Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
January 30, 2011 (Lectionary 4)
Micah 6:1-8 Psalm 15 (1) 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 Matthew 5:1-12
Prayer of the Day Holy God, you confound the world's wisdom in giving your
kingdom to the lowly and the pure in heart. Give us such
a hunger and thrst for justice, and perseverance in striving
for peace, that in our words and deeds the world may see
the life of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
Alleluia. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in great in heaven. Alleluia. (Matt. 5:12)
1a. CONTEXT: Matthew 5:1-12
The occasion for the sermon (einleitung) is mentioned in Mark
3:7-13a, Lk. 6:17-20a, and Mt. 4:24-5:2. John is silent on the
subject. This is the time of Jesus' growing popularity, after many
blessings in the form of healings and forgiveness offered to the
common people. Now Jesus moves away from the crowd, and goes up on the mountain.
Mark does not record the Beatitudes themselves. Luke's account of them appears to be earlier than Matthew's, which is elaborated.
The sitz im leben is generally understood to be the
teaching (catechesis) of the early church on what is required of the
disciples by Jesus, in order to enter the now and future kingdom of
God ("heaven" is often subsituted by Matthew for "God," in keeping
with the piety of the time though unlike the other evangelists).
Our port of entry into the text is the hermeneutic for
proclamation of liberty to the oppressed, since God has a
preferential option for the poor, throughout both the OT and the NT.
A recent vote by scholars indicates that only three out of a dozen
"fortunate" and "unfortunate" sayings can safely be said to have come
from the mouth of Jesus himself. These include "Fortunate are you
poor" ("Blessed are the poor in spirit": AILL), "those who hunger"
(AILL), and "those who mourn" (AILL). We begin with Jesus' radical
manifestation of the Spirit, his solidarity with the poverty-
stricken, the malnourished and those who mourn because of poltical
domination. We end with his turning of the world's priorities
completely around by these sayings.
The hearers are the disciples themselves, generally understood
to be the twelve--the ordinary folks he chose to teach in order for
them to then help him activate the reign of God on earth. They have
come away with him from the crowds for this private lesson. This is
typical procedure for a prophet and apprentices. The word disciple
connotes much more than passive pupil--it connotes strong adherence
to the life-style of the teacher. It connotes the forming of a "base
community" that will change the status quo.
Like many Christians, I have stood on the hilltop overlooking
the Sea of Galilee next to the beautiful church built, incongruously
enough, by Mussolini in the 1930's. There are lush trees surrounding
the porticoes of the church itself, and there is "much grass in the
place." As I stood there, transfixed by the turquoise jewel that is
the sea far below, and looked to the west toward the rift in the
hills that marks the passageway to Nazareth, I was struck
by the incredibly revolutionary content of Jesus' sayings. Surely
this was the first time in history that anyone had ever made such
promises to the poor, the hungry, and those who cry out to be
delivered from subjugation to the kings and kingdoms of this world.
I could see him taking all this earthly beauty in with the sweep of
his arm, and easily hear him saying that it is those who follow his
course of action who will inherit all this--starting here and now!
1b. TEXT: Matthew 5:1-12
The Sermon on the Mount
5:1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons  of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
 5:9 Greek huioi
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
1Ἰδὼν δὲ τοὺς ὄχλους ἀνέβη εἰς τὸ ὄρος: καὶ καθίσαντος αὐτοῦ προσῆλθαν αὐτῷ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ:
2καὶ ἀνοίξας τὸ στόμα αὐτοῦ ἐδίδασκεν αὐτοὺς λέγων,
3Μακάριοι οἱ πτωχοὶ τῷ πνεύματι, ὅτι αὐτῶν ἐστιν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν. 4μακάριοι οἱ πενθοῦντες, ὅτι αὐτοὶ παρακληθήσονται.
5μακάριοι οἱ πραεῖς, ὅτι αὐτοὶ κληρονομήσουσιν τὴν γῆν.
6μακάριοι οἱ πεινῶντες καὶ διψῶντες τὴν δικαιοσύνην, ὅτι αὐτοὶ χορτασθήσονται.
7μακάριοι οἱ ἐλεήμονες, ὅτι αὐτοὶ ἐλεηθήσονται.
8μακάριοι οἱ καθαροὶ τῇ καρδίᾳ, ὅτι αὐτοὶ τὸν θεὸν ὄψονται.
9μακάριοι οἱ εἰρηνοποιοί, ὅτι αὐτοὶ υἱοὶ θεοῦ κληθήσονται.
10μακάριοι οἱ δεδιωγμένοι ἕνεκεν δικαιοσύνης, ὅτι αὐτῶν ἐστιν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν.
11μακάριοί ἐστε ὅταν ὀνειδίσωσιν ὑμᾶς καὶ διώξωσιν καὶ εἴπωσιν πᾶν πονηρὸν καθ' ὑμῶν [ψευδόμενοι] ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ:
12χαίρετε καὶ ἀγαλλιᾶσθε, ὅτι ὁ μισθὸς ὑμῶν πολὺς ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς: οὕτως γὰρ ἐδίωξαν τοὺς προφήτας τοὺς πρὸ ὑμῶν.
Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition © 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart;
The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition © 1975, United Bible Societies, London
2. ANALYSIS: Matthew 5:1-12
Mt. 5:1 - Idon de tous ochlous anebe eis to oros kai kathisantos
autou proselthan auto oi mathetai autou - "Seeing the crowds, Jesus
went up on the mountain and sat down; and the disciples came to him"
(AILL) - The Great Teaching is not a public event. In Matthew it
represents a collection of sayings addressed to the inner circle of
the disciples. According to the Greek-English Lexicon of the New
Testament (p. 486), the word disciple connotes the following:
learner, pupil, apprentice, adherent, a learner who constantly
practices that which he or she learns. Thus Jesus "makes disciples,"
and entrusts to them the proclamation of the kingdom.
5:3 - makarioi - "Fortunate" in Greek was used in classical times to
describe the state of the gods in contrast to humans. The familiar
English "blessed" has come to have more and more liturgical or
ecclesiastical overtone, and so "fortunate'" or "happy" may be better
translations than the time-encrusted "blessed" (AILL). The best
translation, according to Bauer,Arndt and Gingrich is probably one
without religious coloring. It is also used elsewhere with a
religious connotation, in reference to certain biblical persons:
Moses, Judith and Paul, and it is used in conjunction with the
- ptochoi to pneumati - Perhaps the original editor felt that the
Greek "poor" alone would be misunderstood if left without
qualification, and so added "in spirit." The collection of sayings
may fittingly be called the spiritual charter of the kingdom. The
form that the individual vv. take is well known in the Psalms,
Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.- Basileia ton ouranon - This statement
concludes one group of sayings, for the phrase "theirs is the realm
of heaven"(AILL) began the series and now ends it. This device
(inclusio) is common in Matthew. "Heaven" was a usual Jewish
synonym for "God," to save the devout from using even the word
Adonai, "(my) Lord."
5:12 en tois ouranois - It is important not to read into this phrase
the idea of "going into heaven," but rather it should be understood
as being "with God," here and now. Jesus is teaching the disciples
that they must carry the Gospel proclamation, which is this message
of Freedom. The long-expected reign of God is dawning with the
presence of Jesus, and the law therefore has a new dimension and a
3. STRATEGY: Matthew 5:1-12
"Thinking from the other end of history," is the strategy
suggested by Dr. Letty Russell in her book, Growth in Partnership (p.
94ff., 128-9).It is the key for those who want to open their lives to
the calling of God's Spirit. To free ourselves to be open to God's
promise we also need to be able to speak clearly in hope statements
that seek to contradict present reality in the light of the future.
The life-style of Jesus of Nazareth teaches us how to live and think
"from the other end." Because of his vision of God's jubilee of
liberation, he was able to identify in the present with all the
marginal people in society, and to include them in all the actions of
his life. Jesus lived his faith compassionately and creatively.
Fertile ground for sermon development lies in looking to Jesus'
great teaching to his disciples. Our people can best learn growth in
solidarity with the oppressed from people who are only one step more
developed in their own ability to think in this way. Therefore it is
often those of us whose thinking is only slightly more prophetic,
who are able to convey a new style of thinking/acting/being/doing
in the world. Acting for social change is essential to any change in
our understanding of structures of oppression as members of a
dominant group. For example, even though he was a male, Jesus was
able to identify with women, and treat them as the whole persons
God intends them to be. Make no mistake about it--the sermon on the
mount is revolutionary, in content and purpose. Jesus' faith was
also critical for the message.
4. REFERENCES: Matthew 5:1-12
Albright, W.F. and C.S. Mann. Matthew. The Anchor Bible.NY:
Bauer,W., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, ed. W.F.
Arndt and F.E. Gingrich (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago, 1957).
Bird, Phyllis A. The Bible as the Church's Book. Philadelphia:
Westminster Press, 1982.
Russell, Letty M. Growth in Partnership. Philadelphia: Westminster
Schüssler-Fiorenza, Elisabeth. Bread Not Stone. Boston: Beacon
5. MUSIC SUGGESTIONS: Matthew 5:1-12
Entrance: GOD OF GRACE AND GOD OF GLORY (HB 594/5,LBW 415);
Hymn of the Day: REMEMBER YOUR SERVANTS, LORD (Mt. 5:3-12 from
the Russian Orthodox Liturgy), HB 560);
HOPE OF THE WORLD, THOU CHRIST OF GREAT COMPASSION (HB 472,LBW 493);
Hymns for the Eucharist:
HAIL TO THE LORD'S ANOINTED ( HB 616, LBW 87),
O, LOVE, HOW DEEP (HB 448/9,LBW 88), SONGS OF
THANKFULNESS AND PRAISE (HB 135, LBW 90);
Recessional: SON OF GOD, ETERNAL SAVIOR (LBW 364),
LORD, DISMISS US, WITH THEY BLESSING (HB 344,LBW 259),
COME WITH US, O BLESSED JESUS (HB 336, LBW 219).ASDDOITIONAL
HYMNS FOR ELW:
Gathering: Rise Up, O saints of God! (ELW 669, LBW 383)
The Day: We are Called (ELW 720) OR O God of Mercy (ELW 714, LBW 425)
Offertory: Come to the Table – 481
Communion: Thee We Adore (ELW 476, LBW 199)
Sending: Thine the Amen (ELW 826)
OR Let All Things Now Living (ELW 881, LBW 557)
Exegete: Rev. Dr. Carol M. Worthing (ELCA, RT)
Lexegete™ © 2011
Dartmouth, MA 02747-1925