I once heard a preacher say that this passage of Scripture could be looked upon as Jesus’ inaugural address.
Because Jesus delivered it on a hillside close to Capernaum, Matthew 5-7 is referred to as the Sermon on the Mount. Most likely, this sermon covered several days of preaching. Jesus expressed His stance on the Law in it.
In His Kingdom, money, position, and authority are of little significance. From the heart, true obedience is what matters. The egotistical and legalistic religious leaders of the time were challenged by the Sermon on the Mount.
It reminded them of the messages of the prophets of the Old Testament, who, like Jesus, taught that sincere obedience is more important than following legalistic rules.
Jesus was the talk of the town, and huge crowds were following Him. Everyone wanted to see Him. The disciples, who were the popular man’s closest friends, were definitely tempted to feel important, proud, and in control. They had a great chance of gaining wealth and prestige by being with Jesus (Luke 6:20-23).
Once more, the crowds were coming together. But before He spoke to them, Jesus took His disciples aside and told them about the temptations that would come their way as His associates. Jesus was telling them not to expect fame or fortune but rather sorrow, hunger, and persecution.
Jesus, on the other hand, promised His followers that they would be rewarded, though perhaps not in this life. Occasionally, following Jesus may bring us great popularity. If we do not apply what Jesus said in this sermon, we will only use God’s message to advance our own interests.
What Are the Beatitudes?
The Beatitudes can be interpreted in at least four different ways. First and foremost, they serve as a guide for all believers and a moral code for the disciples. Second, they contrast worldly values, which are temporary, with Kingdom values.
Thirdly, they contrast the genuine faith that Christ desires with the superficial faith of the Pharisees. Fourth, they demonstrate how the new Kingdom will fulfill the expectations of the Old Testament.
These beatitudes are not options with multiple choices, and we do not get to choose the ones we like and ignore the rest. They need to be taken together, and they show us how we are called to function as followers of Christ (Psalm 37:11; Psalm 51:17).
We can learn how to be blessed from each beatitude. The terms “happy” and “fortunate” are used in other translations. These words do not imply happiness, pleasure, or prosperity on Earth. Jesus transforms the world’s conception of happiness.
Jesus defines happiness as hope and joy regardless of external circumstances. We are commanded to follow Jesus regardless of the cost in order to attain hope and joy, the purest form of happiness (Isaiah 57:15; Isaiah 66:2).
When Jesus said in Matthew 4:17 that the Kingdom was coming, people naturally wanted to know, “How can I get into the Kingdom of God?”
Jesus stated that the organization of God’s Kingdom differs from that of worldly kingdoms. Wealth, power, and authority are of no consequence in the Heavenly Kingdom.
Kingdom people are different in their attitudes and seek different blessings and benefits. Are our attitudes reflective of Jesus, our King’s humility, and self-sacrifice, or are they like the world’s selfishness, pride, and lust for power?
Jesus began His sermon with seemingly contradictory statements. However, God’s way of living frequently goes against the world’s style of living. We must be prepared to say and do things that the world finds strange if we want to live for God.
We need to be willing to help when people abuse others, to love those when others take, and to give to others when people take. We will one day receive everything that God has planned for us if we give up our own rights to serve others (1 Peter 3:4; Psalm 41:1; 1 John 3:2-3).
Who Is Blessed?
Jesus starts by stating that the spiritually poor are blessed. This has nothing to do with finances or money. In any spiritual sense, being “poor in spirit” is the opposite of self-assurance and independence.
The spiritless poor are aware that they cannot support themselves through their own strength, goodness, or righteousness. They are aware that they lack true goodness spiritually. They cannot bargain or earn their way into heaven’s kingdom.
However, Jesus claims that they are blessed because they already possess the kingdom of heaven. To put it another way, being willing to acknowledge that one does not deserve a place in God’s kingdom is a prerequisite for entering that kingdom. This is not the same as thinking that one has earned citizenship on one’s own merit.
Those who mourn do so because of their own sin or because of Israel’s sin, as Jesus taught about the coming kingdom of heaven. Under Rome’s severe oppression and occupation, the Jewish people experience a state of mourning.
Since God had promised to bless Israel when they were faithful and to judge them when they were not, those who were true to God and His Word understood this to be the result of Israel’s sin and unfaithfulness.
Jesus now declares that the meek will inherit the earth and will be blessed. Despite the fact that many people misunderstand its meaning, meek does not mean weak. The best way to understand the term is gentleness, which means refusing to take control through force or manipulation.
From a Christian perspective, humility is based on faith. Instead of going to extremes to win the battle on our own terms, it is about trusting God to win in the end. Instead of strength seeking control, the idea is frequently referred to as strength under control.
This is exactly the opposite of what most people think. The majority of people hold the belief that powerful and ambitious individuals are in control of the world. The wealthy, powerful, and courageous own the world. Jesus reverses that. He declares that the meek are the earth’s true inheritors.
An appetite for righteousness is the subject of the following statement from Jesus. Jesus declares that those who hunger and thirst after righteousness have a good thing. Why? Because they will be content. Righteousness could mean two different things, according to commentators.
First, it is possible that Jesus was referring to people who are eager to have God declare them to be righteous. They want to become righteous and follow God’s will.
They are sincerely trying to be saved in that way. God will provide exactly that to those who put their faith in Jesus and ask for forgiveness from sin (Romans 5:17).
Another perspective asserts that Jesus is thinking of those who yearn to see righteousness win. They yearn for righteousness to prevail.
They desire the good to triumph over the bad in the world. Because all unrighteousness will be eradicated by the kingdom of heaven, these people will also be content. Their craving for righteousness will be satisfied.
Jesus now includes the merciful among those who ought to consider themselves blessed. Why? They will also be shown mercy. Jesus is talking about receiving God’s mercy. According to Psalm 18:25, God’s character calls for mercy toward the merciful.
The opposite should be true as well, but this is not always the case. According to Ephesians 4:32, those who have received mercy from God are called to be kind to others.
He declares that when He ascends to the throne, those who are merciful now will receive mercy from the King of heaven. He is not implying that one must be merciful to be saved; rather, He is implying that those who submit to God for salvation will naturally exhibit mercy toward others.
Jesus now declares that those who are “pure in heart” will see God and will be blessed. While this does not guarantee happiness, it does suggest that they should not despair.
When Jesus spoke for the first time, some people may have thought that being pure meant following the Jewish teachers’ instructions or keeping the law as it was written by Moses. This would convey the impression of complete sinlessness.
Jesus, on the other hand, emphasized the listeners’ hearts far more than their capacity to observe the laws. He preached against acting in accordance with the law and not out of genuine love for God.
The concept of something being unique, unified, unmixed, or consistent is what purity means in its most straightforward and original sense. The pure in heart are internally focused on a single thing, and that is God.
The Bible places a high value on making peace commitments, but what exactly does it mean to make peace? According to the Bible, a peacemaker is someone who brings people who were once at odds back together.
Jesus’ mission on earth was centered on reconciling God and those who would come to Him through faith. In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul expresses this (Ephesians 2:14-17).
“Through the blood of His cross,” Christ established this peace (Colossians 1:20). In other words, our sins were paid for by His death on the cross in our place. It broke down the barrier that separated humans from God.
Through Christ and the cross, everyone who seeks God finds peace with God (Romans 5:1). Therefore, it makes sense that anyone who makes a commitment to bringing peace to other people, particularly through personal sacrifice, imitates Christ.
Similar to how Israel was referred to as God’s son in the Old Testament (Exodus 4:22), such a person is referred to as a son of God.
Now, Jesus declares that those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake are blessed and a part of heaven’s kingdom. The kingdom was the sole focus of His early preaching ministry.
The Jewish people have been urged to repent of their sins by both Christ and John the Baptist in order to be prepared for the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 3:1-2; 4:17).
John made it abundantly clear that no person would be permitted entry just because they were Jewish. Being fruitful, being a blessing to others, and acting in a way that honors God have been referred to as the oaths of admission to the kingdom that Messiah would establish on earth.
This suggests that those being persecuted have some control over the situation. To put it another way, they did not make the decision to avoid doing the right thing in order to avoid being harassed or hurt.
In spite of being persecuted by the wicked, they made a conscious decision to serve God and honor Him.
What Does This Mean?
When we are persecuted, Jesus said to rejoice. Persecution can be beneficial because it distracts us from earthly rewards, drives away superficial believers, bolsters the faith of those who persevere and sets an example for others to follow.
Knowing that the greatest prophets of God were persecuted (Elijah, Jeremiah, and Daniel), can bring us comfort. The fact that we have been persecuted demonstrates our faithfulness.
The faithful will be rewarded by God in the future by being allowed into His eternal Kingdom, where there will be no more persecution (2 Timothy 2:12; 1 Peter 3:13-14; 2 Chronicles 36:16; Matthew 23:37; Acts 7:52).
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Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Marinela Malcheva
Chris Swanson answered the call into the ministry over 20 years ago. He has served as a Sunday School teacher, a youth director along with his wife, a music director, an associate pastor, and an interim pastor. He is a retired Navy Chief Hospital Corpsman with over 30 years of combined active and reserve service. You can check out his work here.