Sermon on the Mount: Beatitudes
Background: The “Sermon on the Mount” is the longest teaching monologue we have on record of Jesus. In scripture, it begins in Matthew 5 and ends in Matthew 7. Jesus pulls away to top of a hill where the crowds have followed him so that he might reveal spiritual truth. There is a certain rhythmic flow to his teaching that must have been awe-inspiring as an onlooker. Imagine yourself standing under a tree to sitting in the grass as this new teacher from Nazareth speaks in a way you have never encountered before, revealing new truths about God that you had never heard or thought on your own. He begins with the beatitudes, which means “a state of supreme blessedness.”
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:3-12 ESV)
Journal: Matthew Henry begins with “Blessed—Of the two words which our translators render “blessed,” the one here used points more to what is inward, and so might be rendered “happy,” in a lofty sense; while the other denotes rather what comes to us from without (as Mt 25:34). But the distinction is not always clearly carried out. One Hebrew word expresses both. On these precious Beatitudes, observe that though eight in number, there are here but seven distinct features of character. The eighth one—the “persecuted for righteousness’ sake”—denotes merely the possessors of the seven preceding features, on account of which it is that they are persecuted (2Ti 3:12).” Thus, the seven character traits, according to Henry, of one who is internally and eternally blessed by God are those who are poor, those who mourn, those who are meek, those who hunger for righteousness, those who are merciful, those who are pure in heart, and those who are peacemakers. More simply:
1. Poor: Jesus will later teacher on the difficulty of the rich man entering heaven. Here Jesus shows us first and foremost that worldly blessedness is not the target for those seeking heavenly blessings.
2. Mourn: People who endure sorrow/pain as well as empathize with others in theirs. This beatitude could also be viewed as passion/compassion.
3. Meek: It sounds so close to weak that we often make the two synonymous with one another. In fact, meek is best translated humble. Therefore, heavenly blessings will go to those who put themselves lower than others, servants.
4. Hunger for Righteousness: Those who seek God’s truth and justice for themselves and for the sake of other people. They yearn to live in right-standing with God. Jesus is the one speaking, so it is interesting that later He becomes the only path through which to achieve this blessing.
5. Merciful: Forgiving of others. Giving grace where grace is needed, not necessarily deserved.
6. Pure in Heart: It is easiest to talk the talk. It is a bit harder to walk the walk, but it is the hardest to do all of these things with pure intentions that are merely focused on God’s glory and not their own.
7. Peacemakers: Do you seek to restore others/yourself to right relationships with God and right relationships with others? That is the role of a peacemaker, to restore relationships. Peacekeepers just keep bad things from happening, but a peacemaker enters the situation with a goal of restoring relationships that have been broken.
These are all goals for us as followers of Christ from a behavioral standpoint. He, at some point in his life, did all of these things. His greatest act was his making peace between us and God through the cross. Jesus begins his sermon on the mount with the beatitudes to set a worldview standard for the rest of his teachings. He was almost saying, “I am going to say some stuff you won’t understand unless you first understand these core principles.”