BELIEVERS BLESSED IN BEING DOERS
Jesus himself set the example of being a doer and He expected no less from his followers. “Do not presume that I have come to free you from the Law and the Prophets but to keep you bound to them. Heaven and earth will pass away before a single dot of the Law can be changed. Therefore, whoever disobeys the smallest fraction of the Law and has others follow him, he will amount to very little in the kingdom; but those that preserve it will play a huge role in the kingdom” (Mt. 5:17-19). “Blessed (makarios) are those that know and obey the words of prophecy and do what is written in it” (Rev. 1:3). This is what the Greek text says to me and I am persuaded that the “makarioi” understand it.
The “makarioi” did not only believe in the Scriptures or the Word of God, but they live it or fulfilled it like Jesus did. They became the visible evidence for Christ in the world. Jesus’ words and deeds were the words and deeds of his Heavenly Father and they would become the words and deeds of the “makarioi.” When the Holy Spirit began to jug the disciples’ memories, they realized that Jesus was the incarnation of the Word of God in a person. That person was their Lord in the flesh and it was in the flesh that He set an example for them to follow. In fact, they were to do more than He did. They were not just to live like Jesus lived but they also were to endure more than He did. Jesus’ difficult task was to turn his disciples into “makarioi” so that they could represent Him on earth. Jesus became not only their objective but Jesus also became their example they could follow.
Jesus began at home in a synagogue on a Sabbath. He was handed the Scroll of Isaiah, the prophet. Jesus turned to that portion, where it said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to announce deliverance for the prisoners and restoration of sight for the blind, he has sent me to set free the oppressed and call for the year of God’s favor” (Lk.4: 18-19). Then, Jesus shocked his audience by declaring, “Today, in your ears, this Scripture has been fulfilled” (Lk.4: 21). The result was that Jesus had to leave home and make Capernaum his headquarters. His own family and his people did not believe in Him. At home, Jesus could not provide any proof because of their unbelief.
It took Jesus some time to instill faith in his own disciples. Like Nathanael, they all wondered what good could come out of Nazareth? All had to come and see. While Jesus was being transfigured on the Mountain before Peter, James and John, the disciples could not heal the desperate father’s son. Jesus chided his disciples for their inability to put faith into action. Some who had believed at first were turning away. Even John the Baptist began to doubt. When the disciples realized that their faith was not working they begged Jesus, “Increase our faith” (Lk.17: 5). Jesus had them look at the mustard seed and suggested that they start small and then grow larger. Faith, like anything else, has to grow before it can tackle problems. There was one time that the disciples appeared to grasp what faith could do and Jesus was pleased and remarked, “Now, do you believe” (Jn.16: 31).
The classic of all classics was Nicodemus seeking out Jesus one night. He already believed that Jesus had come from God, but Nicodemus did not understand how he could follow and do what Jesus was doing. Nicodemus was upper crust and a recognized teacher, not a person that had to turn from sin. Yet, Nicodemus, alone, was singled out as one that needed to be born again, from what? It was the system he represented, which had strayed from the truth. Even though Nicodemus did not endorse sentencing Jesus, he did very little to change the system, its abuse and its injustice. Nicodemus, too, had stopped living according to the Law and the Prophets. Instead, Nicodemus obeyed the traditions of the fathers. At best, he was an observer that defended what he believed and not a doer that needed doing for the sake of justice. There was and still is a wide gap between believing what is right and doing what is right. Jesus and his “makarioi” represent three aspects living, “the way, the truth and the life” (Jn. 14:6). Heaven or people are not convinced by what we believe but by how we put our faith into practice.
Man seeks to anchor his faith in visible evidence. Jesus obliged Thomas and Mary Magdalene. Both needed Jesus’ visible presence and so did five hundred believers to give credence to the resurrection of Jesus, the Christ. After that, these witnesses began to prove, to the world, that Christ lived within them by their deeds. They became the “makarioi” or the signs and wonders for the world to see. It was not what Peter believed, after Pentecost, but it was what Peter did to a cripple that stirred the people. That was also the reason why Paul and Barnabas were mistaken as gods. Most of the people that came to Jesus wanted signs and miracle. Jesus did not give them what they wanted. Instead, Jesus singled out people who believed in Him and came to Him for help. People with a “makarioi” attitude did not wait until the Lord shows up, they went and they met Him. They became the evidence of faith. The world was and the world is still looking for the evidence of faith and so is the Lord. The people with a “makarioi” attitude demonstrate their faith by their love, which also includes the unlovable.
The “makarioi” whom Jesus singled out were not of the established religion. Jesus praised a Roman Captain for his faith. The persistence of the Syro-Phoenician woman’s faith, Jesus did reward her by healing her daughter. Jesus appreciated and praised the woman’s faith that anointed Him for His last pleasure on earth. Jesus saw the faith of the four men and healed their friend. Jesus stopped for the woman who touched the hem of His garment and took notice of her faith. These and many others showed their faith by coming to Jesus for help. They were also the ones that did not ask for proof. They were the proof that faith works, not by sitting and waiting for it to happen; but, by facing it head on. Jesus stood at the grave of Lazarus and He told the people to roll away the stone from the entrance but they hesitated. Jesus made this crucial statement, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God” (Jn.11: 21-44). To prove their faith, they had to remove the stone and they had to untie Lazarus.
The “makarioi” are not spiritual or heavenly beings but earthlings. The earth is their proving ground for their faith. Faith is not something to hang on to or hang oneself on it. Faith is what one can share and what one can multiply. Faith is not what one gets out of faith, but what one does with faith. Jesus’ half brother, James, had a message for those that sit on their faith, “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is a God. That is what the devils do and it scares them out of their wits” (Ja. 2:18-19). The “makarioi” have no time to wait on faith. Faith that sits still goes nowhere. The faith that sits still is dead and God deals only with the living. His Spirit lives in the “makarioi” and not in some physical structure or in a religious monument, in a restricted area.
Active faith shows where God is and what God does. Philip, one of Jesus’ disciples wanted to see God. Jesus pointed to Himself and then Jesus pointed back at the disciples. The only way, any person can find God is in a “makarios.” Just as creation exalts a Creator, so does a “makarios” exalts and represents God among mortals. The Roman Captain, in charge of the crucifixion, came to the conclusion that Jesus was a Son of God by how He behaved and what Jesus did while He died. The Evangelist Luke, after a thorough search into the event of the crucifixion, had the Captain see Jesus as “a righteous man” (Lk. 23:47). Jesus believed that humans could be and could do what the gods do. In fact, Jesus believed that the “makarioi” would do more than He did. And “makarios” did turn the world upside down.
The “makarioi” are in a race to the finish and they are not running in friendly territory. The track of salvation has hurdles, and death can threaten their lives but not their souls. They remain steadfast to the very end. While they run, the ‘makarioi” make friends or gather treasures for eternity by pouring their blessings or living water on those that weaken on the racetrack beside them. These “blessed ones” are not in for the competition, but they are in for the assistance others with their needs. Jesus did not find them among the leaders, but Jesus found them among the people that had practically no standing in their society. I, too, found more help at the bottom than from the top.
There was a lady by the name of Saint Theresa. She wanted to build a huge orphanage but she only had three shillings. When she announced her intentions, she was ridiculed. With unwavering faith, she answered her doubters, “With three shillings Theresa can do nothing, but with God and three shillings there is nothing that Theresa cannot do” (Kn. 115). To those who believe all things are possible and to be able to believe is the greatest miracle, as well as the greatest blessing of all, that alone is most gratifying. The “makarioi” are not extinct in our world; but they are rare for want of being tested daily for their faith. We do not face what the first century Christians face or those being persecuted in our time. Even the first century followers of Christ had to be encouraged to endure hardships that tested their faith. To these writers such tests proved that they were indeed children of God. These were the true “makarioi” because they dispensed grace. Deeds are grace of mercies.