Prelude

Mount of Olives

Image Description: Edwin Lear’s painting, Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, Sunrise. Wikipedia Commons

When Jesus walked up the Mount of Olives and sat down, his disciples followed him and joined him there. A crowd watched all of this happen.

Then, at the base of the mountain, that crowd listened to Jesus speak the Sermon on the Mount. The particular configuration of above and below likely allowed the Mount of Olives to serve as a natural amphitheater.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

I didn’t notice this for a long time, and I thank Dietrich Bonhoeffer for this observation*: Jesus is putting his disciples on display before that crowd quite purposefully. He is speaking to them, about them, in front of that group of people.

These people right here are poor in spirit, mourners, and meek. They are invited to hunger and thirst for righteousness, practice mercy, live purely, and make peace. You, crowd at the base of this mountain, will see them be filled with the Kingdom of God, comfort, and the earth itself. (And you, the readers of this text, will see it as Matthew configures it.)

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

You will see them persecuted, reviled, and maligned with evil words and false testimony. At times, they will also fail and fall short. But make no mistake — they will be Prophets. When you practice love, justice, and the way of peace, power is threatened and unleashed. But the ways of love, justice, and peace have the final word. The Beatitudes are a prelude of an unfolding story.

So are we the disciples? Or the crowd?

Both?

*Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes about this in The Cost of Discipleship.

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