Would you consider bullying a modern-day persecution and if so, how would you encourage a student to "rejoice?" 
  • Yes, “bullying” can definitely be a form of persecution – as the one experiencing it feels insulted, put down, and even lied about. Willard says, “From the human point of view, this may be the position most removed from God’s blessing.” (DC, p. 119) To be able to “rejoice” requires the ability to look to the future, not just the present moment. Persecution, in whatever form it takes, never feels good in the present moment. Rejoicing comes as the result of looking forward with the knowledge that you have a great and imperishable reward in God’s world (i.e. the kingdom of the heavens). God understands bullying because of what Jesus went through – ridicule, shame, torture. Even more than any of us will ever go through! So the rejoicing is the ability to both understand God’s love and grace at the deepest level for those who experience these extremely difficult circumstances, and looking ahead to the time when it will all be done away.
You referred to Psalm 37:11. Was Jesus quoting that passage in the Beatitudes? Are there other connections to Old Testament passages in the Beatitudes?
  • It is important to understand that Jesus was communicating with Jewish people primarily. Israel had an expectation of the coming of a Messiah who would bring them redemption. While Jesus did not meet their expectations, he definitely was that Messiah and was framing a new and different understanding of what was to be expected in the kingdom of God. Hence, these statements were not just instructions to those listening, but would have been surprise announcements of the kind of world that was coming when one chooses to live in God’s kingdom. As a rabbi, Jesus knew and would have memorized the Old Testament Scriptures, and he would seamlessly weave them into his teachings. It seems that this is the case with Psalm 37:11. Another passage which seems to have clear parallels is Isaiah 61:1-3. Psalm 24:4 and Isaiah 55:1-2 are also possible references.

You mentioned two questions  in first service: 1. Which is the good life?, 2. Who is truly a good person? Even after all this prayerful reading, I still am confused.  So please, help the simple minded by spelling it out. The good life is the present life we live surrounded by the Kingdom no matter our circumstance? Is that what you are saying? The truly good person-  is it the blessed people Jesus speaks of in chapter 5, or is it Jesus and we can only hope to become?
  • This is a great clarification question. You defined “the good life” exactly right – the present life we live surrounded by the Kingdom no matter our circumstance. The “truly good person” is someone who has the goodness found in God himself – the kind of goodness that Jesus lived and displayed every day of his life. In other words, those who are choosing to be students of Jesus and follow and obey everything he said to do. This is what we will be looking at in the rest of Matthew 5-7. While the Sermon on the Mount is not written in “code,” it does take a clear understanding of the context in which Jesus was speaking – the nation of Israel, the kingdom of God, and what it really means to be a follower of Jesus.

Could someone look into the original word that is translated as "meek" in the Beatitudes?  I heard that it meant "well-disciplined " rather than 'shy' or 'introverted', and that seems to convey a different message. - Jan Peters
  • Jan - The word translated “meek” is the Greek word praus – which is a humble and gentle spirit that expresses itself in submissiveness to offenses. It is the same word used of Jesus in Matthew 11:29 when he said I am “gentle (praus) and humble in heart.” The issue comes in perspective and context. If the Beatitudes are viewed as character traits we are supposed to do, then translators and preachers are often looking for ways to nuance a word to make it doable. Another way this word gets translated is “power under control.” In other words, I really have power, but I’m not going to choose to use it – hence, “well-disciplined.” But this sees the character trait as something I’m supposed to figure out how to do. I don’t think that’s what Jesus had in mind here. I think it is more naturally conveying those who were in Jesus’s audience who were not trying to overthrow Rome (like the Zealots), but will still “inherit the earth” (a promise Israel believed and hoped for). In other words, the blessing of which Jesus speaks does not come through power, it comes through gentleness and a spirit that is willing to step aside and let God act in his own time. Jesus could have easily overthrown the Roman government, but chose the way of gentleness instead. In this teaching, Jesus seems to affirm that power won’t be necessary to bring the inheritance they had hoped for.