So it is that when we follow him around, when we refuse to leave his side for money or success or respect, our hearts grow healthier, our sight clearer and we begin to see that what he says is true. In the Kingdom of Heaven, the happiest people are those who choose Christ above everything else.
And that changes things. The paycheck becomes less about us and more about serving others. The daily grind of life becomes less about success and more about seeing Christ in our neighbors. The desire for respect and clout and power becomes less about earthly blessings and more about seeking God’s blessing – which is seeking Christ.
And that is what it means to live under God’s reign, to enjoy the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth. “Blessed are those who trust in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. Blessed are those who seek Christ over everything else. Blessed are those who find their life in Life himself. We will not fear, for we are connected with Life and Love himself.” AMEN.