This teaching is Jesus’ most famous sermon. We refer to it as the Sermon on the Mount. The entire sermon is filled with sacrilegious messages from Jesus. This week, I’d like us to “listen to” this sermon together and think carefully about his words. They might just change our lives.
In the first 12 verses of Matthew 5 (p340 in The Story), Jesus introduces his sermon in a mysterious way. It’s a sort of preamble to the rest of the sermon. Some believe that Jesus took this chance to pull aside his twelve disciples and give them these words before speaking to the crowd. It’s as if he says, “Look at these crowds. You’ve seen the miracles…the power. This power is yours, but it’s not going to come the way you think. Come close, you can’t miss this.”
We must understand this phrase rendered “Blessed are the” or “You are blessed when.” When the disciples heard this, they would have thought something like, “You make God smile when” or “Your joy comes from pleasing God by.” These are symptoms of a life lived in surrender and relationship with Jesus. Their thoughts for pleasing God are about to be rocked, though.
1. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 5:3) Throughout Jesus’ ministry, followers seem to be stuck on this one. To be poor in spirit is to be totally dependent on someone else, to not have all the answers, to be reduced to a beggar’s dependence. To be “poor in spirit” leaves no room for spiritual arrogance or haughtiness, and allows us to be listeners to those who believe differently than we do.
2. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matt 5:4) This type of mourning is not general, but specific to the spiritual bankruptcy of being “poor in spirit.” Sin, both personally and corporately, seeps deep into us. Mourning allows us to get out what’s killing us on the inside (much like vomiting). Those who keep it inside, do not receive comfort. They don’t receive the healing. We have to have someone we can “vomit” on from time to time. Religion protects the external appearance, but honesty brings healing from the inside out.
3. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (Matt 5:5) “Power under control.” That kind of meekness. We are not going to bulldoze our way over people to get them to believe our message. There is a subtlety to reaching others, a humility to befriending those around us…a meekness. Jesus saves…we don’t.
4. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (Matt 5:6) Religion tells us that if you are empty (needing to be filled), then be more spiritual, pray more, read your bible more, watch the way you live. The people listening had heard this before. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness doesn’t mean we strive for perfection in the disciplines of the Christian faith, but rather that we have a yearning, a hunger, to grow into the life that Jesus modeled for us. When we live how he lived, we are filled.
5. Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy. (Matt 5:7) In an eye-for-eye culture, these words are hard to hear. Merciful grace was a foreign concept in a culture where justice was king. Jesus’ kingdom was going to be different. People would receive mercy that didn’t deserve it, then would in turn show mercy toward others. The most merciful people in our world are those who are in touch with the mercy they have received.
Next ones tomorrow.