The Better Life
Updated: Jun 24, 2020
Jesus was quite the phenomenon. People were prepared to travel hundreds of miles, even on foot, if that is what it took, to meet Jesus. Matthew tells us why he was desperately sought after:
[Jesus] went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.
People came to Jesus from everywhere, in droves. They were desperate and hoped he would meet their needs, and he did. He met their every immediate and pressing need. But that was not all he came to do.
He had our eternity on his mind.
Jesus cared about our immediate needs, but he came to offer humanity more.
Everyone wants their lives to count. Everyone tries to live a worthwhile life. It matters very little how how impoverished, or enriched, our lives are we still want ‘better’. That might be one way to look at our ultimate need — ‘the better life’, and Jesus speaks into this deep need of ours unlike anyone else.
To begin with, Jesus explicitly states that he came to meet our ultimate need. “I have come”, Jesus said, “that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). And, he does it — give us the better life by offering us an invitation to come to him, learn from him, and find the better life (Matt 11:28-30).
Jesus' way to meet our ultimate need is unique and unrivalled because only he offers us himself as its means and end.
So, seeing the crowds, Jesus, beginning with, ‘Blessed are …’ goes on to utter the most precious words ever spoken to humanity by any one, in any language. It is popularly referred to as the Beatitudes (Matt 5:3-12).
The people who came to Jesus were helpless. He helped them. They were hopeless and he offered them more than a program, he offered them the ultimate hope - himself.
When Jesus said 'Blessed are ...' he was not offering ethical exhortations to earn God’s approval, or presenting a prescription for the better life. Jesus was not being impositional. He was being invitational. In beginning with 'Blessed are the poor in spirit' (Matt 5:3), Jesus essentially flung open the doors to anyone who is looking to live the better life.
Poor in spirit is the fundamental characteristic of the world, and there is no one in the Kingdom of God who is not poor in spirit.
At the heart of Jesus' proclamation was not that we need to do better, but that we need to be born-again. Like the blind who can do very little with a map or a manual, we need a hand to hold, not a how-to guide but a companion by our side. In the Beatitudes Jesus offers us his hand to hold, no matter who we are. It should come as no surprise then, that the rest of the Scriptures make it plain that we are saved and kept by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ. And this is not our own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that we may not boast (Eph 2:8-9).
In saying, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’ Jesus was simply pointing out that everyone everywhere is spiritually bankrupt. Yet, 'theirs is the kingdom of heaven', the better life. Here we have the perfect illustration of the essential difference between what Jesus has to offer as opposed to what anyone else has. The poor in spirit are blessed because Jesus did not hold their spiritual poverty against them, instead, he makes the goodness of life in the Kingdom of God is available to them in spite their spiritual poverty, in him.
As you come to Jesus, and listen to him, you will understand that being poor in spirit can be a truly beautiful thing.
Poverty of spirit is looking at ourselves through Jesus’ eyes, and seeing ourselves for what we truly are, and declaring, “ O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Ps. 63:1). This is what happens when God confronts man!
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is that God doesn't just confront us, he comforts us. He lays bare our spiritual impoverishment, and offers us the fulness of life — his life in the words of Jesus Christ.
"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it"
The 'better life' is available for anyone who will come to Jesus.