Blessed: The Peacemakers - Matthew 5:1-2, 9
How many of you like ventriloquists? I really like the comedy, but also admire the ventriloquist’s ability to say something without really looking like they are saying something. In some ways they mimic what we often accuse politicians of doing, “talking out both sides of their mouth.” You’ve seen a ventriloquist get in an argument with his puppet—and you’ve seen a politician who will say one thing in this location, and turn around in another location, or maybe after the election, say the complete opposite. Why bring this up? Because if we take our reading from the Beatitudes today and place it alongside another selection from the Gospel of Matthew, some might accuse Jesus of speaking out both sides of his mouth—either that or a ventriloquist has hold of him making him say one thing in one location and something else in a different location…either that, or Jesus means something far more than what we might initially think at face value.
In these nine verses of the beatitudes, Jesus has been turning the world upside down.
In contrast to the world’s understanding that we are what we do and what we produce, Jesus has said that those who are blessed are those who realize that their identity lies with God and are part of the family of God.
In contrast to the world’s understanding that those who look into the world and are happy are the ones who are to be admired, Jesus has said that the ones who are blessed are those who look into the world and weep because they see so much need because they are going to be comforted.
In contrast to the world’s understanding of “might makes right” Jesus says that the meek will inherit the earth.
In contrast to our world’s love for revenge, Jesus said that it is only those who are merciful that are blessed, because they are the ones who are going to receive mercy.
And, in contrast to the idea that we are to put ourselves first, please ourselves first, focus on our families more than anything else, or put all our energy into climbing the ladder at work, Jesus says only the pure in heart, only those whose primary focus is upon God, are the ones who can ever hope to see Him.
Today we hear Jesus say, “Blessed…well-off…fortunate…privileged are the peacemakers…for they shall be called children of God.”
What do you think of when you hear “peacemaker”?
Is it a “tall ship” that has been sailing up and down the east coast, a replica of an 1813 sailing vessel?
Is it a World War II B-36 aircraft?
Is it an 1873 Colt .45 caliber handgun?
Is it someone seeking to negotiate compromise between two opposing parties?
Which of these, if any, do you think Jesus was referring to when He said, “Blessed are the peacemakers…”?
Most of us, I think, would say that Jesus was talking about individuals that were trying to negotiate a compromise. To be honest with you, prior to beginning this sermon series, that is exactly the direction I would have turn with an answer. However, as we have noted with several of these Beatitudes, what Jesus has meant has been a little more than simply the “face-value” read we might get.
If you take that into consideration that the Gospel of Matthew only uses the word “peace” in two other locations, we might think we should pay attention to those locations. The other two times peace is used are both found in chapter ten. The first occurrence is a dual occurrence found in verse 13. Here Jesus is in the midst of His sending out of the twelve into the mission field. He has already told them not to take any provisions, but to rely on God supplying their needs through the generosity of the people in the community. Jesus gives them instruction on finding a home that would welcome them. Then He says, "As you enter the house, great it. If it is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace 'return to you..." shake the dust off your sandals and head out of there.
That one's not too bad. It doesn't leave us wondering just where Jesus is coming down on the issue of violence. If they accept you, offer your peace; if they reject you don't, just leave.
It's the next passage that gets us. When set beside the peacemaker passage it kind of rattles us, makes us wonder if Jesus is a ventriloquist, or politician, speaking out both sides of His mouth (which thing He says, depending on who He is talking to). It is only a few verses after His sending out of the disciples, in chapter ten, verse thirty-four: "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter in law against her mother in law; and ones does will be members of one's own household."
We're supposed to strive to be like Jesus. Then we get two passages. First He says, "Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God" and, then Jesus, not just a child of God, but the very Son of God, says, "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword." So which is it, peacemaker or sword-bearer? Is Jesus practicing that parental tradition of "do as I say, not as I do" or was He looking into the future and really intending the peacemakers to be those with a colt.45, or the rifle bearing members of the UN peacekeeping troops?
Or, and you have probably already guessed this, are we supposed to look closer and realize that Jesus is making more than what His words come across as at face value? Is possible that those two passages are not contradictory, but complimentary?
First, we have to understand the kind of peacemaking that the Price of Peace was here to bring. For that we move out of Matthew and to Paul's letter to the Ephesians:
So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called “the uncircumcision” by those who are called “the circumcision”—a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands—remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God. (Eph 2:11-22).
The peace that Jesus came to bring us the peace not between nations in conflict but between people in conflict with their Creator and the members of His family. Christ came, and calls us, not to be those, as peacemakers, who compromise all things until they stand for nothing, not saying, “as long as it doesn't appear to be hurting anyone else it is okay,” but to be peacemakers who lead others from being enemies of God trapped in their sin to surrendering into a relationship with Christ and to turn their lives over to God.
Remember how previous Beatitudes interrelated? The same applies here. Couple this Beatitude with the pure in heart, remembering that call to have our hearts with a singular focus in upon God. Realizing that those who are at peace with God are this that have settled that temptation to put our careers, or families, ourselves ahead of God and instead made Him the sole focus of our lives, we come to understand how this peace is sword like. It will cause division. As we live out our Christlikeness, helping others come to a relationship focused in on Christ first, we will experience earthly conflict, we will see, maybe in our own lives, maybe in the lives of those are walking alongside, father and son, mother and daughter, brother and sister, husband and wife conflicts some choose God, while others refuse to look beyond this world.
However whenever someone focus is elsewhere than God, their lives will never find true peace, so regardless of the conflicts that we may face, regardless of the cross we must take up and bear and maybe even be hung upon, let us be peacemakers, let us be those that uncompromisingly, lead others to a closer walk with Christ, so that with the Son of God, we may be called children of God.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.