Jesus walked away from the crowds, to a mountainside, where He sat with His disciples. We call His words the Sermon on the Mount, but this is far from a formal sermon.
Let’s sink into the beginning of the passage, called the Beatitudes, or Declarations of Blessedness.
Here Jesus spoke to His followers, and described a person living in a right relationship with God. He emphasized internal qualities, attitudes of the heart. Those which exist only when one fully trusts in and surrenders to God.
The religious rulers of the day, known as the Pharisees, favored outside appearances, so Jesus’ words contradicted them. But God–who reads our insides clearly–cares much about the motivations of our hearts.
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.
Blessed 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 children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3-10, NIV
The Amplified Bible expands on the word blessed–to be envied, spiritually prosperous, with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of outward conditions. So blessed means a whole lot more than happy or materially blessed, as we might imagine the word.
There’s a difference between the word blessed (barak) used often in the Old Testament, and blessed (makarios) in this section of the New Testament.
Both words describe human attitudes or actions that lead to blessing. But in the OT, the blessed life certainly included material blessings.
In the NT, God’s kingdom is now present (in the person of Jesus) and His blessed ones already know the joy which comes from living in that kingdom. Here, blessing describes the inner experience of the believer and does not necessarily have anything to do with material blessings. (Summarized from the Encyclopedia of Bible Words by Larry Richards.)
So a person in a right relationship with God looks like this (or is growing toward this) on the inside:
- The opposite of proud and self-sufficient.
- Knows their needs and presents them to the Lord.
- Humble and gentle, patient and longsuffering.
- Desires personal righteousness.
- Loves people, shows mercy.
- Inwardly clean from sin through faith in Christ and continual acknowledgement of their sinful condition.
- Peaceful toward others, at peace within.
- Stands out, are misunderstood, and therefore persecuted.
For the list-makers and check-off people among us–my people–it’s important to note that this passage is a description, and not a list to accomplish. We should desire these characteristics for ourselves, yet we are unable to make them happen on our own, without the indwelling of Christ.
This is a picture of the beauty God works in a heart given to Him, and a list of ways He rewards His people. The more I read these words, the more I want them to be about me, in greater measure.
God wants good things for us, but not the kind of “things” we can hold in our hands. He wants us to see Him and be His and desire His kingdom more than this whole world.
Can you hear the Love today? The Love in these Red Letters?
For the beginning of this series and list of posts by day, click here.
See you tomorrow for one last thought before we weekend…