Just before giving us the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew has explained that crowds of people were traveling from all over the nation of Israel and the surrounding Gentile countries to get near Jesus. There was a massive outpouring of healing of all kinds of diseases, severe pain, demonic oppression, and physical deformities. The heart of God for the suffering of humanity was shining through the obedient actions of His Son. Jesus had also chosen the twelve disciples.
One day during this time of outpouring power and wild popularity, Jesus saw the crowds and made His way to the top of a mountainside. His disciples gathered around Him to listen. What is interesting is that Matthew says that the words of Christ that followed were specifically to teach them. The crowds were allowed to listen, but this sermon was given to teach those who were devoted to Him about how they were to live for the Kingdom of God. They would carry on the message of the Kingdom to the world after He took His seat on his throne.
Serving the Most High God in a world riddled with sin and evil is not easy. There are all kinds of problems and challenges that can get in the way of doing it well. Some day, those who have faith in Christ will be taken to Heaven, where we will never be tempted by sin again. We will be made whole and free to obey God perfectly. As we wait for that wonderful day, the Lord Jesus wants His followers to strive to be made perfect in God’s power. In the heart of this Sermon, He says, “‘Be perfect…as your heavenly Father is perfect.’” As we read more, we will learn what that perfection means to Christ.
In the beginning of the Sermon, Jesus teaches about the kind of people who will be allowed to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. It is a very different list than the kinds of things we usually tend to value. He says nothing about the proud and accomplished rulers of earth or the rich or the fabulously talented. Does God bless the ones who get all the hard work done? Will the blessed be the good looking people whose beauty seems to shine wherever they go or the innovative and creative? These are the things we value, aren’t they? If you made a list of the people in the world today that are famous and widely respected, they are mostly made up of people who are some combination of these things. And many of these things can be very good. But in this fallen, cursed world, everything gets distorted, even our ideas of who we are meant to be and what is valuable. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave a beautiful picture of what it means to have a heart that is being perfected by God.
Imagine the power of the message as Jesus poured out pure, whole, enlivened truth to a sinful, dark, confused, and suffering world. This is what He said:
“‘Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and
thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blesses are the merciful
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called the sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted
because of righteousness
for there is the kingdom of heaven.’”
Aren’t those beautiful words? Read them again! What do you think Jesus meant by “blessed”? In the Bible, believers are blessed by God. What I think is totally amazing is that believers can also bless God. When God blesses us, it means He is approving of us. He is pleased…delighted, enjoying who we are in our relationship with Him. It moves Him on our behalf. And when we bless God, it means we are praising Him because we see Him for all the wonder that He is. There is no act that a person can do that is greater than giving praise to the most worthy God. And that matters to Him. A lot. It is also critical for the human soul to do it…it is what we were made for, and when we don’t, something is missing within us. There is no gift that we can receive that is of higher honor than to receive God’s blessing. The interaction between God and His children in mutual blessing is the central goodness and joy of where the human race were created to live.
Our whole hearts should strive to be the kind of person He longs to bless. This is our expression of love to Him.
If we consider the things the people who are blessed will receive, it is pretty stunning…comfort, mercy, to be filled with righteousness, to become inheritors of the earth, to receive the Kingdom of Heaven, to be given the ability to see God…wow.
So what does it mean to be poor in spirit? What does it mean to mourn, to be meek, and to hunger and thirst for righteousness? How does Jesus want us to show mercy, to become pure in heart, and to be peacemakers? And what does it mean to receive the remarkable gifts that each of these qualities bring?