Note that there are two blog entries today. If you have been following the series, don’t forget to scroll down and check out “Should We Follow the Rabbis? Pt 6”.
I am reading (a little at a time, because his writing is the kind you chew on) Dallas Willard’s The Great Omission. I found something in chapter 3 that seemed to peel back a layer of obscurity, clarifying the heart of Yeshua’s great sermon, the Sermon on the Mount.
First, let me say that some time ago I realized what the Beatitudes are all about. They are not character traits. In other words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” is not a wisdom teaching on humility. The Beatitudes are about the coming kingdom and how it will reverse the injustices of this life. Here the proud in spirit rule, the aggressive dominate, those who mourn seem to have no hope, and so on. But Yeshua explained to his disciples that a great change was coming, the kingdom of heaven. This does not mean “heaven,” but the coming rule of God that will replace the rule of men. Blessed are the poor in spirit because theirs is the kingdom of heaven. God will comfort the mourning, fill those who desire righteousness, and will reward faith, not self-empowerment. The Beautitudes are about God taking over and changing the recognized order of life.
After that, I confess to a lack of clarity on the message of the Sermon on the Mount. I don’t mean to say I didn’t understand it at all. But there always seemed to be a fog of distortion. One source of the fog is the old canard that Judaism was an external religion, which Yeshua opposed, and the Sermon was Yeshua’s new way of inner religion.
Then I read Willard this morning and I got a dose of Yeshua spirituality.
First, Willard says:
Jesus brings us reliable information about who we are, why we are here, and what humanly appropriate motives there are for doing whatever we do. First, he informs us that we are by nature unceasing spiritual beings with an eternal destiny in God’s great universe.
That is the message of the Beautitudes. But then Willard goes on, summarizing the spirituality of Yeshua’s sermon:
The central teachings of Jesus about the good heart, given in Matthew 5:21-48, deal with all those day to day attitudes that keep the pot of human evil boiling: contempt and hostility toward others, sexual lust and disgust in the heart, the will to manipulate others verbally, revenge and payback, and so forth. These, Jesus tells us, can all be replaced with genuine compassion, purity, and good will as we grow our new “insides.”
And when we ask, “How?” he points us back to his first lesson, above, which assures us of our place and future in God’s eternal purposes. In the clear light of who we are in God’s eyes, our angers and lusts seem silly and repulsive, since we see them as God sees them.
Then he invites us to follow him into his practices, such as solitude, silence, study, service, worship, etc.—we call them “spiritual disciplines.” There, with him, the readinesses to do evil that inhabit our bodily members through long practice are gradually removed, to an ever-increasing degree. Our “flesh” increasingly comes to the side of our spirit and God’s Spirit in service to God. The disciplines for the spiritual life are a central part of the crucial “in-formation” which Jesus brings to us, and we dare not neglect it.
For Willard it is crucial to realize that Yeshua is with us, present here and now, our teacher and with us in our daily lives. The Sermon is Yeshua’s way:
1. Know that God is bringing an unending kingdom to overturn the upside down values of this age.
2. Our human ways of understanding life (anger, lust, greed, the will to power) are destined to die and be replaced by God’s perfect way.
3. Righteousness as a way of life lived for God alone, in secret, transforms and rids us of anxiety and pride.
4. The good heart comes from a life lived actively with God, in his presence, for him alone, and through him to love his creatures.
So, pray in secret. We have a prayer tradition that makes this meaningful and which gives direction already, the Siddur. So give in secret and do not keep what you have just for yourself. Live your life before God. Solitude. Silence. Worship. Study. Service. All are tools to build the God-life and leave behind the upside down values that have left us broken.
“Every man who hears these words of mine and does them will be like the man who built his house on the rock.” —Yeshua.