Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. He said: “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 be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
I want to introduce you to the concept of bookends in Scripture. You know what bookends are, right? When you have books placed on a free-standing shelf, you have objects on either side to hold them upright. These bookends, in effect contain the books between them. We have a lot of bookends in Scripture and its fun looking for them.
In Matthew 4:23 we find that “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.” In Matthew 9:35 we find “Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness.” Identical statements. He taught. He preached. He healed. All three go together. Between these two bookends we find Jesus doing these three things.
One more. In Matthew 5:12 “When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them.” Jesus starts teaching. That’s the first bookend. “Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching” (Matthew 7:28-29). Notice when he started, he was speaking to the disciples. When he ended, there were crowds. Where did they come from? From all over. To listen to the master.
Let me give you a third bookend, which is from today’s reading. Jesus begins by saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” And he ends by saying, ““Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Sandwiched between these two bookends are all the things that belong to the Kingdom of Heaven.
And all these things are yours. You will be comforted. You will inherit the earth. You will be filled. You will receive mercy. You will see God. You will be called children of God. These are our rights as Christians. Isn’t that amazing? But we can’t have rights without duties, just like in the world. And what are our duties. These are contained in the beatitudes.
Reflect upon them in depth. And you will be blessed.