Matthew 5:1-12: Blessed
January 10, 2021
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
These Beatitudes, which begin and launch and frame the Sermon on the Mount, are so rich with meaning and practical powerful impact, that to tackle them as one in a single devotional is nigh on impossible. I have preached several times on the Sermon on the Mount, and the Beatitudes in particular, and you can find more commentary there—and elsewhere. Probably the best book published on the Sermon on the Mount as a whole, in the last 100 years at least, is Martin Lloyd-Jones’ The Sermon on the Mount.
The first thing to get clear about these Beatitudes is the meaning of the word “blessed.” To be blessed does not merely mean “to be happy” (though it certainly includes that). It has the intention of a declaration of what is truly the best kind of life to live. That person, it is saying, is living the best life, how fortunate are they, how lucky, how much God has “blessed” them if they are like that.
Once that understanding is clear, we can see also straightaway how counterintuitive are these “blessings.” To be blessed for being “poor in spirit” (5:3) is unlikely enough; to be blessed for being persecuted (5:10-12) seems borderline absurd. What is it that Jesus is saying?
Jesus is talking about what it means to become and be a Christian. First step is to be poor in Spirit—those are the ones who have the kingdom of heaven (5:3). They recognize their need. You cannot become or be a Christian if you think that you have all the spiritual requirements already. There must be a sense of poverty of spirit. A sense of lack. Then there is not just a sense of lack but there is real repentance, mourning even (5:4).
Then comes the blessing for the “meek” (5:5)—not meaning “the weak,” but meaning “power under control.” A meek person is a strong person, and an even stronger person because he is disciplined; like a war horse trained for battle, he does not run off in panic at the first sound of battle. He is meek, controlled, well trained, power under control.
Then comes in a sense the final step of becoming a Christian—hungering and thirsting for righteousness (5:6). There is an ardent desire. A seeking. A longing. A faith, but not faith as in just a mental decision, but a real longing for God and for his righteousness. Then they shall be satisfied with God’s righteousness.
After that come the characteristics of someone who is a Christian, who has been “satisfied” in their hunger for righteousness. They are merciful (5:7), they are pure in heart (5:8), they are peacemakers (5:9), and indeed because the direction they are going is different from the world around, they experience the push back of those going in the other direction—whether in its most extreme violent form, or in other subtler ways, a “persecution” (5:10-12). It is an indicator that they are on the right path, the narrow way, and so rejoice and be glad for great is their reward in heaven.
The whole is framed by the “kingdom of heaven” (5:3, 10), and what it means to enter that kingdom and then live as a citizen of that kingdom.
Two questions are the most obvious to ask ourselves. 1) Have we entered the kingdom? If not hunger and thirst for righteousness. 2) Are we living as citizens of the kingdom? If not, realize that real joy comes from following God with all our heart and mind, despite the opposition we might experience, for great then is our reward in heaven.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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