At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus is baptized and God says, “this is My Son with whom I am well pleased.” Then he is sent off to the wilderness to be tempted and begin His ministry. Jesus began His ministry out of blessing, not for blessing (thanks to Jon Tyson for that insight).
This blessing is repeated by God at the Mount of Transfiguration, before Jesus’ ministry shifts from one primarily of teaching to one of suffering and service. Jesus marches toward the cross with the blessing of God, not to try and gain the blessing of God.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus begins by pronouncing nine blessings, then He teaches the Way of the Kingdom. He begins His preaching ministry to the crippled, lame, afflicted and oppressed (Matthew 4:24), by blessing them, then encouraging them to operate out of that blessing. Before these outcasts could even have the chance to obey, they were blessed by Jesus.
And when Jesus commissions the disciples in Luke 24 to carry the Gospel to the ends of the Earth it says “while He blessed them, He parted from them and was carried up into Heaven” (v. 51). The Apostles began their Apostolic ministry from the blessing of the Lord, before they’d ever done anything. They were not trying to gain the blessing of Jesus, they already had it.
I think there’s something for us to learn from this pattern in Scripture. Too often we only bless and praise results. Which, in our homes, churches, and businesses, can lead to a culture of people-pleasing, unhealthy competition, and burnout. Our relationships become transactional based upon performance. This is an unhealthy dynamic that I don’t believe is the pattern set out for us in the New Testament.
How much more free and empowered would people feel if they knew they didn’t have to perform to earn your blessing? And how much more genuine would our love be if we knew it wasn’t required in order to be blessed or loved in return?
It sure would be a blessing.