This passage of scripture is one of the well known parts of the teachings of Jesus which even Mahatma Gandhi was influenced by. However, it is not understood very easily and few people care to obey it.
The challenge which comes at the end of the section is not to be just hearers of God’s word but be doers of it. This what Jesus wanted his disciples to be and to do. He wanted them to be distinct and different from the world and therefore this Sermon on the Mount can be defined as Christian counter culture. (John Stott)
In the midst of a chaotic world there needs to be a search for a cultural alternative. This search is guided by the Holy Spirit who leads us into a lifestyle based on the values of the kingdom of God. Young people are constantly looking for the right things but in the wrong places. They do not see the church as a place which makes life, love and peace as a reality. The church unfortunately has conformed to the world and is not being counter-cultural. The church was meant to be a ‘holy’ people set apart from the world to be distinct and different. However, the church has been like the world rather than being distinct.
The challenge in these passages for the disciples of Christ is to shine in the midst of darkness. Our righteousness is to exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees in our ethical behaviour and religious devotion. The believer is to be distinct from the nominal Christian and the secular world. They are to portray what it means to be under the reign of God and live as the children of God.
Matthew 5:1-12 is called as the beatitudes. The idea is of being blessed or happy. In Jesus’s view, blessedness does not come from what we own but rather the inner qualities of life which will make us blessed. The name ‘Sermon on the Mount’ is given for this passage because it was given on a mountain top from a vantage point from where Jesus could see all the people and he too was visible to the hearers.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Initially meant to be the materially poor - the needy had no refuge but God. Psalm - this poor man - a person who is unable to save himself and therefore looks to God for salvation. The idea is of someone who is stripped of all that he has materially that even in his spirit he cannot think of anything changing his circumstances. His inner spirit has been broken. The poor in spirit could also mean acknowledging our spiritual bankruptcy before God. The Publican who would not even lift his head and said - Lord have mercy on me a sinner. Lk 18:10-14 Church at Laodicia - who thought that they were rich and prosperous - I know that you are wretched pitiable, poor blind and naked. Rev. 3: 14-21.
Nothing In my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked come to thee for dress;
Helpless, look to thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Saviour or I die
Those who rely on the mercy of God are the poor in spirit. For God’s rule which brings salvation is a gift as absolutely free as it is utterly undeserved. It is purely by the grace of God that we are saved. The time of painful loss will be overturned and they will benefit from the comfort of God.
This too is the coming of the Kingdom of God for the poor in spirit. The poor in spirit will be those who sense the burden of their present (impoverished) state, and see it in terms of the absence of God; who patiently bear that state, but long for God to act on their behalf and decisively claim them again as his people. To people like this belongs the kingdom of heaven which has now drawn near. App. God will overturn situations and intervene on behalf of the poor and the needy in spirit.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. It is not the sorrow of bereavement that Christ is talking about, but the sorrow of repentance – a state of contrition. Jesus wept over the sins of others NRS Philippians 3:18 For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. 1662 BCP Cranmer – we acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness. Paul groans about himself in Rom 7 – ‘What a wretched man I am’. Mourners who bewail their own sinfulness, will be comforted by the only comfort which can relieve their distress, namely the free forgiveness of God.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Humble and gentle attitude towards others. Sometimes we are willing to acknowledge our sinfulness and weaknesses before God, but if someone else says something then we have a big problem.
Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones says, ‘Meekness is essentially a true view of oneself, expressing itself in attitude and conduct with respect to others… The man who is truly meek is the one who is truly amazed that God and others think of him as well as they do and treat him as well as they do. They will inherit the earth - the whole thing is contrary to what the world teaches us.
Society teaches us to be aggressive and be go-getters always getting the better of others. Ps 37 :1 Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers, Psalm 37:7 Be still before the LORD, and wait patiently for him; do not fret over those who prosper in their way, over those who carry out evil devices. Wait for the Lord for vindication is always with God.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Spiritual hunger is characteristic of all God’s people. Righteousness – Legal, Moral and Social Legal Righteousness – Justification – a right relationship with God. Moral Righteousness - Righteousness of character and conduct which pleases God - contrasted with Pharisaic righteousness.
Pharisees were interested in external conformity to rules – contrasted with inner righteousness of heart mind and motive. Social Righteousness – seeking the liberation for human beings who are oppressed. Promotion of civil rights, justice in law courts, integrity in business and honour in home and family affairs.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Persecution is a token of Christian genuineness and authenticity. The condition of being despised and rejected, slandered and persecuted, is as much a normal mark of Christian discipleship as being pure in heart or merciful. Lk 6:26 Woe to you when all speak well of you.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you”. (Matt. 5:1-12 NIV)
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Mercy – Compassion for people in need – Classic example is the good Samaritan. If you forgive then your heavenly father will also forgive – Example – the unforgiving servant. Nothing proves more clearly that we have been forgiven than our own readiness to forgive.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Popular interpretation is of inward purity. Create in me a clean heart O God and renew a right spirit within me. Pure in heart are the ones who are single minded in their purpose. In their relationships with God and human beings they are absolutely transparent. No masks as many of us would like to wear.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Peace-making is divine work, for peace means reconciliation and God is the author of it. God made peace with us at immense cost even at the price of his only son.
Peace normally comes through pain – pain of having to apologize to the person whom we have hurt; pain of rebuking the person who has injured us; nagging pain of having to refuse to forgive the guilty party until they repent. Sometimes the struggle involved in reconciling two parties. There is the pain of listening, of ridding ourselves of prejudice, risking misunderstanding.
The beatitudes paints a comprehensive portrait of a Christian disciple. One who acknowledges his spiritual poverty and mourns over it. He is meek and seeks the good of others and has a sincere and pure attitude. He thirsts for righteousness, shows mercy to those battered by adversity and sin. He is a peacemaker. In spite of all this he is persecuted.
The values and standards are in direct conflict with the values and standards of the world. The world judges the rich to be blessed, not the poor; the happy go lucky, not those who take evil seriously and mourn over it; the strong and the brash not the humble and meek; the full not the hungry; those who attain their ends even if necessary by devious means. God wants us to imitate his character by being distinct and different in our day to day life by being counter cultural as described in the Sermon on the Mount.
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