Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of God. Blessed are those when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:2-12
When you read or hear these words of Jesus, spoken in His most well-known recorded sermon — the Sermon on the Mount — how do they come across to you? I would probably not even be asking that question were it not for my New Testament and Revelation professor at Southern Seminary, Dr. James Blevins (now deceased).
One day in class, Dr. Blevins began reading the Beatitudes of Jesus in a dry, dull way. Without warning, he then read the words of Jesus as they were intended to be read and understood. Dr. Blevins began to repeat the phrase: BLESSED! MAKARIOS!! WOOHOOH!!! As he yelled “woohooh,” Dr. Blevins would throw his hands up into the air, sort of like a one-man wave at a football game. Now, for a man who had to be in his 60s at the time, he had an energy and passion for the Lord and for the Word of God that was contagious.
As he was fond of doing, he made the class promise that we would remember the true meaning of Jesus’ “blessings” and that we would pass along our new-found knowledge, whether we were preaching in our churches or just strolling through St. Matthew’s Mall (in Louisville).
I have tried to stay true to the promise and, just this past Sunday, once again used “blessed, makarios, woohooh” (including raising my hands) in one of my sermons. For a non-charismatic preacher, that’s about the only time I really get my hands above my shoulders!
Now, back to the question. When you read or hear Jesus say, “blessed are . . .,” how do you respond? I’m afraid that far too many Christians, both pastors and people in the pews (or chairs or stadium seating), miss the significance of Jesus Christ — God the Son — saying: “You are blessed!” We read the words on the page or hear the words spoken out loud, but all too often we come away unaffected by the stunning magnitude of Jesus’ own words of blessing to us. How terribly sad.
I thought about Jesus’ blessed, makarios, woohooh as I was watching the CBS Halftime Report of the Jets/Broncos game. At the half, the Broncos were ahead of the Jets by a score of 10 to 7. The Broncos field goal kicker, Matt Prater, scored three of those ten points. But, guess who scored the only Broncos’ touchdown of the first half when he ran the ball into the end zone from the 5 yard line? Tim Tebow!
In fact, this was Tebow’s first touchdown in the N.F.L. You would think that Tebow, the former Heisman Trophy winner, all around record setter in the Southeastern Conference, and two-time National Champion with the University of Florida Gators, would have been congratulated for his rookie accomplishment. Well, you would be wrong, at least if you were listening to the esteemed former quarterbacks on CBS’ Halftime Show — Dan Marino and Boomer Esiason.
After inexplicably not showing highlights of the Broncos’ first half performance, including Tebow’s touchdown run, Coach Bill Cowher mentioned (I believe in a sincere way) that Tim Tebow had scored his first N.F.L. touchdown. As the video was transitioning to the next game’s highlights, both Boomer Esiason and Dan Marino could be heard in the background commenting about how Tebow surely didn’t throw the ball, but had to run it in. In what my brother-in-law and I both perceived as multiple mocking statements, Marino and Esiason — who have zero Super Bowl rings between them — in effect dissed Tebow for scoring his first touchdown because he ran instead of passed. Last I checked, a running touchdown or a passing touchdown both equal six points.
At first, the comments by Boomer and Dan surprised me, but then I remembered it was Tim Tebow that they were mocking talking about. It seems that Tebow is fair game in the N.F.L. and in the sports media. From the moment that he was drafted in the first round as the 25th overall pick, Tebow has had a target painted on his chest. From the constant harping about his supposed lack of N.F.L. skills, you would think that Tebow had never seen a football, much less picked one up to become one of College football’s greatest players.
At first, one might think that all of the negative stuff was merely football related. But, when you have two of football’s most well known former quarterbacks laughing at Tebow’s first score as a rookie, one has to wonder what else is at play?
Could it possibly be that Tebow, a strong Christian who has taken strong stands for his Christian values and morality (Super Bowl Pro-life commercial, Scripture verses written under eyes, etc.), has earned the ire and ridicule of N.F.L. elites like Marino and Esiason? How else can you explain the inexplicable double standard?
When Sam Bradford (who Tebow and the Gators beat for the National Championship) scored his first touchdown, was there mocking and ridicule of this young man? I doubt it. When Colt McCoy, who was drafted lower than Tebow, made his first N.F.L. touchdown yesterday against the Steelers, how was his accomplishment treated? With respect or disdain? I think I know the answer to that one. When Michael Vick or Drew Brees runs in for a score, do the commentators disparage the feat because the quarterbacks used their feet?
I doubt that Tim Tebow really cares what a bunch of talking heads think about his performance. In the end, he probably cares about what God thinks, first and foremost, and then what his coaches and teammates think. In this life, we will face ridicule and scorn for following Christ, whether on the football field, in the board room, or yes, even in the church house. For Tim Tebow and for the rest of us, when we are ridiculed and made fun of because of the name of Jesus, might we hear the Master say to us yet again: “BLESSED, MAKARIOS, WOOHOOH!!!” Thanks, Dr. Blevins.