Sermon on the Mount Two
The Beatitudes Part One
By Fred Pruitt
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:3-12).
As long as I have been aware of Jesus and His words, the words of the Beatitudes have been in the front hall of my mind. We were infrequent church attenders, my growin’ up family. We would go in spurts. And even when I was there, church didn’t do much in the sense of “religious training” for me.
However, I did respond to Hollywood Jesus movies. My two favorites in the 60s were “King of Kings,” starring Jeffrey Hunter as Jesus (kind of a stretch!), and “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” starring Max Von Sydow as a very intense and convincing Swedish Jesus. It was probably from those movies that I have the scene of the Sermon on the Mount in my mind, and the words, too, copied above. They have been with me almost the whole of my conscious life.
It starts with “poor in spirit.” In the beginning I do not remember having any real understanding of these words of Jesus. They just drew me in. I realized much later that I heard my Father’s voice in them, even before I knew Him. He was always speaking in me, I found out later. Like little Samuel, I couldn’t identify the speaker for a while. Also like little Samuel, one day the Father made it known in me so that I could also say, “Oh, I see, and believe!”
He had been calling out to me all through my life, though He always knew the “when-moment” when truth would overtake me. He was right. It did.
What happened to me on that night as I have related hundreds of times, was that I had unconsciously entered the realm of “poor in spirit.” Stripped bare. For the “big strong me” that I had been had nothing to say. I had looked into the deep well that was me, and eventually found only darkness and nothingness. I figured I had only one card left, but still hidden in my mind because I did not want to face the implications. In my mind there was a big warning on it: “Use ONLY in case of dire emergency and there is no chance anywhere anytime that things will ever get better, ever!”
The card I put into play was, “Well maybe God is real and maybe Jesus is Who He said He is.” I didn’t really believe it, per se, as in, “I choose to believe Jesus was the only begotten Son of God and died for my sins and all that other stuff.” But I did play that card.
This was my big play. To the invisible God in the sky who so far had seemed to have nothing to say or even to provide a witness to His Presence, I said, “I don’t know about any of this. I have thought I knew so much “truth” about God. I was proud of my progress in meditation. I have even thought I was about to attain enlightenment…. But now I know I don’t know anything. Nothing about God. What I thought I knew has gone away. I don’t know about Jesus and the Bible and the Devil and Hell and all that. ….. But if you’ll show me the truth, I’ll follow the truth, even, even … even if it’s Jesus.”
After that there was only a stillness in the frigid night under the crisp and clear Christmas stars. I do not remember what went on in my mind as I walked silently back up the dirt road to our little stone house, but I will always remember what I said when I went inside. Someone said, “What happened to you? You look different.”
I replied, “I don’t know what this means, but from now on I’m following Jesus.”
Somewhere on that walk back to the house the Spirit had quietly slipped into me to generate the beginnings of the consciousness of Christ in me, with His first witness to come out of my mouth, with no forethought or pre-intention from me, “from now on, I’m following Jesus.”
My brain was reeling with a tidal wave of the Spirit that began then and continued steadily over the next few months. I had started the walk not yet believing in my brain or intellect, but more with a “we’ll see how all this goes” attitude. But the Spirit hooks us in our hearts and inner affections at first. Believing “in the heart” is first, then afterward the confirming words that come out of our mouths.
“For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.” (Rom 10:10)
I didn’t have a clue that night about any of this, and have only come to understand what happened years later. It is plain to me now that every day in Christ this first “beatitude,” is the center truth of all our lives. Poor in spirit has no “worldly” meaning, that is, it is not talking about sadness or depression and offering some divine salve to make us feel better.
It is the very issue this writer deals with every day, all day, 24/7. “Poor in spirit” is disguised by the words that almost hide the true meaning. Poor in spirit is another way to say, “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me ….”
Poor in spirit is starting at the lowest rung on the bottom. Poor in spirit comes empty to the Lord, that He might fill us with nothing but Himself and His graces.
Poor in spirit (alongside faith) is our every moment walk.
When I was contemplating these passages, I began to remember how many times over the past 40+ years we have found “comfort” in the Lord when there was no other comfort from any other source. And then I also remembered every one of those times, were times of being poor in spirit. Not my will, but thine.
Poor in spirit is to exude a divine strength and sense of purpose through and in our human weakness.
Poor in spirit penetrates to the heart of hearts, eternally testifying of the One Who Does All. Jesus lived “poor in spirit.” How so? He lived in a continual state and consciousness of, “The Father that dwells within Me, He does the works.” That is perfect rest and perfect works.
“For theirs is the kingdom of heaven ….”
How so? Because in being “poor in spirit,” even as we all are in Christ, we have lost all the self-riches, and have only the perhaps invisible riches of Christ. In taking the lowest place at the feast, our Host says, “Friend come up higher.” One follows the other. Not as a “work” we are trying to achieve, but rather we begin seeing continual increases in our divine appointments.
In being poor in spirit, the Spirit pulls us through the eye of the needle that keeps all rich men out. How could it be said that rich people are not saved? First let us understand that we ALL have GREAT riches ourselves, no matter who we are or how much money we have or do not have. All of us are at first “rich” people and cannot go through the eye of the needle to find the kingdom of God.
“Wait! What are you saying? I live in poverty in a trailer. How can you say I am rich, or have great riches?” Because we are all RICH in separated self (flesh mind). We have all been too fat (spiritually) in “independent self,” and that is the veil that keeps us from seeing God for Who He Is.
But when one is poor in spirit, having lost all, there are no more impediments. Having lost all, we receive all, which is the kingdom of heaven.
For the past twelve years in this phase of my life, I have been privileged to ride around with John Bunting and others sharing our union with Christ. Early on in those trips I found a restful ease by the Spirit. Those of you who have had us know – we don’t come in with an agenda. We don’t have a rigid set of stuff (teachings) that we have to impart to everyone the same way. We come in to see what the Spirit does. For all these twelve years, when we arrive for the first time at a meeting, as my feet hit the pavement while I’m getting out of the car, I quietly say within me, “Well, Lord, you know what needs doin’, so I’m going to leave you to it. It’s Your turn!” He steps up, every time! It still comes out as if it is “me,” be we all know it isn’t!