March 29, 2020
THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT (1)
“The Beatitudes-1 (Matthew 5:3-12)”
For some time now, I’ve wanted to take an in-depth look at arguably the greatest Christian sermon ever recorded in the Bible, and that is “The Sermon on the Mount.” “The Sermon on the Mount” was the first recorded sermon ever preached by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. As we enter into this study, I believe that we will find as much wisdom in these three chapters of Matthew than we will see throughout the remainder of the Gospels.
As we begin to take a closer look at “The Sermon on the Mount,” we notice first the section known as “The Beatitudes.” (read Matthew 5:3-12)
The word “beatitude” means supreme blessedness or happiness, and we find Jesus discussing the blessedness of those who posses certain qualities. It is as though Jesus was answering two questions people might have been asking:
Who will be the citizens of “the kingdom of heaven”?
What benefits do they receive?
Usually, when someone begins a study on “The Beatitudes,” they examine each of the beatitudes in detail before moving on to the next, but I am going to look at the entire section in an overall fashion twice, from two perspectives. And it will take me two weeks to do it.
This morning, I would like us to consider “The Beatitudes” from the viewpoint of the question:
Who will be the citizens of the kingdom?
In other words, what is the character required of the citizens of the kingdom?
Their Character involves inter-related qualities
They will possess all of these qualities meaning that only those who have all of the qualities described will truly be citizens of the kingdom. It will be evident that some may be “poor in spirit,” but not “hunger and thirst after righteousness.” Some may be “mournful,” but not “pure in heart.” What we must understand is that these qualities are inter-related. It takes all, of these qualities, working hand in hand with each other. This passage is similar to the passage found in 2 Peter 1:5-11 where we see various qualities listed that have to work together, (add to your faith virtue, to your virtue knowledge, etc) if the person is ever going to be rewarded (an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom).
How the qualities are inter-related becomes apparent as we consider that… Their character includes eight different qualities
They are “poor in spirit”
To be “poor in spirit” is to have a humble opinion of ourselves, to understand that we are sinners, and have no righteousness of our own, and to be willing to be saved only by the rich grace and mercy of God. Meaning that we must be convicted of our own spiritual poverty. This is exemplified by the tax collector in Luke 18:13, But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God have mercy on me, a sinner.’ Such people will be accepted into his good favor, Isaiah 66:2, “This is my one esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” The opposite of “poor in spirit” would be “proud of heart,” and those who are this way are more like the Pharisee in Luke 18:9-12 (read verses), and verse 14 tells us of God preference (read verse).
They do not mourn in a specific sense: over one’s own spiritual poverty, or one’s own sinfulness, but they mourn like David did after his adultery with Bathsheba in Psalm 51:3-4, For, I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, and only you, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.
Note the relationship between these first two characteristics: unless one is first “poor in spirit” they will not “mourn” over their spiritual poverty.
They are “meek”
This means to be gentle. It means you would rather suffer injury than inflict it, not out of weakness, but out of humility, realizing one’s own poverty of spirit, or one’s own sinfulness. A good example of meekness was Moses: He was certainly not a weak or timid man as seen in Exodus 32:19-20, (read verses) and in verses 30-34 (read verses). But when he was personally attacked, he was very humble as in Numbers 12:1-3 (read verses).
They “hunger and thirst for righteousness”
They look for the righteousness, which will meet:
Their spiritual poverty, and their mourning over the same.
To “hunger and thirst” suggests not a half-hearted search, but one exemplified by Paul in Philippians 3:7-15a (read verses).
They are “merciful”
This means being loving towards those in misery (e.g., the “Good Samaritan”) possessing a forgiving spirit toward those who sin against them. For example:
As Jesus had toward those crucifying Him in Luke 23:34, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Or as Stephen had toward those stoning him in Acts 7:60, Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Jesus stressed this characteristic on several occasions:
Later in “The Sermon on the Mount,” in teaching on prayer in Matthew 6:14-15, For if you forgive me when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive you, and also in his parable of “The Unforgiving Servant” in Matthew 18:21-35 (read verses).
We can find that this virtue will grow out of our own personal experiences of the mercy of God.
They are “pure in heart”
Defined as a singleness of heart, the honesty that has no hidden motive, no selfish interest, and is true and open in all things. This refers to one who is sincere, honest, and not hypocritical of others. This is a quality that is necessary to see God. Psalm 24:3-4, Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.
They are “peacemakers”
They devote their lives to making peace by following the Prince of Peace. They make every effort to be at peace with all men as in Romans 12:18-21 (read verse). They help others to be at peace with God by proclaiming the gospel of peace. Romans 5:1 tells us, Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. They live in peace, if possible, with all men and work to keep and to make peace where peace is threatened or lost. Theirs is the work of true Christians who follow in the footsteps of the Prince of Peace.
They are “persecuted for righteousness’ sake”
The verb tense (passive perfect) seems to tell us here that these people have allowed themselves to be persecuted or have endured persecution. It’s the idea that they did not flee from it but willingness submitted to it when it came to them. In that way, verses 11 explains it as this persecution includes being:
Reviled or reproached, persecuted, and slandered falsely, all for Jesus’ sake.
That type of persecution would often afflict those who are citizens of the kingdom. Philippians 1:29-30 helps us understand more. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.
Such are the characteristics of those who will be citizens of the kingdom of heaven:
They are poor in spirit (realizing their sinfulness)
Thus they mourn (for their sins)
Thus they are meek (gentle toward God and others)
Thus they hunger and thirst for righteousness (which they desperately need)
Thus they are merciful (for they know the need mercy)
Thus they are pure in heart (seeking to please God with singleness of heart)
Thus they are peacemakers (making peace with others, having found peace with God)
Thus they are persecuted for the kingdom of heaven (misunderstood by the proud and arrogant who are still in their sins)
Such is the character of the citizens of the kingdom of heaven. Involving eight graces, all inter-related, working together to produce the right kind of character.
Is the kingdom of heaven worth whatever effort might be involved in developing this kind of character?
Next week wee will see the answer to this question as we view “The Beatitudes” from the viewpoint of another question:
What benefits do the citizens of the kingdom receive?