Unexpected Joy: The Beatitudes are an Autobiography of Jesus

For most people, Jesus the Messiah was unexpected. The Messiah would be revealed, but not now, not here, not like this, not from there.  The unexpected Jesus produced resistance and fear.

A gift you receive for Christmas is wrapped beautifully and delicately.  Upon opening this exquisite package, you discover a completely unexpected gift.  You had hoped for this gift but not now, not here, and not like this. The unexpected present produced receptivity and faith.

In “Surprise: Embrace the Unpredictable and Engineer the Unexpected,” Tania Luna and Leeann Renninger expound upon the science of surprise.

  • Surprise: our reaction to unexpected and misexpected events. (Is it an emotion? A cognitive state? No one knows for sure. Surprise is mysterious like that.)
  • Schema (plural: schemata): a mental framework for understanding something.
  • Surprise sequence: Freeze, Find, Shift, Share (plug into the moment, get wildly curious, change your perspective, and talk about it with others)
  • Duh Face: the true facial expression of surprise (seemingly dopey, actually fully absorbed in the moment).

Tania and Leeann suggest an experience we might call a surprise irony.  “We’re either biting our nails because we don’t know what to expect or we’re twiddling our thumbs because we know exactly what will happen next.”

“Surprise Seesaw: too much predictability leads to boredom, whereas too much surprise leads to anxiety. A balance between predictability and surprise is ideal (but, as any experienced seesawer will tell you, tough to master).”

They state this dilemma powerfully, “We feel most comfortable when we are certain, but we feel most alive when we are not.”

Jesus is too much of a surprise for many people. His teaching on citizenship in his kingdom threw off the predictability of the Jewish religion as it had come to be experience and expressed.

God’s relationship with humanity is filled with surprises.  This was part of Jesus’ teaching to Nicodemus in John 3:8, The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.

Sometimes God’s words in Malachi 3:6 are misunderstood.  “I the Lord do not change,” is a statement about the character of God.  His holiness does not change, keeping His promises does not change, being holy, love, and pure does not change.

God’s interactions with people change regularly.  Ephesians 2:3,4

Jesus is saying, in the words of our supporting authors today, “Embrace the unpredictable and engineer the unexpected.”

We love to proclaim this time of year, “Joy to the World, the Lord has come.”  It is true and is a challenge to the predictable and expected of our lives.

Jesus’ calls us to live differently than we might have ever predicted or expected.

We are learning to embrace the unexpected joy in Jesus’ unexpected teaching.

Unexpected joy and blessing are huge surprises in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  Every beatitude is seen in the birth of Jesus.

The First Beatitude

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:2
  • And they will call him Immanuel (which means God with us). Matthew 1:23

The Second Beatitude

  • Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
  • And he gave orders to kill all the boys, in Bethlehem and its vicinity…Matthew 2:16

The Third Beatitude

  • Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
  • And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby…Luke 2:8-15

The Fourth Beatitude

  • Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
  • We have seen his star in the east and have come to worship him. Matthew 2:1-2

The Fifth Beatitude

  • Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
  • To those on who his favor rests. Luke 2:14

The Sixth Beatitude

  • Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
  • My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. Luke 1:46-55

The Seventh Beatitude

  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
  • Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests. Luke 2:14

The Eighth Beatitude

  • Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • And he gave orders to kill all the boys, in Bethlehem and its vicinity…Matthew 2:16