Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he started to teach them.
He began: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven….”
But just then, a man stood up in the back and began to yell. “What are you talking about? What is ‘poor in spirit?’ You have to work for success, you have to leave behind the people who don’t have what it takes! Look at me; I’m rich and powerful and no one can control me!”
Heads had turned, and Jesus started to lose the attention of some. But he continued:
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
The same man in the back began to yell again: “Hey, snowflake! Who wants a mourning crybaby? You have to be tough. All your leaders are weak and just let people walk all over them.”
Some in the crowd, curious, moved closer to the man in the back.
“Blessed are the meek,” Jesus continued, “for they will inherit the earth.”
The man in the back was passionately appealing to the crowd now. “All of you have been neglected for far too long. This man — he’s not going to fight for you. He’s not looking out for you. He’s looking out for Samaritans and dependent losers and tax collecting traitors. It’s time to put your people first!”
Those in the crowd whose attention had been turned to the yelling man were listening now. Their curious listening ears had turned into nodding heads and yelps of approval.
But Jesus continued:
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
“Enough with this political correctness!” the loud man bellowed back. “It’s getting you nowhere!”
The crowds were starting to lose interest in Jesus. More and more were turning and moving toward the yelling man. Some started to raise hands and fists in response to him and people were beginning to chant and cheer.
As Jesus continued, some were beginning to have trouble hearing him. Some were confused.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
“These people,” the man in the back shouted, “they’re among you! The Samaritans, the Gentiles, the tax collectors — they are the enemy! You have to fight fire with fire!”
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God,” Jesus said.
By now, the majority of the crowd had become raucous in their approving response to the yelling man. He had quickly gained his following. They roared with passion, drowning out Jesus.
But Jesus continued, undeterred: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
There were some in the crowd who had begun to feel threatened by Jesus’ words, and his naming of those who are “blessed.” These, who were largely those of privilege or status in their community, began to chant back at Jesus, “All lives are blessed! All lives are blessed!”
Then, the yelling man in the back declared, “Follow me! It’s time you had a strong leader! Let us go and take this land back!”
Jesus calmly and confidently persisted: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
The yelling man and his newfound followers began to walk away. Some who followed were fully enraptured by his message of power and dominance. Others, wary of his demeanor, reluctantly joined him, longing for a lost sense of control over their culture and their future.
There were many. They peeled away, marching back down the road away from Jesus. After several minutes, the sound of their chants dissipated and the dust from their footsteps settled. Jesus turned to see a small crowd which was still there, gathered around him. They were a diverse bunch — rich and poor, Jew and Gentile, young and old. Their eyes betrayed their trepidation but they looked longingly and hopefully at Jesus, needing reassurance that their faithfulness would not be in vain.
Jesus slowly kneeled down among them, looked them in the eyes, and finished his message:
“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.”