By LOU TISCIONE
Matthew 5:3-12 records the eight “Beatitudes” that are the introduction of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
The name is taken from the word repeated nine times, “blessed.” The eighth Beatitude that concerns persecution is verses 10- 12.
The following is a closer look at the first four beatitudes. The first task in applying the beatitudes is to know the meaning of the repeated word, blessed. Blessed is a descriptive adjective of the one behaving as stated. The meaning includes those who are fortunate, happy, having a deep and profound spiritual well-being.
Jesus applied this word to eight categories of behavior. It is important to observe the quality of those He had in mind. As you read each description of the blessed you see that you’re not reading about those who would be “stars” or celebrities in the eyes of the world. Yet the “blessed” have the kingdom of heaven. They are comforted.
They will inherit the Earth. They shall be satisfied. They shall receive mercy. They shall see God. They shall be called sons of God. They have the kingdom of heaven and they have the joy of being in the company of the Prophets of old who were likewise persecuted. In every case Jesus described the citizens of the kingdom as opposite of those who are elevated by the world.
The first Beatitude is a key for understanding the rest. “Blessed are the poor in sprit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)
“Poor” was used in connection with “spirit.” The connection makes it clear that Jesus was not referring to those who were financially poor. Spirit in this context refers to the motivations, desires and the will of a man. To be poor in spirit is to be empty of self-will and to desire God and the things of God as necessities of life. The poor in spirit know that they are unable to do anything apart from Jesus. The poor in spirit are those who have come to know their rightful place before the Creator. The poor in spirit are truly humble people.
Jesus was declared to be “gentle and lowly in heart.” (Matthew 11:29) When King David confessed his sins of adultery and murder, he concluded his prayer by saying, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17) Only those who have been raised from spiritual death to life are able to see their desperate need for Christ every moment of every day.
Jesus continued with another opposite. He said that mourners are blessed. Those who see the world around them as it really is, broken by sin and populated by sinners are not happy about its condition, and mourn over the sin that surrounds them and the destruction that sin causes. Jesus wept over Jerusalem, (Luke 19:41). He saw the people in Jerusalem as “sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)
Jesus said the humble will inherit the earth. The arrogant and aggressive may receive accolades from the world, but it is the truly humble who will inherit the earth. Humility is defined by one’s relationship to God. One who is humble has a right assessment of himself before God. The humble person knows that he is a creature owing worship to the Creator. This Beatitude is a parallel description to the “poor in spirit” and was likewise demonstrated in the person and work of Christ.
The fourth Beatitude declares a satisfaction resulting from seeking that which is right. In spite of what we may read and hear, there is a right and wrong. God has revealed that which is right in His word. He declared a woe, a dire warning, upon those who would dare to call good evil and evil good. (Isaiah 5:20) But those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied!
The Sermon on the Mount causes those who have been born again to live in dependence upon the Holy Spirit. It is important for Christians to understand that this is the way Christ lived. The Kingdom Life described in the Sermon is the Christian Life now and for eternity. All who profess Jesus as their Lord and Savior read these words of Jesus and fall upon their knees appealing to the mercy of God for forgiveness and cleansing.
Next: “The Beatitudes,” part 2 of 2.
Lou Tiscione is pastor of Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA).