Among the sermons recorded in the Bible, the Sermon on the Mount is perhaps the best known. Jesus’ hearers literally were astonished when they heard Jesus’ words for the first time. Gently, yet forcefully Jesus expounded the Old Testament with a New Testament focus. It is aptly called the Constitution of the Kingdom of God. In this series we will limit our study to the opening passage of the sermon, commonly known as the Beatitudes. No Scripture equals the description of the citizens of Jesus’ Kingdom than the elementary yet comprehensive sketch of His genuine subjects.
1 - General Introduction on the Sermon on the Mount
Before we take a close look at the Beatitudes, which are the nine statements beginning with “blessed are” found in Matthew 5:3–12, we need to first start with a bird’s-eye view of the context, the context of the Gospel of Matthew, and the context of the Sermon on the Mount in chapters 5 to 7.
2 - General Introduction on the Beatitudes
As we go through Jesus’ teachings in the Bible, you’ll notice that He loves to teach in surprising contrasts, He often puts white against black or good versus evil. We see that also in this astonishing Scripture of the Beatitudes. There are some amazing contrasts that we would usually not combine together. Who of you would call someone blessed (the word blessed you find in these Beatitudes and in every opening word—that means supremely happy)—would you call someone blessed who is poor? Or sad? mourning? Or someone who is hungry (and the word is starving)?
3 - Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit
Let us examine the first beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mat- thew 5:3). Jesus declares you blessed if you are poor in spirit. Let us ask what is it to be poor in spirit? Secondly, why are you blessed if you are poor in spirit? What is it then to be poor in spirit? Let us first look at these words. To be poor in spirit is not the same as to be poor. This beatitude has nothing to do with material or physical or social poverty.
4 - Blessed are They That Mourn
Let’s now take a closer look at the second Beatitude under the same two headings as we looked at the first. What is the mourning that Jesus considers blessed—“Blessed are they that mourn”? Secondly, why are such mourners blessed – “for they shall be comforted?” “Blessed are they that mourn.” What is this bless- ed mourning? Don’t you see that Jesus’ second Beatitude stands again completely perpendicular to how we think or how we feel? We would call them that are happy, that are joyful, that are laughing, that are having a feast—we call them blessed.
5 - Blessed are the Meek
So let’s consider this third Beatitude as we did the first two, by merely asking two questions. First, what is this meekness that Jesus speaks of, and [second], why are such meek ones blessed? First, what is this meekness—“blessed are the meek”? As we work our way through these Beatitudes, you can see how interconnected these Beat- itudes are, and you’ll see that really beautifully in these first three.
6 - Blessed are They Which do Hunger and Thirst
In the previous talk, I have drawn attention to the fact that Jesus’ seven Beatitudes are carefully structured. You recall, hopefully, that I compared them to a person with a rib cage of six ribs, with a breastbone connecting in the middle—the fourth one, and then three on both sides. Let me add a different mental picture, and this is the picture of a fruit tree. The first three of the Beatitudes, compare those to the roots feeding into the trunk—poor, mourning, meek. The second set of the three are the fruit bearing branches that come out of the trunk. That makes the fourth Beatitude a massive, solid tree trunk.
7 - Blessed are the Merciful
Today we will consider the fifth Beatitude, “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” May we all be as Mary, sitting at Jesus’ feet, to hear what He has to say to us in this Beatitude. In the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stated a simple but very effective truth with which I want to begin. He says later in Matthew 7:17–18 [that] by the fruit you shall know a tree. Now that’s not only true about trees, but it’s also about people in general and about believers in the kingdom of Jesus Christ. How you act, both in public but mostly in private, reveals who you really are.
8 - Blessed are the Pure in Heart
I’m really delighted to present to you the sixth Beatitude in this part of our studies of Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:2–12. I pray that each reflection that we have given to this majestic opening of the Sermon on the Mount may have done at least two things to you. First of all, comfort, as you recognize the workmanship of Jesus Christ in your own heart and life, for that was the intent of this “blessed are.” However, you see many imperfections, and let not these imperfections in how you experience to live out these Beatitudes rob you of the comfort Jesus is giving in these words.
9 - Blessed are the Peacemakers
This session is devoted to the exposition of the seventh Beatitude, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” I hope and pray that at the end of our series, we may share something of what the original hearers of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount experienced, for we read that they were astonished. Why did it have this effect on them? It is not just because Jesus’ teaching was just novel or new, though it was in some ways definitely that also; but His teaching was so entirely opposed to how we are used to think or trained to think.
10 - Blessed are They Which are Persecuted for Righteousness’ Sake
In this section today, we will focus our thoughts on verses 10, 11 and 12, which close the Beatitudes’ section. Now, let me first place these verses in the context again, and in the connection to the previous seven verses. In the Beatitudes, the Master Teacher has given us the portrait of every citizen of His vast Kingdom and a deep and great variety of His people in them. Now that shows an exceeding great wisdom, for the variety among Jesus’ citizens of His Kingdom at least are huge.