Scripture: Matthew 5:1–12
“You will go to the Dagobah system…there you will learn from Yoda, the Jedi Master who instructed me.”
With these words, Luke Skywalker begins a journey that many of us will never forget. The hero of the Star Wars saga is instructed by the ghostly figure of Ben Kenobi to go to a planet where he will find a wise sage, who will teach him the way of life that he must enter. While Luke doesn’t understand exactly what will happen, he knows he has to go.
Writer George Lucas plays on the theme of so many teachers throughout history. The sage up on top of the mountain. The wise one at the end of a dangerous quest. Here in the Star Wars universe, the location is a different planet, and the sage is a little a green guy with big ears named Yoda. When Luke arrives on this swamp planet Dagobah, Yoda teaches him in the ways of the Force. Yoda is 900 years old, and has learned the ways of the Force through experience and teaching, and so he can teach Luke like few others can.
Today I want to talk a little bit about the Yodas in our lives. Leonard Sweet wrote a little book several years ago that I have referenced over and over again: 11 Indispensable Relationships. He talks about these different kinds of relationships we need in our lives, and he has a chapter titled, “You need a Yoda.” He suggests that all of us need someone in our lives who has been through some things. They may not be 900 years old, but they are experienced enough to not be intimidated or immature when life throws them a curve. Sweet suggests that we need a Yoda in our lives who is humble, honest, and honorable.
Who are the wisest people that you know? Who is your Yoda? What makes them wise?
This idea of a wise sage, or a guru, is common throughout history and throughout Scripture. Remember a few weeks ago, we talked about the prayer of Solomon. Solomon was a son of the greatest King of all, David. But he lived with an inferiority complex. He was only king because everyone else in line before him died. He had seen a great deal of family trauma and pain. But with that pain came wisdom. And so when God asked him in a dream what he wanted, he asked to be wise. He had enough wisdom to know he needed to ask for wisdom. That experience was the beginning of Solomon’s ownership of his wisdom. From there, he went on to share his sage advice with others. Tradition suggests that he wrote the Proverbs, as well as other examples of wisdom literature in the Old Testament. He was known as a wise and knowledgeable sage.
But even Solomon was an example of imperfect wisdom. He became enamored with his own power, and felt like he needed to always prove his worth, and so his building projects, and his collection of concubines, and his shows of wealth and power suggest that even the wise sage who wrote the book of Proverbs was missing something.
Fast forward about a 1000 years. Long after Solomon was gone, the Gospel writer Matthew began to craft his story about Jesus. Many scholars suggest that when he wrote his Gospel, Matthew had in mind to help us see Jesus as a New Solomon. Solomon 2.0.
Last week, we saw this in the story of the Magi. Here wise scholars from the East visited in order to honor him. Even the wisest people in the world traveled to bow at the feet of this wise one. They didn’t travel quite as far as Luke did to see Yoda, but they might as well have. Here the wisdom of this teacher is foreshadowed, even before he comes of age.
Then, we read the story of the baptism of Jesus. John, his cousin, explains that he is inferior and shouldn’t be baptizing him, but in his wisdom, Jesus submits to John’s authority and allows him to baptize him. What are Leonard Sweet’s categories? Humble. Honest. Honorable. Clearly Jesus is showing these traits even before his ministry begins.
Next, Jesus enters into the wilderness. The crafty Satan tries to outsmart him and tempt him with the ways of power and worldly authority. But wise outsmarts crafty. Jesus uses Scripture to resist his temptations and remain humble, honest, and honorable. Throughout these first chapters of Matthew, it is clear that Jesus is the New Solomon, demonstrating his wisdom.
Then the fifth chapter of Matthew opens. The wise sage climbs to the top of the mountain, a traditional location for sages through the ages. He sits on the ground, the traditional posture for those who are ready to dispense their wisdom. His followers all sit around them, taking up the traditional place to receive the wisdom of the master. Solomon 2.0 is ready to speak and dispense wisdom to all who would hear.
And then Jesus opens his mouth, and says the dumbest stuff anyone could ever imagine.
None of it sounds like wisdom, for sure. Blessed are they who mourn? Uh…OK. Blessed are the meek? Really? Blessed are they who are persecuted? The poor in spirit? The peacemakers? You’d have to wonder if some of those folks who just climbed up the mountain to hear the wisdom of the sage gave each other a side glance or two. Why did we climb all the way up here to hear this stuff? This guy is clearly off his rocker.
It just goes downhill from there. The “wisdom” that Jesus shares with those who would hear it is anything but traditional. It really is a new world order. Listen to the way that Ben Witherington describes the wisdom of Jesus here in the Sermon:
“Traditional…wisdom sought to show people practically how to live so they could be healthy, wealthy, and wise. Jesus’ teaching does not simply baptize these agendas and call them good.”
Instead, writes Witherington…
“The difference here is that Jesus offers both traditional and counter-order wisdom, and all of the teaching is served up with the understanding that God’s eschatological reign is breaking in, and so to some extent new occasions teach new duties, as well as reaffirming some of the old ones.”
Jesus didn’t just repackage the old information in a new way. He offers “counter-order wisdom,” challenging the assumptions and the status quo. I like Witherington’s point…he doesn’t throw out all of the old ideas, either, but Jesus is wise enough to know which ones are worth keeping and which ones are worth re-thinking. In the new world order that Jesus is offering, meekness, peace, resilience in the face of persecution…these are values worth highlighting. Solomon 2.0 is ready to share a new way to think. A new way to live.
Who is your Jesus? (I mean, Jesus is your Jesus, but…) Who is the one who surprises you with their wisdom? Maybe a child who offers unexpected wisdom? A voice from the margins? Someone who shows humility, honesty, and honor from an unanticipated place?
The sermon series is titled The Best Sermon Ever Preached. Here in these next few weeks, we will examine even deeper this stuff that those first hearers must have thought was crazy, unintelligible, or unrealistic. Before the end of his sermon, my guess is that some might have walked away. This new world order was just too…new. But others found what they had always been looking for, and it changed their lives forever. May we forever be changed, as well.