One of the memories that I have of my childhood church is looking at the stain glass windows and seeing quotes from the Sermon on the Mount embedded in them. I have since thought that there must be something special about this sermon or lesson provided by our Lord. At first blush it appears as though Jesus is blessing the downtrodden and helpless. While I won’t say that this is an inaccurate deduction, I believe that there is more to this lesson than simply blessing the lowly. After all, He introduces the lesson with the beatitudes and then expounds on a few key elements to drive home His objective.
Let’s take a look…
Jesus teaching the crowd
And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: “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 5:2-12 ESV, emphasis added)
That is the lesson. Jesus continues by fleshing out a few of His points but the Beatitudes are more than enough for us to examine now. Once again, I am amazed at how much the Master Teacher is able to say in relatively few words; incredible. We must pay close attention or His meaning is liable to fly right over our proverbial heads.
The “poor in spirit” are those who are humble. Christians must never forget that they are no better than anyone else. The one and only difference is that we are saved by grace because of our faith in Jesus Christ. By ourselves, however, we are sinners to our core. Be humble, therefore, you have done nothing to earn your salvation. It is a gift.
“Those who mourn” are those believers who show empathy for the trials and pain of others. They know that believers are not immune to the struggles of this life and if they have not gone through or are not going through similar circumstances, they will. But their hope is in Christ and that makes all the difference.
“The meek” is similar to “the poor in spirit”. Just as the poor in spirit do not elevate themselves above others for their own sake, the meek recognize that when compared to God, we are all on the same level. He is God, we are not. This does not mean that “it’s all good” or anything like that. It’s akin to the saying that God is not a respecter of persons. We are all sinners, though some of us are saved.
“Those who seek after righteousness” are those believers who seek Jesus and the kingdom of heaven. If one truly seeks after Christ with all of one’s mind, soul and strength, one will find Him and that is where true satisfaction is found. (c.f. v 33)
“The merciful” are those who show mercy and compassion. Christians are taught to pray for God to “forgive our debts as we have also forgiven our debtors” (Matt. 6: 12). Therefore be merciful and you will receive mercy from our Father in heaven. (c.f. v 22)
“The pure in heart” are those who are living their lives as though what they think and do matters to God. They do this not out of piety but from their hearts. Knowing Jesus and His love, they in turn live this love and let it shine like a city on a hill (v. 14)
“The peacemakers” are those believers who are willing to dialogue with others out of love for them. Knowing that the other is no more of a sinner than they, judgement is put aside in an attempt at finding the truth. c.f. 7; 12)
“Those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake” are those who maintain their Christian integrity by not conforming to those around them or accepting lies for the truth and are maligned because of their moral behavior.
Being “reviled and persecuted” for the sake of Christ takes things to a whole other level. When a person is persecuted and maligned because he or she is a Christian. When this happens, it is not the believer who is being attacked as much as Christ Jesus Himself. The believer is now a martyr and the reward that awaits in heaven is a great one.
What does this have to do with love?
Yes. Love is the operative word on this blog these days so what do the beatitudes have to do with that? Simply put, everything. The beatitudes and the rest of Jesus’ sermon/lesson teach believers how to live their lives in a love. A Christian is not to hold one’s self above others, not condemning harshly or maligning others. We are to speak and act from hearts filled with the love of Christ garnered by spending time with Him in study, prayer, and ministry. Christians must be strong in their faith and unwielding to cultural and social pressures. They are then light to the world. “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see yout good works and give glory to your father who is in heaven.” (5:16) In Christ, with Christ, by Christ, and for Christ: that is the only way that true Love grows and is manifested in the lives of believers for the benefit of those who witness their lives and for the glory of God. Love wants that which is best of others and the light of Christ is best for everyone.
More to follow.
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