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, saying:
“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 receive 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 for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 5: 1-10
Jesus was no stranger to the Kingdom of God. He began his earthly ministry proclaiming his purpose to bring good news to the poor, recovery of sight to the blind, freedom for the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:17-18). He lived his earthly life doing all of these things. After he departed to heaven he sent the same Spirit that anointed him to us, on the day of Pentecost. Christians around the world still celebrate that sending of the Spirit, because it is through the Spirit that we follow Jesus in proclaiming the Kingdom of God on earth.
The revolutionary ideas of Jesus’ Kingdom did not make sense to the people of Jesus’ day, and they often don’t make sense to us now. This Kingdom goes against the ways of the world. It lifts up those that the world puts down: the meek, the poor, the mourners, the hungry and thirsty, the pure of heart, and the peacemakers (Matthew 5:1-12).
Jesus did not come to immediately bring an end to sadness and suffering or poverty and injustice. He did not come to overthrow a government or to end political occupations. He came to show us a better way to live, amidst the many tribulations that plague our world. He came that we might have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). Jesus came to proclaim the Kingdom of God on earth, and to invite us to live by its rules here and now.
The revolutionary ideas of Jesus’ Kingdom did not make sense to the people of Jesus’ day, and they often don’t make sense to us now.
How are we, as Christians, called to be co-workers with Christ in proclaiming the Kingdom of God on earth? We must begin by calling attention to injustice.
This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War in 1967, and the beginning of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. Churches for Middle East Peace believes the conflict and occupation have been going on for #50YearsTooLong. The Six Day War is celebrated in Israel as a time of national triumph, and the first time in decades that Jews were able to worship at their holiest site at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. However, for Palestinians, 1967 marked further displacement and the beginning of the military control of the West Bank and Gaza. Recently, church leaders and laypeople gathered in Washington D.C. to learn about the injustices of the occupation, and to advocate for a shift in American policies toward positions that are more sensitive to the needs of all of the people living in the Holy Land. This is one of the ways we join with God in proclaiming the Kingdom on earth: as followers of Christ, we are called to apply these upside-down Kingdom values to our own lives and to our broken world. We do so with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Thank you for coming into our world to proclaim your Kingdom. Thank you for sending your Spirit so that we may also proclaim your wonderful Kingdom. We pray for all those in the Holy Land who are the meek, the poor, the hungry and thirsty, the mourners, the persecuted, and the peacemakers. We ask you to bless them. We boldly pray the prayer that Jesus taught us, saying:
Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name,
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory,
Forever and ever.
In your Holy Name we pray,
For more in this series, visit Churches for Middle East Peace.
Elli Atchison is the Ambassador of Donor Engagement at Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP). Molly Lorden is the Church Engagement & Millennial Voices for Peace Intern at CMEP, and is also currently studying toward a Master of Divinity at Princeton Theological Seminary. Both are writers for Prayers for the Holy Land, where this article first appeared.