In our first week of the study, Sermon on the Mount by Jen Wilkin, we read and considered biblical treasures from the first ten verses of Matthew 5. This portion of the Sermon on the Mount is commonly referred to as the Beatitudes. The dictionary that I use states that a beatitude means a “supreme blessedness or happiness.” The New Testament, originally written in Greek, uses the word “makarios” for blessed. According to Professor William Barclay,
“Makarios …describes that joy which has its secret within itself, that joy which is serene and untouchable, and self-contained, that joy which is completely independent of all the chances and the changes of life. The English word happiness gives its own case away. It contains the root hap, which means chance. Human happiness is something which is dependent on the chances and the changes of life, something which life may give and which life may also destroy. The Christian blessedness is completely untouchable and unassailable.”
Think about it this way; our happiness can change easily if something happens. For instance, I get cut off in traffic which causes me to spill my drink down my blouse. When I get home, I discover that my dog has shredded my new pillows. I’m no longer happy or feel blessed. In fact, I, now totally, relate to Alexander who had a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.” But my overall contentment with my life, my internal barometer, my joy is still intact. The joy which dwells within my spirit is not affected by my day. In Classical Greek, the word makarios, translates to “fully satisfied” and refers to a state of blessedness in the hereafter. The word is used of the joy that comes from accepting Jesus Christ and obtaining salvation. Do you recall your moment of salvation? The moment when you said yes to Christ Jesus and gave him your all? Scripture says that all the angels of heaven rejoice over a sinner who is saved (Luke 15:7,10). That kind of moment and that type of joy exemplify blessed. I’m blessed because of Jesus not because the conditions of my life are favorable.
These eight statements of Jesus are not about a state of doing but a state of being. I like to think of them as the Be – atitudes. This week, you probably noticed that they follow a logical progression. Ms. Wilkin states that the first four beatitudes point us toward a vertical relationship while the others point us toward horizontal relationships.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3
After walking up the mount, Jesus sat down and began teaching about the type of character his followers needed. To be poor in spirit means that I don’t possess the resources to save myself. Only God can save me. The word poor in Greek describes a state of poverty in which I am totally helpless and unable to care for myself. In my great need, I am humble and contrite before God. He alone is my deliverer and the only option for salvation. When we confess our need and come acknowledging Him as our Deliverer, we receive the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4
Death, loss, tragedy, and awareness of sin are a few reasons to mourn. The cross reference passages that we read this first week led us to know that the type of mourning in this verse was sorrow over sin. When I truly grieve over my sin and confess the sin before God, I become restored and cleansed. God, then, comes and comforts me. However, the reverse is true that without sorrow over sin, God doesn’t come to comfort. I might feel penitent but I haven’t totally submitted and grieved my actions. Submission to God and recognition of sin brings about a mourning for the sin. Paul states in 2 Corinthians 7:10 that “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” We are to turn back from what we’re doing and go in the opposite direction towards repentance. This state of mourning is closely associated with being poor in spirit. Once I confess and humble myself before God, then I recognize the depth of my sin and mourn over my rebelliousness towards God.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5
The world believes that the powerful and successful will inherit the earth but this beatitude teaches that the humble, the contrite and submissive to God will inherit the earth even though they are rejected by men. Meekness doesn’t mean timidity or being a doormat for others to walk upon. Biblical meekness is a rare quality that describes a person who is balanced, gentle, humble, and self-aware. This state of being is “an inwrought grace of the soul … chiefly directed toward God. [An] attitude of spirit in which we accept God’s dealings with us as good and do not dispute or resist.” The person who displays meekness gets “angry at the right time, in the right measure, and for the right reason.” They don’t insist on a set of rights but set their own will aside for others. Entitlement is not a character trait inhabiting them. Meekness “demonstrates gentleness not in weakness but power.” I call it power under control. The meek will show themselves worthy with quiet authority to be stewards over the earth which will become their field to bring others to God by their actions.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Matthew 5:6
Most of us living in the Western world have a difficult time imagining true physical thirst and hunger. We can, however, understand a condition of the spirit that can’t be quenched. 1 Corinthians 1:30 tells us that Christ Jesus is our righteousness. If we try to be satisfied with anything other than Jesus, then those things we turn to won’t fill and satiate our hunger and thirst. They’re poor imitations. They are like eating a bowl of cereal when what you really want is a supersized juicy hamburger with the fixings accompanied by a biggie fry on the side. We need Jesus to fully satisfy our souls. Righteousness comes by faith in Jesus and he promises to completely fill up those who want it. He won’t give us only a sip or a nibble. If we truly hunger and thirst, Jesus will give us the whole righteous enchilada.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” Matthew 5:7
Have you ever seen the movie, Pay It Forward? The movie is about a young boy who was given an assignment in social studies class to develop a plan that would change the world and put that plan into action. This young boy comes up with the idea to help three people. And in response to his help, those three people were to return the favor by helping to “pay it forward” to three others and those three were to continue the pattern thus changing the world. Part of the stipulation was that the favor given to the three chosen people must be something they couldn’t do by themselves and the help must be a sacrifice on the giver’s part. In essence, this young boy was displaying the biblical concept of mercy.
Jesus reveals himself to others through his children. How I treat others is a reflection on the character of Jesus. He wants me to treat others in the same way He would treat them. To be merciful is to give fair treatment to others with honor and to be kind and compassionate towards not only my friends or the people like me but also an enemy, a prisoner, or a person who has offended me or isn’t like me. The Greek word is also closely associated with forgiveness and the extending of help for the consequence of sin. Jesus specifies in Matthew 7:1,2 that how I judge and measure others will be the exact ways God will judge and measure me. When I show compassion to others, I’m acting on what I have received.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8
Only Jesus was sinless. How can I be pure in heart if I have sin? Ms. Wilkin asked us to consider areas of sin that cloud our ability to see God. Our emotions can cloud our judgment, our choices, and our wisdom. We also need to look at what pulls our attention away from Him. I find that while my external life may appear healthy, I know that I need to work on my internal life to remove the temptations, impurities, and areas of sin that hinder my relationship with God. If I long to see God then He must become my one desire.My vision is still blurry but one day, I want to see him without looking through a glass dimly (1 Corinthians 13:12). Therefore, I must allow Him to refine my character by purifying my heart. A statement which is easy to write but challenging.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9
One of the most interesting definitions that I found for peacemaker was “a revolver especially the 1873 Colt model used by law officers on the US Frontier.” Now that will definitely keep the peace! The Hebrew word for peace, shalom, “is never only a negative state; it never means only the absence of trouble; in Hebrew, peace always means everything which makes for a person’s highest good…. In the Bible, peace means not only freedom from all trouble, it means enjoyment of all good.” Peacemakers aren’t wimps.They proactively choose peace and make it by standing in the gap to settle disputes. I tend to think of peace as quietness, rest, solitude, or a lack of fighting. But biblical peace is about reconciliation with God. We, as children of God, should strive to live proactively seeking peace with others since Jesus is our Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). Only when we lay our desires at the foot of the Cross can we find lasting peace. We are to be ambassadors of reconciliation to promote peace since we ourselves have been reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:14-21).
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:10
These beatitudes aren’t static. The first melds into the next and follows a natural progression. Jesus wants us to see the benefit of living a life of devotion. Ms. Wilkin states in the video that we are to bear the fruit of identification with Jesus in his suffering. He became a curse for us so we can become blessed. By loving Jesus, we place ourselves in the path of persecution. The world didn’t accept him and therefore, as his image bearers, the world won’t accept us either. We need to submerse ourselves in these beatitudes to bring about the fruitfulness of faith and devotion.
You’re off to a great start! This week begin the Week 3 work beginning on page 32. Don’t forget to plan a little extra time for your first lesson so that you will be able to complete the reading assignment of the entire Sermon on the Mount.
If you’re interested in viewing the Week 2 video that accompanies the study, the video can be purchased for download by clicking here. I’m unable to offer the video online due to copyright laws.