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Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

Today’s devotional reading focuses on the Gospel text and is from The Sermon on the Mount: The Church’s First Statement of the Gospel.

Scripture Readings

Micah 6:1–8
Psalm 15
1 Corinthians 1:18–31
Matthew 5:1–12

Read the propers for today on lutherancalendar.org.

Introduction

In all circumstances, the Holy Spirit reminds us of the sure hope we have in Christ. May God remind you that you are always blessed with the forgiveness of sins through His Son’s sacrificial death on the cross and glorious resurrection.

Devotional Reading

The Beatitudes are so closely knit together that it is clear that they were received as a unit by the evangelist and were understood in the church as a unit. They form a unit both in regard to structure and content, with each dependent for its meaning on the others. The nine sentences (Matthew 5:3–11) begin with the word blessed: markarioi. Each of these sentences has two parts. After the declaration of blessedness, a reason for this favorable condition with God is given. For example, the poor are blessed because theirs is the kingdom of the heavens.

In Matthew’s gospel blessedness refers to the condition or state of an individual who has been favorably accepted by God and has received his divine approval. In Matthew 16:17 Jesus uses the word in its singular form concerning Simon Bar-Jonah, who has recognized that Jesus is the Christ, God’s Son. It is used in Jesus’ reply to John concerning those who persist in the midst of persecution in believing that in Jesus God’s kingdom is appearing (11:6).

It is less than completely satisfactory to understand the condition of blessedness as a reward, since the immediate implication is that those who are considered blessed have done something to deserve or merit God’s approval. Even in Matthew 24:46, where it is used of the servant whom his master finds carrying out his responsibilities when he returns, blessedness does not refer to an earned reward. His faithfulness shows that he already belongs to God. His blessedness is seen in the faithfulness with which he carries out the responsibilities his master has given him. . . . There is no suggestion in the Beatitudes of a cause and effect.

The first eight Beatitudes (5:3–10) are markedly different from the Ninth Beatitude. The first eight speak of “they” (third person plural), while the last one speaks of “you” (second person plural). The Ninth Beatitude makes this division even sharper, because not only does it introduce the pronoun “you,” but Jesus makes a specifically clear reference to himself: “Blessed are you when men revile you . . . on my account.” . . . Thus only in the Ninth Beatitude does he distinguish himself from his followers. All of Luke’s renderings of the Beatitudes have already been changed from “they” to “you.” Matthew’s “Blessed are the poor” becomes Luke’s “Blessed are you poor” (6:20). These grammatical differences are not without theological significance.

The suggestion that the first eight Beatitudes may form a separate unit is supported by the fact that the First and Eighth Beatitudes speak of the kingdom of the heavens as a present reality, “for theirs is [now] the kingdom of the heavens.” The intervening six Beatitudes all use future verbs in the concluding part of the sentences. . . . Thus the grammar and the structure of the Beatitudes suggest that the first eight should be understood as a unit and the Ninth with its deliberate use of you provides the connecting link with the remainder of the Sermon, which is directed to the original disciples and now through Matthew’s gospel to his church.

Devotional reading is from The Sermon on the Mount: The Church’s First Statement of the Gospel, pages 76–77 © 2000 David P. Scaer. Published by Concordia Publishing House.

Prayer

Almighty God, You know we live in the midst of so many dangers that in our frailty we cannot stand upright. Grant strength and protection to support us in all dangers and carry us through all temptations; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Prayer is from Lutheran Service Book: Altar Book, page 761 © 2006 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.

 

Written by

Anna Johnson

Deaconess Anna Johnson is a marketing manager at Concordia Publishing House. After graduating from the deaconess program at Concordia University Chicago, she continued her studies at the University of Colorado—Denver in education and human development. She has worked as a church youth director and served a variety of other nonprofit organizations, such as the Lutheran Mission Society of Maryland. Anna loves playing video games and drinking a hot cup of tea almost as much as she loves her cat and her husband.

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