Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you
Understanding And Applying the Text
This passage is the first part of “The Sermon on the Mount” The Sermon on the Mount covers chapters 5, 6, and 7. The content of this sermon is like a sermon in Luke. In Luke Jesus preaches it on a plain. That has raised the question of where was the sermon given. Skeptics use this to show inconsistency in the gospels. This does not show inconsistency between the Gospels. Rather it shows ignorance of those using it to claim inconsistency.
Jesus’ message was consistent. As a result, you would expect Jesus to repeat the message. Jesus’ message was not repeated once but several times. I expect Jesus gave the same sermon on the seashore, in a house, on a boat, and every other place He stepped foot. This is not an example of inconsistency between the gospels but of Christ’s consistency. Second, this is not a transcription of Jesus’ sermon. Rather it is a summary.
Christ offers the promise of blessing. Blessed is more than an emotional state. It is more than “happy.” Jesus set a high standard for blessedness. Much too high for us to reach. Our only hope of attaining it is through Christ. Jesus promises a blessing to those for whom God cares. The beatitudes serve as an invitation to come into the grace God offers. It is like Jesus said, “Here is the standard. You can’t reach it. Let me do it for you.”
Being poor in spirit is a reference to “pious poverty.” Those who know they are poor recognize their need. If we do not recognize our poverty, we do not understand our needs. Only when we recognize our need do we recognize our dependence on God. We rely on our own abilities. Paul notes this Romans 9:30, 31. A parallel is in Luke 6:20. Luke omits “in spirit.” This omission has led many to claim Jesus was talking about material poverty. You only reach that conclusion by ignoring the rest of the sermon. You must also ignore the context of Jesus’ teaching as a whole. It is true Jesus did have a concern for physical needs. But His message was the impoverished state of men’s souls. Those who recognized their poverty receive the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn. The context shows Christ refers to those mourning over sin and evil. Those who mourn are those who are mournful over both their own failures and the rest of mankind. The Spirit comforts all who mourn for sin.
Blessed are the meek. Psalms 37:11 is the basis for this beatitude. The meekness Christ refers to is spiritual meekness. It is an attitude of humility and submission to God. Jesus modeled this for us. The Greek word translated “meek”, is the same Greek word translated “gentle” in Matthew 11:29. Christ said he was gentle and lowly in heart. This refers to submission to the Father. It does not refer to submitting to men. The meek inherit the earth. This is the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham. (Romans 4:13.)
Those who seek God’s righteousness receive what they desire. This is not true for those who trust in their own righteousness. They believe they already have righteousness. When we are hungry and thirsty we can think of nothing else. Trying to fulfill that need consumes us. Christ’s promise is to fill those who hunger after righteousness.
Those who are merciful receive mercy. Christ blesses those who share in others’ suffering. Christ blesses those who assist others in distress. They receive mercy. They get mercy from both God and men.
The pure in the heart get to see God. But Paul told us in Roman 3:10 no one is righteous. No one has a pure heart. Does that mean no one gets to see God? No. Paul refers to the natural man. As children of God, we have Christ’s righteousness imputed to us. Our righteousness is not our own. We receive Christ’s righteousness.
Blessed are the peacemakers. The peace Christ refers to is not the absence of physical violence. It is peace with God. We often forget this. When there is a reduction in the violence men do to each other, we proclaim peace. We cry peace when there is no real peace. (Ezekiel 13:10,16.)
But who are the peacemakers? They are those who help others find peace with God.
Those persecuted for righteousness’s sake are blessed. At first glance, this seems like a ridiculous statement. Blessing and persecution are polar opposites. Why are the persecuted blessed? Because they have a great reward in heaven. The reward is not a payment for their works. Nor is it a payment for their endurance. It is a free gift. The reward is something we may all look forward to receiving. That is the reason the persecuted can rejoice. This is a great reward in heaven. The reward is not the result of persecution. Christ gives this promise to encourage the persecuted.
Take careful note of what Christ said. This encouragement is not for persecution in general. It is for persecution, “on my account.” Suffering persecution, in general, is no reason to rejoice.
Christ said “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you” This was not if you are persecuted. It is when you are persecuted. Christ was telling the disciples they were to expect persecution. Christ added, “they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” So modern persecution is not new or unique.