Next in this study is Matthew 5:3 and Matthew 5:10. In Context we will look at this well known Scripture known as the Beatitudes found in the Gospel of Matthew 5:1-12. I would note that in the Beatitudes, as recounted by Luke in his Gospel, chapter 6, verse 20, we see the “kingdom of God used”. This again, is a clue that the kingdom of God and kingdom of heaven are one and the same. We will look at the Beatitudes in Luke later in our study.
To many, these Scriptures are very familiar. Let’s look at them from the “Kingdom” standpoint. Again, remember that John the Baptist announced a new age dawning in which the kingdom of heaven was near. Jesus, in the beginning of His preaching ministry announces the same thing, “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near”. Now, a short time later the apostle Matthew relates to us the first record in his Gospel of Jesus Words explaining the kingdom of heaven. We commonly call this teaching the “Sermon on the Mount”. It takes place near Capernum. The first part of this teaching is the Beatitudes. I would note that the Scripture tells us that when Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountainside and sat down and that His disciples came to Him to learn. A disciple is a follower. I believe that He was primarily speaking to the chosen twelve, however, the crowds were present and listening. We should be listening also and have that opportunity through the Gospel of Matthew.
Looking closely at what Jesus is telling the disciples (and us), I imagine that they are feeling pretty special at that time, chosen by Jesus to follow Him. He was very popular at this time. They have seen many miracles already (I would note that the Gospel of Matthew is not necessarily in chronological order, but is arranged topically). Being near Jesus gave them prestige and power. But Jesus tells them that instead of fame and fortune they can expect mourning, hunger and persecution. But……He tells them that they can also expect blessings.
We will find that what Jesus teaches us in the Sermon on the Mount is not a way to salvation for the lost but rather is a way of life for true children of the kingdom of God. He starts with the attitudes of our hearts. Jesus is revealing the true nature of God’s kingdom, He is revealing a moral standard to which we must measure ourselves. Each Beatitude makes a statement about the kingdom of heaven. I would also note that upon looking closely at all the teachings of Christ concerning the Kingdom, I believe that the kingdom of heaven/the kingdom of God is both here right now and will be fully consummated in the future when Christ returns, in other words, speaks of the present as well as the future.
Let’s look at what Jesus tells us then in the Beatitudes:
Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Isaiah 66:2 helps us understand this verse. The poor in spirit are deeply aware of their spiritual poverty and conscious of their utter dependence on God, because complete dependence on God is the key to living in His Kingdom. The idea of God blessing the humble and resisting the proud can also be found in Proverbs 3:34 and James 4:6. This may seem strange to those in the world, but I believe it is true. We must be willing to give when others want to take, to love when others hate, to help when others hurt. We must put aside our selfish interest so that we can serve others to receive all the blessing that God has for us.
I have found in my life that as I have given up control of my life to God through trust and the knowledge that he knows and wants what is best for me, I have actually gained control over my life….not by my hand but by God’s. It’s a much better place to be. I had to first realize that I am utterly dependent on God, because all my life when I have been dependent on myself, I have paid a price. It’s much like growing up and finding that all those things my mother tried to teach me when I was young (which I resisted and didn’t believe) were actually true. I hope that makes sense in its own small way.
Mathew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
Here, Jesus speaks of those who are deeply moved by the condition of society and the plight of others as well as our own condition. When we are aware of our sin and mourn that sin, we have taken the first step to be able to deal with and put it behind us. When we truly care about others we find that we will be comforted, not only in caring for others, but others will comfort us in times of trouble. This requires us to be “others-centered” rather than “self-centered”. In doing so we discover the blessing of God and His kingdom.
Matthew 5:5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
This Beatitude is taken from Psalms 37:11 and refers not so much to an attitude toward people, but more to an attitude toward God……humility. Meekness, not to be confused with weakness, is celebrated throughout Scripture: 2 Corinthians 10:1; Galatians 5:22-23; Colossians 3:12-13; James 1:19-21.
Far from weakness, meekness speaks of a way of relating to God and others that abandons the drive for success at the expense of others in favor of concern for the benefit of others. I believe that while the blessing, “they shall inherit the earth”, will be fulfilled literally in the future, there is also a sense in which it is fulfilled in our daily lives now. The meek person is not driven by materialistic desires, and can find contentment in whatever God has given them to enjoy.
Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
Hungering for righteousness is a thirst to know and do God’s will. When we hunger to know and do God’s will, we will be filled, and we will find fulfillment. I believe that only in God’s will can the deepest longings of the human heart be satisfied. I believe that what Jesus promised is both external and internal. When we hunger and thirst for righteousness we experience that longing in at least three ways:
— The desire to be righteous: to be forgiven and accepted by God, to be right with God.
— The desire to do what is right: to do what God commands, imitating and reflecting God’s righteousness.
— The desire to see right done: to help bring about God’s will in the world.
I do want to caution here….we should not to be hungry for “self-righteousness”. We should not feel perfect and proud about our morals because that just inflates our ego. But, we should want what Jesus wants for us. When evil happens, we should hurt for the victims and long for the end of evil’s influence and strength. We should hunger for the end of trouble, for peace and righteousness. I would say that whenever we pray for God’s will to be done, we are getting hungry for righteousness.
Matthew 5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
Mercy in scripture is a loving response motivated by another’s need and helplessness. When we are merciful we are sensitive to the deepest needs of others. The word “merciful” implies generosity, forgiveness, and compassion, and it includes a desire to remove the wrong as well as to end suffering. This promise does not guarantee mercy in return from other people. But, our comfort comes in the knowledge that God will be merciful to us. Look at Ephesians 2:4-7.
Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
Our heart is the center of our being, this includes our mind, our will and our emotions. Jesus warned us also in Matthew 15:19 about our hearts. Here again we see God’s approval is not based on following the rules, but it is based on our conformance to His character.
Only the pure in heart can see God and His ways clearly, as well as walk in fellowship with Him. Look at what the apostle John tells us in 1 John 3:2-3. To be characterized as “pure in heart” we must be morally pure, honest, and sincere. I believe we must be people of integrity and we must be committed to be morally clean.
Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”
This includes restoring broken relationships and broken people as well. It sounds to me like this involves action, not just passive compliance. We must actually seek to “make peace”, to cause reconciliation, to end bitterness. I would also say that we shouldn’t do this in an appeasing way, but in a way of dealing with and solving problems to maintain peace. We should start in our own lives but also help and encourage others restore broken relationships.
I had a friend tell me recently of her broken relationship with their father, and her need to “mend” this relationship with forgiveness. I am happy to report that, while not always easy, in doing so, this friend has mended a part of her own heart.
Just a note, in the Jewish manner of speaking, to be called a “son of” something suggested identity or likeness with that something.
Matthew 5:10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Notice that Jesus begins and ends this teaching, the Beatitudes, with “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. When we live according to the will of God will often find ourselves at odds with the world around us. Look at what the apostle John tells us in John 15:18-19. These priorities and values that are described in the Beatitudes are approved by God but not always the people around us.
Why would people who follow Christ and who adopt the ways of God that Jesus taught us above be persecuted? I contend that it is because a person who is truly poor in spirit, who mourns and is meek, who hungers for righteousness, and who is merciful, pure in heart, and a peacemaker, unintentionally exposes the flaws of those around them. Of course this is not our intention. We don’t want to feel like we are “above” others, but by doing these things others may want to believe that.
The kingdom of God is here, right now, in our midst…….Jesus gives us wisdom of the character that we should seek to be apart of this kingdom. This is only the beginning. Again, I believe that by giving up control of my life to God, I have thus gained control of my life, because before…..my life was out of control.