Thursday, June 26, 2014

Seeing God (part 5)

Continuing the quest for knowledge, and specifically to ascertain the defining characteristics of those that are “pure in heart,” who are also those that will “see God,” it is now time to forward in the sermon to the sixth chapter.  It is there that one encounters the second and only other use of “heart” in the course of this dissertation from the mountain.  This usage will prove to be quite beneficial in the quest.  It will not only impart knowledge, but also, along with so much else being said here, inform the ethical, practical, and performative mandate in association with the Christian’s charge to be the place where heaven and earth come together---the Creator God’s will being done on earth as in heaven. 

Interestingly enough, the “Lord’s Prayer,” from which these words of the covenant God’s will, earth, and heaven are lifted, constitute a portion of the preface to the second presentation of the heart.  It is worth mentioning that just as Jesus’ sermon began with a mention of the kingdom of heaven (5:3), so too does Jesus’ prayer include a mention of the kingdom of heaven within its opening statements, as Jesus says “Our Father in heaven, may Your name be honored, may Your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9b-10). 

From there, it is not necessary to travel a great number of verses before hearing the context for Jesus’ mention of the heart.  Beginning in the nineteenth verse of this same chapter Jesus says “Do not accumulate for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.  But accumulate for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal” (6:19-20). 

Given Jesus’ clear understanding that it is His God’s desire that His will be performed on earth as in heaven, and given the context of the kingdom of heaven come to earth that is everywhere present in Matthew’s narrative as well as being the foundational structure for this particular sermon, Jesus is not drawing a hard and fast dichotomy between the earthly realm and the heavenly realm.  Indeed, as it His intention to establish the Creator God’s kingdom on earth, the seeming dichotomy between earth (usually conceived of as the physical realm that is occupied by man) and heaven (usually conceived of as the aspired-to final destination of Christians) actually disappears. 

It is paramount to hear Jesus speaking from within His own culture and its conceptions, rather than from the position of a religious culture that is overly and improperly defined by Greek (primarily Platonic) and Enlightenment-driven thoughts of the separation of the physical from the spiritual.  Given the Jewish hope that the covenant God would establish His reign through His Messiah, restoring His creation as an attendant feature of the establishment of His kingdom, one would correctly hear Jesus speaking of earth and heaven in terms of past and future.  Treasures on earth would be linked to the old world and the old way of doing things prior to the coming of the Creator God’s kingdom that is heralded by the presence of Jesus, whereas treasures in heaven are linked to the new way of doing things, in association with the recognition of the God of Israel’s rule having come to earth.

It is following this talk of treasure, and its earthly (pre-kingdom of God) usage versus its heavenly (kingdom having come) usage, that Jesus speaks of the heart.  He says “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (6:21).  Yes, the disposition of one’s treasure reveals the disposition of the heart.  Clearly then, purity of heart is linked to the accumulation and disposition of treasure in ways that are commensurate with the establishment and extension of the kingdom of heaven.  

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