Feasting with God #35
Text: Matthew 5:6
6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
In the apostle John’s first letter, he writes, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Between that statement and this passage from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, we can see the whole story of salvation: as we are on our own, we are full of unrighteousness, we are brimming with sin, we are overflowing with wickedness; but to confess our sins, to pour out this pitcher of our hearts, emptying its putrid contents on the floor at God’s feet, asking him to give us righteousness in its place, to put good hearts back where were our wicked ones, this leads to forgiveness and satisfaction.
It seems absurd. It seems like we’re swindling God, conning him into a terrible deal. “Give us your holiness, your righteousness, and godly glory, and we’ll give you a mortal, death-pocked heart, rotting away with sin.” Yes, it certainly seems that God is getting the short end of the stick, but that’s the essence of grace.
Martin Luther was fond of illustrating our salvation as a marriage: Christ was the groom, rich and powerful, and we his Church were the bride, poor and lowly, wicked and criminal. This mighty, wealthy man selected this bride out of the slums and married her. Because of that wedding, all her crimes were attributed to him, and he had to make the payment for them. And at the same time all his wealth, his mansions, his feasts belonged to her. This is called the “Great Exchange.” Our sin was given to Christ on the cross, and in exchange his righteousness was given to us.
The problem is, when the groom comes looking for us, we tend to scurry deeper into the garbage heaps we call home, fearing that his extended hand means us harm. After all, if he pulls us into the light, won’t our ugliness be revealed for all the world to see? If he removes the hoods from our faces, our diseases will terrify those around us and send them fleeing. And besides, we know how often we have offended this very prince himself: we’ve cursed his name to our friends, we’ve mocked his grace, we’ve preferred to be our own masters than under his rulership.
The problem is, we don’t hunger and thirst for righteousness. We proudly ignore the rumblings in our stomachs and say, “I’m fine. I don’t need a handout.” We really had to be dragged kicking and screaming from the slums, objecting that we were being persecuted, oppressed, and assaulted by this prince. We were like rats cockroaches who never willingly come into the light and instead convince ourselves that we’re content to feed on garbage.
But his grace, despite our protests, carried us to his mansion, washed us clean, dressed us in fine silk and jewels, vowed to keep us as his own, “to love and cherish,” “in sickness and in health,” “for better or for worse,” “as long as we both shall live,” and then he placed before us the most magnificent feast we had ever seen, with the richest bread, the sweetest wine, in endless supply.
Taking our first bite of this grace, we can see how hungry we really were, and this leads us, ever afterward, to realize when we are starving for lack of grace. Then we hunger for this righteousness once again. We are moved by our Lord always to seek his grace. And in that we are given the promise: he will never allow us to go hungry again, there will never come a time that he does not offer us his righteousness, we shall be satisfied.
Dear Jesus, for your sacrifice we thank and praise you, for we could never deserve such a rich gift as you give us in the righteousness you have earned and with which you have clothed us. Lead us never to become complacent, never to forget what great nourishment you offer us in your Word and Sacraments. Guide us ever back to the study of your word, with which you satisfy us in your righteousness. In your name we pray. Amen.
Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.