Chapters 5-7 in Mathew are known as the Sermon on the Mount, which took place on a hillside near Capernaum. It challenged the proud religious leaders of that time.
The Sermon on the Mount was Jesus’ longest sermon recorded in the Bible and he began by describing the characteristics he was looking for in his followers, which are the Beatitudes. He says that he blesses those who desire, develop and live out these characteristics. The best example of each characteristic is found in Jesus himself. And if our goal is to become like Jesus, applying the Beatitudes will challenge the way we live our lives.
The word BEATITUDE comes from the Latin word BEATUS, which means blessed. So we know straight away that this passage is about how God blesses his people.
The beatitudes should guide us, point us in the right direction, teach us, and show us the values that Jesus cares about. As we read them we should be looking at whether or not we are trying to follow them.
The First Beatitude verse 3
God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for Him,
for the kingdom of heaven is given to them.
The word poor here means those who are poor IN SPIRIT. Jesus wasn’t talking about people being financially poor. To be poor in spirit means to recognize that we fall short of what God wants us to be. It means that we know we are unworthy to receive God’s grace. The poor in spirit see that without God we cannot be forgiven and made new.
We see an example of being poor in spirit in Luke 18:9-14. It is the story of a Pharisee who believed he was completely righteous and looked down on everybody else. The Pharisee stood up in the temple and thanked God that he was not a thief, a liar or a cheat like the tax collector who was also at the temple. He boasted to God that he fasts twice a week and always gives a tenth of his earnings to God. The tax collector stood at a distance, feeling unworthy to look up to heaven. The tax collector said, “God, please have mercy on me, for I am nothing but a sinner.” The Pharisee did not recognize his faults but the tax collector recognized his need for God and for forgiveness, and that is being poor in spirit.
Jesus says that only the poor in spirit will enter into the kingdom of God because they confess and turn to Jesus.
It is easy to agree that we need to walk in repentance but it can be hard to do. Pride can get in the way of us realising our need for God. James 4:7-10 tells us exactly how to develop the right attitude so that we can live by this first characteristic Jesus mentions. It tells us that we must humble ourselves to be able to recognize our need for God.
The Second Beatitude v4
God blesses those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Now the person that mourns is the person who becomes poor in spirit and repents. It isn’t necessarily talking about mourning over the death of somebody. It is talking about recognizing that we are sinners and understanding how much those sins hurt God and others.
None of us can mourn like this unless we have the Holy Spirit within us because it is the Holy Spirit who convicts us of our sin. When we sin we bring dishonour to God’s name. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to do wrong and just take forgiveness for granted.
When we want happiness at any cost the lines between right and wrong can become blurred and we stop seeing how far from Jesus we have come. That is when we stop mourning over our sin. But when we do mourn God will comfort us. One of the great examples showing this is the story of the prodigal son.
The Third Beatitude v5
God blesses those who are gentle and lowly,
for they will inherit the whole earth.
When we look in the Old Testament it says in Psalm 37:11 “The lowly will possess the land and will live in peace and prosperity”. Jesus was saying the same thing in our reading in Matthew when he said that those who are gentle and lowly, meaning humble or meek, will inherit the earth.
The Greek word for meek is praus and was used to refer to domesticated animals. The word does not refer to a wild, disobedient animal; it refers to a strong and powerful horse or ox that was trained and disciplined so that it could be controlled by a human.
The word lowly (or meek) used in this verse refers to a strong person who is under God’s control. They are controlled by God in every aspect of their lives, especially in their soul and spirit. Meekness is more than skin deep. It does not mean that we become weak. A meek or humble person cannot be walked over, but can be bold.
When we want to be powerful we ruin our chances of being humble and we can only become truly humble when we get to know Jesus because Jesus is the one who was a true servant (Matt 11:27-30)
The Fourth Beatitude v6
God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,
for they will be satisfied.
To want justice is to want righteousness. Righteousness is right living. Proverbs 21:21 tells us that we will find love, honour and justice when we search for righteousness. It means we are concerned about the welfare of others, seek out what is honest, stand firm, receive peace and joy and are rewarded by God. Being righteous is a lifestyle that Jesus approves of and it tells us that in Psalm 11:7. There are plenty more verses in the Bible that talk about how to live righteously and about how Jesus is righteous. It is fair to say therefore that God expects us to take notice of it.
We must do our best to want what is right for ourselves and other people and then God will make sure we are satisfied.
The Fifth Beatitude v7
God blesses those who are merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Mercy is love toward those that need some sort of support, especially in the area of forgiveness. God shows us mercy. We need His mercy every day because were are not perfect and we sin daily. If God is willing to give us mercy then we should be happy to extend mercy to others. In the Lords Prayer we say, “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”. We must forgive and show mercy if we expect God to do the same for us.
Pride prevents God showing us mercy and us showing mercy to others. Self righteousness brings about pride and prevents us from learning from God because it puts a barrier up straight away. Ephesians 5:1-2 talks about following Jesus’ example in showing mercy by living a life of love. The Old Testament speaks on it too (Psalm 41:1 and more!)
The Sixth Beatitude v8
God blesses those whose hearts are pure,
for they will see God.
The Bible tells us the same thing in Psalms 24, 51 and 119. They also tell us exactly how to make our hearts pure. To become pure is to become holy. Psalm 119:9 reads, “How can a believer keep his heart pure? By keeping it according to the word of God”. If we live by God’s instructions we will keep our hearts pure. We will only find out what God’s instructions are if we read the Bible and talk to him!
This beatitude tells us that if we are pure in heart then we will see God. That means we will see God in Heaven, but it also means that we will see and experience Him now.
Deception and lies destroy purity. The world teaches that deception is acceptable. School friends may say it’s OK to copy a piece of homework, work colleagues may encourage us to keep something from the boss and brothers and sisters can suggest that we tell a white lie so we don’t get grounded. These are all examples of deception, even though to some of us they may be seen as little lies and not big ones! Either way it is deception and it contaminates what is pure.
The Seventh Beatitude v9
God blesses those who work for peace,
for they will be called children of God.
Being a peacemaker is not the same as being a peacekeeper. Making peace does not mean you try to keep everybody happy. A peacemaker does not say yes to everybody and everything. A peacemaker builds their character on truth and righteousness. We can create true peace if we are at peace with God. Peacemakers are also those who try to make peace even if they fail.
On the other hand, if you are a keeper of peace you will try to keep everybody happy whatever the cost, even if that means going against God. The world is full of peace keepers. We need to be different and make the peace instead.
Romans 14:19 tells us to pursue those things that make peace and harmony. As a body we should be living in harmony and encouraging each other in our walks with God. By disciplining ourselves and by accepting discipline correctly, peace will be created. We will be blessed for working to make peace and it tells us in James 3:18 that those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of goodness, becoming known as God’s children.
The Eighth Beatitude v10
God blesses those who are persecuted because they live for God,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs
As Christians we want to live like Jesus. If we want to live like Jesus then we have to become like Jesus in every way. Well the Bible tells us that if we live godly lives we will definitely suffer (2 Timothy 3:12). Jesus said in John 15:20 that if people hurt Him, the Son of God, then they will hurt us too. Therefore we should be expecting it. It doesn’t mean it’s nice but then again Jesus never told us our lives would be nice and easy.
By living righteously we separate ourselves from the world and make it known that we belong to God.
In today’s society to tell others that you are a Christian is to bring on smirks and laughs, nasty comments, and sometimes even physical abuse or death. The world hates Jesus because he is light and truth and as the common saying goes, sometimes the truth hurts.
Jesus said to be happy when we are persecuted or picked on because of our faith. This can be really hard to understand, but persecution should only make us stronger. The fact that we experience persecution is evidence to show we are being faithful because faithless people would go unnoticed and even God’s greatest prophets went through the same thing. In the future God will reward us by receiving us into his kingdom that will last forever, where there will be no more suffering.
SALT AND LIGHT v 11-16
Jesus then goes on to tell his disciples that his people are the salt of the earth. However, if we lose our saltiness we become useless. If a seasoning has no flavour it has no purpose. It would no longer be a seasoning. If we make no effort to affect the world around us, we have little value to God. Salt is a natural cleanser. We are God’s holy and clean people. If we let the world take over us we lose our cleanliness. We should not blend in with everybody else. Instead, we should affect others positively, just as seasoning brings out the best flavour in food.
Jesus also tells us that we are the light of the world, like a city on a mountain that is obvious for all to see. You cannot hide a city that is sitting on top of a mountain, especially in the dark because its light can be seen for miles. If we live for Jesus we will glow like lights, showing others what Christ is like. Why should we hide that light anyway? Why should we keep quiet or go along with the crowd when we should speak up? Why should we let sin put our light out and ignore the needs of others? The answer is, we shouldn’t. We are God’s light for a reason. If a lamp doesn’t help people to see it isn’t worth much.
So, here are some questions we should all be asking ourselves having looked at this reading:
- Do we recognize our need for God and readily come to him in repentance?
- Are we developing a humble and merciful attitude, wanting justice to be done, righteousness to rule and forgiveness to be given?
- Are we making sure our hearts and minds are pure, and working to bring about peace?
- Have we ever been persecuted for standing up for Christ? If not, why?
- Are we acting as God’s salt and light in a world that tries to destroy what is good?
Jesus has pointed out to us what kind of lives would be required of his followers. Let us do our very best to make sure we are living as Jesus has taught.