is certainly a well known passage of Scripture:
Mat 5:1-12 NIV
when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His
disciples came to him, (2) and he began to
teach them saying: (3) "Blessed are the
poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
(4) Blessed are
those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
(5) Blessed are
for they will inherit the earth.
(6) Blessed are
those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
(7) Blessed are
for they will be shown mercy.
(8) Blessed are
the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
(9) Blessed are
for they will be called sons of God.
are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all
kinds of evil against you because of me. (12)
Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same
way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
opening verses are usually neglected, but they do provide us with some insight:
seeing the multitudes, went up into the mountains, evidently to find a
spot where He could be heard by them.
sits down – the gesture of a teacher in command, in those days.
disciples come to Him, so that they might be closest.
NIV does not have this, but in the original it’s “He opened his mouth and
spoke…” – a formality which lends dignity and weight to the teaching.
word “blessed” in the following verses carries a connotation of “extremely
pattern strongly resembles the “Psalms of Ascent” in the Old Testament –
psalms in which each verse was chanted on a particular step up towards the
Temple. They are intended to be handled publicly.
it not, therefore, to take this study in the most serious way? It is clear
that Christ meant these to be our rule of life; as is His wont, He provides us
blessing rather than warning.
poor in spirit
is a very good reason that this blessing comes first: it is opposed to the
worst of all sins, pride.
in spirit” opens the heart’s door to the Holy Spirit, and the renewing
presence of God.
please, that this is a voluntary humbling. We might well ask just how one
is to do this; it does not seem obvious. But may one suggest that if you
care for others first, this is indeed humbling? It says that others are
more important than I am – my brothers and sisters, not my competitors.
may take a clue from St. Ambrose (AD 340-397): “In the eye of heaven
blessedness begins there where misery begins in human estimation.” Perhaps our
catastrophes are really blessings – if we know how to look at them.
suspect this refers not so much to mourning at funerals as it does mourning for
It’s a good question: do we regret and mourn our sinfulness, or hide it and
hope the subject doesn’t come up?
course, it also includes mourning for those taken from us; we expect the
Lord’s comfort at such times. But the greatest comfort will be at the
resurrection of the dead. In the meanwhile we can remember that “God’s mercies
are always greater than our troubles.”
NIV uses meek; other translations may have “gentle” for this word. “Humble” is
occasionally seen as well. The testosterone inflicted see this as being
impossible; we should remember that our Lord was a meek and humble man. It is
a characteristic of Jesus; all authority is His. At His return He will deal
with this little matter.
the meanwhile: see how quick we are to anger – and about such trivial things.
We should always be ready to ask, “Can I concede this point, for Christ’s
and thirst after righteousness
old soldiers among us will recall MRE’s – Meals Ready to Eat. A glance at the
ingredient list would show it started with “recycled cardboard.” It took a
fair bit of hunger and privation before we would consider opening one.
That describes the hunger needed for righteousness. The most intense of
desires must be there for righteousness. We must “seek first the kingdom.”
what if you do? The word translated here as “filled” is the same one used for
“fatted”, as in fatted calf. If you seek, you will find – and find plenty.
Most of us want it to seek us and bless us. We should not be concerned with
getting justice, but rather giving it.
lesson is repeated in the Lord’s Prayer: the only way we are assured of mercy
for ourselves is to be merciful. It is a form of bearing each other’s burden;
if my brother sins against me, I can lift that burden from him by forgiving
him, and bearing the consequences myself.
is that not what Jesus did at the Cross? Did He not bear our burdens there?
See what a favorable exchange we have been given! We give the mercy of mere
mortals and receive in return divine mercy, which greatly exceeds our own.
pure in heart
is true: the conniving want to connive with God. It’s the only method they
think will work.
Christ tells us differently. If you want to deal with God in mercy, you must
do so from a pure heart. He is righteous and pure; you’re going to have to
talk to Him on His own terms. Such a pure heart comes only through the Cross.
if you do this, one day you will see Him face to face, in the world to come.
This is something like a telescope. If you want to see stars, you use a
telescope. It’s the proper instrument. But you have to keep the lens clean!
peace? With whom?
with God – that our salvation might be secure.
with ourselves – so that no brother accuses another of harboring hate
with the world – that they might see the glory of God in our ways of
can this be done? Only through Christ, our peace:
Eph 2:11-14 NIV
Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called
"uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the
circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men)-- (12) remember that at that time you were separate
from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the
covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. (13) But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far
away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. (14) For he himself is our peace, who has made the
two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,
we have peace with God, and the Spirit’s assistance in obtaining peace within
us – which leaves us the world to deal with. In peace. We are told that we
are fellow heirs with Jesus, and like Him we must be willing to pay the price
the peacemaker always pays. Strife seems to demand no sacrifice; peace demands
sacrifice that is often painful. Such pain will be rewarded in His time.
kingdom of heaven is promised to those who are persecuted for the sake of
righteousness. It’s a good way in this world to tell the white hats from the
black hats. It is not so much the persecution as its motive – and it doesn’t
matter who is doing the persecuting. What matters is why!
it strike you as strange, American Christian? Permit me one example: if you
pick up your picket sign, paint “Save the Whales” on it, and go down to picket
and protest at the nearest (for example) oil refinery, you’d be viewed as a
courageous, heroic sort by this world. If your sign reads, “Stop Abortion,”
you are going to be arrested. Free speech only goes so far, you know. But see
in our own time where the limits are drawn – at the door of righteousness.
men revile you
promises blessing when you are reviled. But note there are two conditions to
for His sake, not your own. It’s a matter of whether you receive your
reward from Him, or the world.
must be false.
that Christ does not tell you that He will lift this oppression. In some times
He does so; in others, not. No matter; your reward is secure – and great.
I’d like you to go away with:
is the Christian’s “Code of Conduct.” It’s not Prohibition, but blessing
for the behavior God wants to see in you.
do this, you will need humility. And mercy. And purity.
the Christian’s call to peace and righteousness.
world is going to find this strange – and attempt to stamp it out.
Blessed are those persecuted for His sake.