The text for this Sunday, the text of the so-called ‘Beatitudes’ (Matthew 5:1-12), is extremely well-known and is therefore an extremely good example of how a scriptural text can be turned to go in a completely different direction than originally intended.
The beatitudes take a person from a lack of something to the point of no longer lacking something that is either directly or indirectly related to what was lacking.
A main issue is, of course, to whom is Jesus speaking. At the beginning of the chapter, the writer goes into a sort of literary slow motion, and Jesus is speaking to his disciples (and not just those following him). At the beginning of the beatitudes, Jesus is speaking to a general group of people, but at the last one, he says, ‘Blessed are you….’ The question is: are we really willing to keep listening?
How are we going to transition from a person who is lacking something to someone who has an abundance of something? The answer to that question is very telling.
With an optimistic view of human nature, some people will answer that question by simply trying harder. That is a very natural and common answer.
With a pessimistic view of human nature, the stage is set for God to work. That may be called a Lutheran answer.
Read the bible and see how many times God has turned things completely around. The poor are now rich. The dead come back to life. Those headed for hell are now headed to a completely different place.
The beatitudes set the stage for Jesus to be a true Savior. It is no accident that at the beginning of this account is a focus on that name of Jesus—for he will save his people from their sins (1:21). And, at the end of the account, Jesus calls those disciples his ‘brothers’ (28:10).