What Did Yeshua Know About Being Poor in Spirit? (Lane)
What Did Yeshua Know About Being Poor in Spirit?
by Lonnie Lane
There were always crowds with needs around Yeshua. Though He responded with compassion, He didn’t act just to meet the needs; He only acted according to what His Father told Him to do, and only said what His Father told Him to say.
And how did He raise up disciples who would do the same? By inviting them into His life, by keeping them with Him so they would come to know Him in order that they might become like Him. He was attempting to reproduce Himself in His disciples. That’s the bare bones description, of course. The Word tells us, “We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2). Okay, granted that’s talking about when He appears. But the principle applies now because we are “predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom 8:29). Every time we “see” Yeshua, that is to say when we receive a revelation of Him and the Person He was and is, it changes us. We are supernaturally conformed to be like Him by the Spirit of God. As we grow in understanding of His holiness, for instance, it causes us to make choices in keeping with holiness. Haven’t you found that to be true?
As much as we may want to get to know Him, He wants us to know Him even more. The major point of the Bible is His self-disclosure to us so that He would be known. But often He hides Himself to be found only by those who search for Him. It’s kind of like this – “And when He saw the multitudes, He went up on the mountain and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him” (Matt 5:1). Note that there were crowds wanting to be near Him, but not everyone in the crowd bothered to take the hike up the mountain to be with Him. I wonder if that’s why He went up the mountain, to see who would come. Those who go out of their way to be with Him even when it takes some doing, get to know Him more than those who don’t. These are the ones who qualify as disciples. They were the ones who got to hear first hand the Sermon on the Mount.
As the Holy Spirit has put this magnificent monologue at the beginning of the Gospels, it would seem that what Yeshua is saying here is primary – something worthy of being said before all the rest of what follows in the Gospels. In view of the fact that Yeshua much later told the disciples on the road to Emmaus that the Torah and the prophets all spoke of Him, it would seem that what we should look for in the New Covenant Scriptures is the same thing – to see what they speak of Him. True, there is much by way of instruction in both the Old and New Covenants, but foundational to it all is the revelation of Yeshua, of God, of what He values and what He wants for His people, of what’s in His heart – in short, what He is really like!
As true discipleship is largely learning who Yeshua is, what He’s like, what He loves and what displeases Him, I believe that the Sermon on the Mount too tells us not just about who is blessed, but is in fact autobiographical. I see Yeshua as sharing what is foremost on His heart out of His own life to begin to teach His disciples. Not one to talk about Himself, still He was fully a man with experiences in His life: Experiences while growing up, of learning – “He learned obedience by the things which He suffered” (Heb 5:8), of having relationships and seeing how He related to others and others related to Him, just as we all do. Only being without sin He would undoubtedly have responded to situations and people differently than those around Him. I believe we can see traces of those experiences in the Sermon on the Mount. But we will only deal with the first one here.
We know that Yeshua spoke with authority. When any preacher’s words carry authority it stems not just from what information he’s learned but what he has personally experienced, how the Word of God has been tried and found true in his own life. I believe what Yeshua is sharing here is an outline of His own life experience as He’s observed how He tended to see things differently than those around Him and how He had to deal with that. Secondarily it applies to others.
As we listen to what He shared with His disciples, we’re not going to hear a Bible study lesson; nor a theological discourse, nor analogies, nor abstract doctrinal statements. We hear the words of a man who has lived out what He is talking about. He has first hand knowledge of what He’s telling them. To begin with, these words are about those who are blessed. Who’s more blessed than He? Who was or could be more blessed by His Father than He? So wouldn’t these words apply to Him?
Let’s listen: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (:3). Our idea of poor is likely to mean beggarly, destitute, impoverished, deficient, needy, inferior, substandard, pathetic, wretched. Certainly Yeshua wasn’t any of those things. God forbid the thought! Yet, if this sermon is in fact autobiographical, it means that Yeshua Himself was poor in spirit. Initially the idea could be shocking for some of us and contrary to our concept of Him.
But what if “poor” here means being without any of your own strength, ability or resources? What if poor has to do with being powerless, or without authority? Even so, how could we ascribe to Him being poor in spirit when we see Yeshua with great power and authority? Because the power and authority was not His own. He left His own divine power and authority in heaven when He became a person. “…Although He existed in the form of God, (He) did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:6-8).
Bond servant, humble, obedient… that sounds pretty poor in spirit to me. Yeshua lived His life in entire dependence upon His Father for everything. His power was “the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14). Many of us know that our worship and praise are powerful and anointed when the Spirit of God is present. Even Yeshua’s praise was dependent upon the Spirit of God: “At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit and said, “I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth…” (Luke 10:21). He was completely reliant on God. As said above, He never did or said anything apart from His Father, so we could say that His dependency upon His Father was such that He operated His life out of no sense of self sufficiency or self dependency whatsoever. Indeed He lived His whole life out of none of His own druthers or inclinations. No ambition, no wishes or desires, no inclinations, nothing but the desire to fulfill His Father’s instructions on a daily basis and to bring honor to Him and to see His Kingdom established. His was a life characterized by dependence, and devoid of independence. It’s hard to comprehend such selflessness, isn’t it? Nothing to rely on of His own except His willingness to remain poor in spirit.
That’s what satan’s temptations were geared toward, to try and get Him to act out of independence of God’s will and on His own iniative and ability. To pass the test was to remain poor in spirit, relying on the Word of God rather than any justification within Himself. In this He was an example to us who can respond as He did to temptation by remaining poor in spirit and leaning entirely on the Word of God and Abba’s grace. Any self-defense or self-justification removes us from the “blessed are” position of the poor in spirit.
So what does He say is the reward for those who are poor in spirit? The Kingdom of heaven is theirs! The original text reads something more like: “Blessed are those who are poor in spirit, the kingdom is made up of such as these.” For one thing, the Jews at that time were waiting for the manifestation of the Kingdom of God. They expected a great war and catastrophes to take place when God would come and judge the sinners. But He was saying the Kingdom is here and now; already there, already available. As for being poor in spirit, those who felt the most prepared for God’s judgment were those who were the most learned in the Scriptures, the Pharisees and the Scribes. They believed the “great unwashed” or the people of the earth who had to scratch out a living for themselves under the oppression of the Romans, who had no time to study Torah, were the sinners God would judge, being unlearned in the Word. Those were who they would have seen as poor in spirit and would have considered them as unworthy of God’s blessings and quite unlikely unworthy of the Kingdom.
Well, once again, just as Yeshua did with the parables, He turns their expectation of who’s the “goodie” and the “baddie” upside down, causing everyone to have to assess just where they fit into the scenario He was describing. The poor in spirit now are those who are not only blessed by God, but the Kingdom is theirs! Can’t you hear them harrumphing: “Absurd…Ridiculous.” No wonder He wasn’t favored by the learned ones.
But those who are poor in spirit – those who know their need of God and know that within themselves they have nothing Kingdom-worthy without Him – the Kingdom is theirs already! So then, what about the needs of these needy people? When we look at Yeshua as being poor in spirit, we only see Him joyfully confident of His Father’s love and with the deepest confidence that not only will all His own needs be met, but also the needs of those for whom He is responsible. Does the story of the feeding of the 3,000 and the 5,000 tell us how bountifully Abba provides for what is needed?
When we experience a need we can’t fix, how do we react? Does our countenance fall? Do we feel fearful…ashamed…anxious…confused… sad…robbed of energy to function? Was Yeshua ever depressed or downtrodden about being needy? Never! Did He ever come to Abba apologizing for having any needs? Of course not. Did He regard His need as inferiority? Certainly not. Yeshua is a picture of a Man whose trust and obedience were based on His complete assurance in Abba’s goodness toward Him. Do you think when He said, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (Matt 6:8) it was just doctrine, or was it His own experience? When the disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray, the idea was to learn how to receive from Abba the way He did. He prayed and asked that Abba would, “give us this day our daily bread” (Matt 6:22; Luke 11:3). Evidently, He asked Abba for the daily allotment of food for Himself and those with Him. And it came!
Yeshua’s poverty of self-sufficiency was also His source of joy, as He fully rested in the faithfulness and generosity of His Father to meet every need over and abundantly. His need then was the reason for His joy, for the lack would be filled without question. He rested in this, He gloried in this, He rejoiced in this. Being poor in spirit for Yeshua meant that there were no limits to what God would give Him. He was entirely and completely without any stress whatsoever about any provision or need He had. Stop and ponder that for a few minutes.
What if you never again had to worry about your needs being met? What if being poor in spirit really means the Kingdom is ours, that the Kingdom is made up of such as we who are poor in spirit? Our only requirement for receiving from the riches in heaven then would be the embracing of our own weakness so that our true strength would come from God. Paul tells us of God saying to him and of his response when faced with his own weakness, “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (2 Cor 12:9).
To be poor in spirit is to know your need of God, and to know that God gives us you all that is available in His Kingdom. To be poor in spirit is not to be depressed about it, or to feel inferior, or to come to God apologetically, head bowed in neediness or pleading with Him, but to come boldly, expectantly, confident in Abba’s love. Just as Yeshua said, we are to boldly approach the throne of great grace, with thanksgiving that our Heavenly Father’s delight is to “give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).
Well, not that I have attained this yet, beloved, but I KNOW, I am assured, I have grasped by faith that being poor in spirit is the key to receiving from Abba all we need. It is also to enter into Yeshua’s joy, knowing that there will be no shame or lack in my life because my faith and trust in God as my loving Father will bless His heart, as He is moved to give me all I need as I look to Him for it. As there is no poverty in the Kingdom so my needs are linked to God’s abundant Kingdom provisions.
Not only were Yeshua’s physical needs met by His Father, His spiritual needs were met by the empowering of the Holy Spirit. By the power of the Spirit He was able to obey and fulfill everything His Father asked of Him. In this was His greatest joy. “I have food to eat that you do not know about” (John 4:32), He exclaimed to His disciples over the Samaritan woman bringing the whole town to Him. I can just see Him twirling around, arms flung wide open as He said this, face tilted up to heaven to His Father – because they were doing this together. Him and Abba.
Yeshua’s life is not the life of God on earth but that of a Spirit-filled man. What He did, He told us we could do, and even “greater works” (John 14:12). His power was in His weakness, His enabling was from His Father, and His joy was because “with God all things are possible” (Matt 19:26). And so they are for us as well. “So rejoice, and again I say rejoice…. Your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom” (Phil 4:4; Luke 12:32).
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Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, New International Version®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.