Comfort? Perspective.

Preparing to Return to Basics via the Sermon on the Mount

Chabad

*Crown Heart World is a gathering of disciples to Jesus and his teachings. We used to meet together here in Houston, but like so many in these trying times, we now meet via Zoom.

We welcome all who would like to join us here.

2020 took its toll.

2021 is not off to the smoothest start.

How can we find some degree of stability in such tumultuous times?

Wisdom, from the greatest embodiment of wisdom to walk the earth, is where we will be looking over the next few months. Today we start with a process of personal preparation. Our hope is to be ready to receive fresh comfort through wisdom taught in the Sermon on the Mount so that we can build wisely and even be a source of comfort for others.

Now in those days comes John the Baptist, making his proclamation in the wilderness of Judea, Saying, “Change your hearts; for the Kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.” For this is the one spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “A voice of one crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the Lords’s way, make straight his paths.’”

— Matthew 3:1–3

John appears in Matthew’s gospel right after the heart-rending story of a tyrant attacking the most vulnerable just to stay in power. Matthew introduces him with his message of realigning perspective and by connecting him to an ancient promise of comfort.

Isaiah is a book in two distinct parts. 39 chapters in the first half, 27 chapters in the second half, have been compared to the same numbers of books found in the Old and New Testaments respectively. Even as a mere coincidence it is a fitting focus of transition — Isaiah 40 beginning an increasing revelation of the Messiah in that book corresponding to Matthew doing the same in the Christian canon as a whole.

Isaiah 40:1–11 is a promise of comfort, of God being revealed as a gentle and caring shepherd. But the arrival of this comfort includes a confrontation with inequality and a warning against those who enable injustices. John the baptizer is no different. He calls people out of the chaos of their immediate challenges, into the wilderness, where he promises a fresh perspective.

Here are a few points for processing:

Prepare for Judgment on Inequality

Matthew points his readers back toward the prophet Isaiah so that they will understand that John’s message is about radical justice and revelation.

A voice of one calling:

“In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.

And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

— Isaiah 40:3–5

Expand Our Perspective

He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.

He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.

No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground than he blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.

To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.

— Isaiah 40:22–25

Expect Participation

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

— Isaiah 40:29–31

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