All Saints’ Sunday
Dear friends in Christ. Our Gospel today is perhaps the most well-known section, the Beatitudes, from the most well-known sermon of our Lord Christ, the Sermon on the Mount. This section of Scripture begins simply enough: And seeing the multitudes, Jesus went up on the mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and began teaching them, saying: Blessed... Here we see Jesus in his role as the Prophet or Teacher of His Church. This is to be the image of Christ and His Church down through the ages—His Church gathered around Him, listening attentively to His word. How beautifully we see what the Bible says elsewhere about Jesus being our Teacher [Hb. 1.2]: God…has in these last days spoken to us by His Son. That means that we don’t look for any other word, teaching or revelation except what Jesus gives to us in His holy word, the Bible. What Jesus here says and has recorded for us by His Holy Spirit through the prophets and apostles stands; nothing is to be added to it or taken from it. Jesus is the Church’s one Teacher, to Whom alone we listen.
What Jesus then goes on to tell us in our text, the Beatitudes, is the description of the true blessedness of His Christians. We are blessed because we are in that glorious state of grace—in Christ God has favorably accepted us and given us His divine approval. Blessed are... We are recognized as “blessed,” as Christians by what are/ do: poor in spirit [who claim no good works and merits before God]; mourn [over our sin], hunger and thirst for righteousness [of the righteous Christ], etc. To put it differently, the Beatitudes are not rules for us to do to become Christians; instead they are promises of what Christ, by His coming and work, brought about for us; and as we in Spirit-worked faith receive the blessings He won for us He declares us “blessed.” They tell us what we already are in Christ.
1. The Beatitude we will focus in on today is the sixth: Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.
As we look at each of the Beatitudes we notice that not only do they describe the Christian, they also are a picture of Christ: poor, meek, merciful, peacemaker, etc. That’s the same thing we see with the Beatitude we are examining today. Jesus is the only one, ever, to Whom this beatitude applies perfectly, in and of Himself. Jesus was the only one who was ever perfectly pure in heart. To be pure in heart really goes back to the First Commandment of having no God other than the holy Triune God; fearing, loving and trusting in Him alone. James [4.8] in his epistle writes: purify your hearts, you double-minded. The double-minded person is one who tries to serve both the true God but also serves sin, the old self and ultimately the devil; double-minded—a divided allegiance between the true God and something else. Such a person may even live an outwardly decent life but the heart is wrong; it still does not fear, love and trust in God above all things. Since we are not pure in heart and do not fear, love and trust in God above all things that’s why we sin. Our inability to keep that First Commandment leads us to break the rest of the commandments. That’s the description of every person ever to live on this earth—except Christ Jesus. He was pure and sinless even in His heart. He was free from the stain and corruption of Original Sin, being conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the Virgin Mary.
How beautifully we see the pureness of Jesus’ heart as He carries out the work for our salvation. Here He devoted Himself to His Father and His will. Speaking already through David in the psalm [Psalm 40.8], Jesus says to His Father: Then I said, “Behold, I come; in the scroll of the Book it is written of Me. I delight to do Your will, O My God, and Your Law is within My heart”. All throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry He was faithfully proclaiming the message of repentance and the forgiveness of sins; Law and Gospel; God’s faithfulness and salvation. In fact, precisely when Jesus got in trouble by the Jews for doing just that, He told them on different occasions [Jn. 5.30; 6.38]: I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me; and I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. Never once did Jesus sin; He faithfully carried out the will of His heavenly Father. Although He is true man and was tempted in every way that we are, Jesus did not sin because His heart was pure. It was one will with that of the Father—what the Father willed, that’s what Jesus, the Son of God, willed.
That Jesus’ heart is pure, that Jesus is the One pure in heart par excellence, that is the greatest blessing and comfort to us. Here is our salvation! For us and for our salvation Jesus is the pure in heart. He willingly came and placed Himself under God’s holy Law to keep it for us who by nature are not pure in heart, but double-minded, wanting to do our own will and unable to keep the commandments. For us He is pure in heart resisting temptation after temptation that Satan threw His way so that God’s holy Law, which He demands be kept by us impure in heart, is kept—by Him, the one pure in heart, so that heaven and every spiritual blessing may be poured out upon us who are by nature not pure in heart.
How beautifully the pureness of Christ’s heart shines forth precisely in His suffering! Here He is, the holy, perfect God-man, Christ Jesus, willingly takes on Himself the sins of the world—precisely because He is pure in heart; that was the will of the Father for Him. Even when He began in Gethsemane feeling the wrath of God over those sins and He prayed [Mt. 26.39]: O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; His purity in heart shone forth so beautifully as He submitted His will to that of His Father: yet, not as I will, but as You will. Here was pure, perfect suffering for our sin. The apostle reports of Jesus [1 Pt. 2.23]: When others abused Him, He didn’t abuse them; when He suffered. He didn’t threaten but left it in the hands of Him Who judges fairly. We see His pure heart right before His death as He said [Lk. 23.46], Father into Your hands I commend My spirit. He submitted His will to that of His Father in perfect trust.
And let’s not forget the last part of this Beatitude: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. That’s precisely what Jesus did. When His soul left His body on the cross in death, He was in the glories of heaven. Three days later Jesus’ soul returned to His body; He rose from the dead. After showing Himself alive for 40 days, Jesus ascended, soul and body, into heaven. Jesus’ resurrection and ascension is proof positive that He was the One pure in heart. He was the one pure, perfect sacrifice for the sin of the world, and His sacrifice was accepted. He is now in heaven living and reigning and ruling all things for the benefit of His Church.
2. The disciples of that day would come to see and recognize Jesus as the One truly pure in heart. Down through the ages even unto today the faithful continue to recognize Jesus as the One pure in heart. But let us recognize Jesus’ words of our text refer to many, to more than one; the pure in heart, they shall see God!
But what does that mean since we, by nature, are sinners? that we are not pure in heart? that Scripture plainly says [Jer. 17.9]: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked? Can people indeed be pure in heart? The answer: yes—because we are in Christ, the One truly pure in heart! Through faith we are in Him and He is in us. God credits the pureness of Christ’s heart to us. It is as if our heart is as pure as Christ, the holy, pure One of God! Remember: in the Beatitudes Jesus describes how we really and already are in Him! In Christ and through faith in Him we are pure in heart before God! That’s because by faith we receive all the blessings and work of Jesus for us and make them our very own. That pureness of heart that we lack, Christ gives us and He declares now our blessed state as Christians: “Blessed.”
It’s not just that we are “declared” righteous, that our hearts are “declared” holy but in reality aren’t. Instead, Jesus has truly purified us, our hearts. That’s all part of His coming and His work to save us from our sin is His purifying us. Through the prophet, the Holy Spirit says about the Messiah [Mal. 3.3ff.]: He is like a refiner’s fire and like fuller’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; He will purify…and purge them as gold and silver that they may offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness. The whole purpose of Jesus’ work was to purify us so that we might be the pure in heart and so enter heaven. The Holy Spirit says [Eph. 5.25]: Christ…also loved the Church and gave Himself for her that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.
This is baptism and what baptism does for us. It purifies us, washes us clean from sin and makes us holy and without blemish. And it connects us with Jesus! We are pure because through faith, through baptism, we are connected with Jesus, the Pure One. By His Holy Spirit, He now works in us and through us. Our life of faith and good works is what Jesus is doing and accomplishing in our lives, in us!
Again the apostle writes [Ti. 2.14]: Our great God and Savior Jesus Christ…gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. We are perfectly pure in heart as faith receives Jesus’ perfect purity and makes it our very own. Now as Christians, with Christ at work in our hearts and lives, He empowers us by His Holy Spirit to fight against sin and temptation and to live a life more in accord with the will of the holy God. Now our lives, though ever so imperfectly and weakly, reflect the purity of the pure in heart. Where we fail in purity, we then by daily contrition and repentance grab ahold of God’s promises to us in baptism and cleanse ourselves from all impurity.
As Christians, our purity is internal; it is purity of the heart. Faith receives that purity of Christ. When we sin, faith keeps receiving Jesus’ purity, His forgiveness and righteousness, so that Jesus can rightly say of us, His dear Christian, that we are the pure in heart and so being pure in heart, we, then, will see God.
On this All Saints’ Sunday, the day we remember and give God thanks for all His grace and mercy shown those who have gone before us in the faith and whose souls now rest in the Lord in heaven, we see the declaration of Jesus in our text is true. The saints, those who have died in the faith, during their earthly lives as Christians were the pure in heart: in faith they received Jesus’ perfect holiness and purity; connected to Jesus through faith and baptism, strengthened and empowered by the Holy Spirit, they lived in that purity of a life of faith and good works; and now they see God. What a glorious motivation for us; let their example point us to the truth: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Just as they looked with the eyes of faith to Jesus during their earthly life, but now in heaven behold Him together with the Father and the Holy Spirit; so too we are assured that one day we will be with them in heaven beholding our gracious Triune God and Savior. On top of that we know that come the Last Day, when Jesus calls our bodies forth from the graves, and raises them perfect and holy and fit for an eternity in heaven, all our Lord’s dear Christians, all of the pure in heart, will for all eternity see in both body and soul our holy Triune God. For that glorious day, we wait together with the saints in heaven. INJ Amen