The Sermon on the Mount
1 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
This well-known section of Scriptures is referred to as the Beatitudes. The point of this section is that God blesses those whose lives reflect the righteous qualities and actions of the Kingdom of Heaven. In other words, the people whose lives are patterned after the life of Jesus will be blessed. In this discourse, Jesus speaks about the citizens of the kingdom (5:2–16), describing their character and blessedness (verses 2–12) and their relation to the world (verses 13–16).
Luke has a parallel section to the Sermon on the Mount in chapter 6:20-49. There are no similar passages in Mark or John’s Gospels. Luke’s Beatitudes are very condensed compared to Matthew’s. Luke describes his setting as being on a plain. While there are ways of reconciling the two accounts, it is just as possible that Jesus delivered the same basic teaching more than once in His ministry. As an itinerant preacher, Jesus would address different groups in different locations, and as such may have repeated many of the basic messages.
As we mentioned last week, Jesus’ early preaching message caused large crowds to follow Him around. Here the size of the crowd is described as being multitudes. Since they had no powerful PA systems, Jesus went up the mountain, with the people below Him, presumably in a setting of natural acoustics. He began to preach to and teach the crowd. By being above the crowds, everyone would be able to see Him.
Isaiah 9:1-2 (NKJV)
1 Nevertheless the gloom will not be upon her who is distressed, As when at first He lightly esteemed The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, And afterward more heavily oppressed her, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, In Galilee of the Gentiles. 2 The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined.
Matthew 4:12-17 (NKJV)
12 Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: 15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: 16 The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.” 17 From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Matthew 4:23-25 (NKJV)
23 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. 24 Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them. 25 Great multitudes followed Him—from Galilee, and from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan.
Matthew 5:1 (NKJV)
1 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him.
Notice that the mere act of teaching and preaching to these particular people is seen by Matthew as fulfilling a prophecy set forth in Isaiah 9:1-2. Do you agree with Matthew’s assessment of the fulfillment? Why?
It is important to note the detail of Jesus’ teaching. He is not looking for an emotional response. Jesus desires that people understand His message and agree with it before following Him. Later in His life, many will turn from Him because His teaching’s are “too hard” (John 6:60-66). Jesus desires the people see and understand the truth of God.
The first four beatitudes (vv. 3-6) appear to focus on people who recognize their spiritual condition or need. The balance of this section is address to those who, recognizing their need, turn to and appropriate the power of God to accomplish proper living in the Kingdom.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven
The world says, blessed are the rich and famous. Why the difference?
Blessed means happy fortune, blissful, or satisfied. Those who recognize their spiritual need are blessed by God. This is an important point. Only sinners who acknowledge their sinful condition are ready for salvation.
What is the condition of a sinner?
2 Corinthians 4:3-4 (NKJV)
3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.
The person who is blessed is one who has the correct view of his or her spiritual condition, has a proper view of others, and has a high view of the righteousness God requires. This person, Jesus says, is blessed.
If this is so, how can a person receive or appropriate this righteousness of God?
If you are such a person, how should you respond when someone asks you “Why are you so happy all the time?”
Romans 4:5 (NKJV)
5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,
2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV)
21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
The word blessed is often used of God Himself, as when David ended one of his psalms with the declaration “Blessed be God!” (Ps. 68:35). His son Solomon sang, “Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who alone works wonders” (Ps. 72:18). Paul spoke of “the glorious gospel of the blessed God” (1 Tim. 1:11) and of Jesus Christ “who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords” (6:15). Blessedness is a characteristic of God, and it can be a characteristic of men only as they share in the nature of God. There is no blessedness, no perfect contentedness and joy of the sort of which Jesus speaks here, except that which comes from a personal relationship to Him, through whose “magnificent promises” we “become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4).
MacArthur, J., Matthew, Chicago: Moody Press, 1989.
By human standards, these beatitudes are paradoxical. The world says, “blessed are the rich” while Jesus says “blessed are the poor.” How do we reconcile the difference in perspectives? To be blessed is a deep supernatural experience of contentedness. This condition arises from the transformation brought about by a life in Christ. To be poor means that a person acknowledges they have nothing to offer to God. In other words, they are humble. This forms the attitude with which they approach God. The only way such a person may approach God is by faith. Such an attitude forms the foundation of all of our responses to God’s calling.
The poor in spirit receive the kingdom of heaven. In other words, those who are poor in spirit are the ones who recognize their sinfulness, repent, and turn to God by faith in Christ. The receive the kingdom of heaven by becoming sons of God.
Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.
A person who is spiritually broken-hearted will be in mourning over his standing before God. The comfort for such a person is found only in the Word of God. He will be forgiven and comforted.
To mourn is to sorrow. However, there are a variety of ways in which we may show sorrow. Some are not so good for us – such as the sorrow of those who are frustrated in fulfilling evil plans and lusts, or who have misguided loyalties and affection. To mourn over the loss of a great business opportunity is wrong. To sorrow over the damage done to your expensive car is likewise wrong.
The word for mourning indicates a sorrow that begins in the heart, takes possession of the entire person, and is outwardly manifested. The entire character is involved – spirit, will, and emotions.
Examples from the Bible of proper mourning include grieving over a demon-possessed child or sorrow for those not saved or over the death of a loved one. In such cases we must turn to God for our comfort. However, the true sorrow of which Jesus speaks, and the comfort offered, may be found in the letters of Paul.
2 Corinthians 7:10-11 (NKJV)
10 For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. 11 For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NKJV)
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
God gives the meek His own joy and gladness.
Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.
Many of the modern translations use “gentle” in place of “meek.” The difference between being poor in spirit and being meek is the focus. Being poor in spirit focuses upon our sinfulness. Being meek focuses upon God’s holiness. Both are founded on humility.
Meekness is from the Greek praos, a word basically meaning mild or soft. Since this is related to holiness, the softness is the condition of the heart, not one’s manner or attitude.
The meek person is able to see God as He truly exists. Thus, meekness is the result of confidence in and submission to the Word of God. The meek are those who are able to not strike out at others and to follow in the steps of Jesus.
The blessing of the meek is that they will be restored to that position originally intended for mankind. They will have dominion over the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.
Righteousness is the fulfillment of just expectations in any relationship, whether with God or other people. It is based upon the “straightness” of the standard or norm expected in the relationship. The opposite of righteous is “evil,” “wicked,” or “wrong.” In other words, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness are those who seek to have a relationship with God based upon God’s own standards of behavior. Likewise, this standard would then carry over to all relationships of the individual.
In the Bible, only God is righteous. If man is righteous, it is because God has credited it to him through faith. However, God expects men to treat each other righteously, as though men were naturally righteous. As such, this beatitude speaks to strong desire of the soul in reaching for God.
The concepts of hunger and thirsting indicate the complete focus of desire be upon righteousness as opposed to any other standard. The person’s entire effort is focused upon being righteous. Just as a person seeks after the nutrients of physical life found in food and drink, so, too, the person should strongly desire God’s grace and righteousness.
Those who truly seek such a relationship with God “will be filled.” Not only will God view them as righteous through the blood of Jesus, He will empower the person to demonstrate righteousness in the day-to-day relationships.
All Christians are filled with the Holy Spirit. As such they are righteous in Christ but must also be seeking righteousness in their day-to-day actions. If a person is not seeking righteousness, that person is probably not a Christian. This is because the Christian possesses a spiritual hunger directed toward Jesus. Spiritual hunger is a desire to grow more and more like Christ. All Christians should possess this desire. Non-Christians will not possess this desire.
The first four beatitudes deal entirely with inner principles, principles of the heart and mind. They are concerned with the way we see ourselves before God. The last four are outward manifestations of those attitudes.
-- MacArthur, J. Matthew
[APPROXIMATE END OF FIRST PART OF THIS LESSON. SECOND PART WILL BE NEXT WEEK. IT IS NOT NECESSARY TO BREAK AT PRECISELY THIS POINT. YOU WILL WANT TO DO SOME TYPE OF REVIEW BEFORE TEACHING PART 2.]
Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.
Roman philosophers are said to have called mercy the “disease of the soul,” the supreme sign of weakness. God views it as just the opposite.
Mercy is the exercise of forbearance and compassion. The Greek word is the source of our word eleemosynary, meaning beneficial or charitable. Most people deserve to receive something else. Those who are merciful ignore what a person might desire and always exercise compassion upon them. In other words, the merciful always act as a servant towards others. To be merciful is to be in a right relationship with God. The merciful person has already admitted to being poor in spirit and has been blessed with the mercy of God. Such a person has already been forgiven.
Of note is the flow of traits. Grace comes from the love of God. This love produces mercy which leads to forgiveness and righteous justice. As such, mercy is a gift of God. Only those who are in right relationship with God are able to show mercy to others. This is one of the results of the family of God loving each other.
Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.
Jeremiah 17:9 (NKJV)
9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?
The human “heart” is naturally evil. In biblical terms, the heart refers to the “center” of a person, that part where his thoughts are formed. A person’s heart is the center of his being and it is here that evil dwells. Only a supernatural act can turn a heart pure. Here God promises that those who are pure of heart shall see Him. This is because the only way to have a pure heart is to be holy, like God.
Throughout the Scriptures, the term “heart” is the seat of the inner person. From here flow not only emotions and feelings but also the thinking process of reason and logic as well as the person’s will. This explains why God’s desire is to change a person’s heart. God wants to totally transform us into a new creature. That creation is one who knows Jesus.
To be pure is to have no dirt or grime. Spiritual purity is in view. Thus, actions which are outwardly pure but have no spiritual value or meaning behind them are not considered as pure in the eyes of God. So, when Bill Gates makes a huge charitable contribution, primarily for the tax deduction and the publicity, that is not considered a pure gift in the eyes of God.
When we trust in Christ we are given positional purity. God imputes to us Christ’s own purity, Christ’s own righteousness (Rom. 4:5; cf. Gal. 2:16). From that day the Father sees us just as He sees the Son, perfectly righteous and without blemish (2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 9:14). In addition, God grants actual purity in the new nature of the believer (Rom. 6:4–5; 8:5–11; Col. 3:9–10; 2 Pet. 1:3). In other words, there is no justification without sanctification. Every believer is a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17; Rom. 7:17, 19–22, 25).
However, along with these two types of purity, we are also called upon to exercise practical purity. Practical purity comes from God as well, but is that purity that we actually place into practice in our day-to-day living through the power of the Holy Spirit. We are to ACT pure.
Those who are pure in heart have the privilege of seeing God. This is not a physical seeing but is an intimate knowledge of and fellowship with God in one’s day-to-day life. God truly walks with such a person.
Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.
We live in a world hungry for peace. Look at all the of the peacemakers, those who attempt to bring peace to the globe in places like the middle East, Africa, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, etc. Nobel peace prizes are awarded every year. How many of these winners will be called sons of God?
These people fail to bring peace for two reasons: Satan and man’s heart.
This raises the question: What is peace? Liberally theology feel because the First World War was followed not by lasting peace but by World War II. The world has always been at war – and always will be until Christ comes again.
Paul writes that because we are justified through faith in Christ, we now have peace with God (Rom 5:1). Peacemakers are those who bring others to God, for this is the only peace available to anyone in this day and age.
God is a God of peace (Rom. 15:33; 2 Cor. 13:11; Phil. 4:9). The world needs this peace of God, for this is the only true peace. The true peace for the world is the peace of the Garden of Eden, God’s peace with men and creation and man’s peace with each other. Peace, then, is not the absence of conflict, but the presence of righteousness in people.
Peacemakers will recognize that the enemy of peace is not other people but sin. Satan certainly helps promote the condition of no peace, but it is the sin in men’s hearts that causes the world to lack peace. Men have no peace because they do not have God. Thus, peacemakers are those on a mission for God to bring the peace of God to all men.
God the Father is the source of peace. Jesus the Son is the manifestation of peace. The Holy Spirit is the agent of that peace. Christians are the missionaries of peace. Christians act as missionaries since they have the peace of God as one of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). Only those who belong to God are able to be a peacemaker.
- Are saved and have the peace of God
- Leads others to make peace with God
- Helps others make peace with others
- Endeavors to find a point of agreement between people so that God’s truth and righteousness are never compromised or weakened
James 3:18 (NKJV)
18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
James 3:18 (NIV)
18 Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.
There are a lot of ways to view these next three verses. Many people treat verses 10 and 11 as two unrelated blessings with verse 12 being connected to verse 11. Our teacher’s manual treat verses 10 and 11 as being special blessings in the face of rejection and verse 12 as a special blessing in attaining a reward, so this is the way we will consider these verses.
As odd as it seems, Jesus promised we would be persecuted.
John 15:18-21 (NKJV)
18 “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.
Notice a slight change in the wording of the Beatitudes at this point. While verse ten still uses the generic “those,” at verse 11 we suddenly have the second person. Those citizens of the kingdom of heaven Jesus has been talking about is YOU. In these two verses, we find that the citizens of the kingdom of heaven will be persecuted and reviled for the sake of righteousness.
Have you noticed the thread of the beatitudes? The thread is righteousness. The need of all citizens of the kingdom are to be righteous. When they are righteous, they will be merciful, poor in spirit, meek, will mourn, and will show compassion. They will be peacemakers. They will also be persecuted. All of this because they will hunger and thirst for righteousness sake.
The persecution will take many forms. People will not just persecute Christians, but will revile them and say all kinds of evil against them falsely for sake of Jesus. In other words, when you are attacked, it is because someone wants to attack Jesus!
It is, perhaps, over simplistic to explain why this is so, but how would you react if you met the “perfect person?” That person is Jesus and most of the world does not like Him because He was perfect. They greatly disliked Jesus because He is the truth. Men do not like to be wrong, Their pride gets in the way and men get angry when this happens. So, as Jesus tells us, do not be surprised when we are attacked. Christians, specifically and as a “vague” group are continually under attack because society does not like Jesus and what He represents.
Jesus is righteous and men are sinful. The two do not mix. Thus, we are attacked for righteousness sake, either because Jesus shows men their sin or because men see the righteousness of God in us.
12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
On the other hand, we should rejoice when we are attacked for being a child of God, for we then know that the world sees us as a son of God. Our reward is in heaven, not on this earth. The best is yet to come.
We read about the prophets and have different pictures of them in our minds. We study their prophecies and marvel that they could predict the future. We may dream of being able to do the same thing. Yet, the prophets were persecuted.
Hebrews 11:37 (NKJV)
37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—
Jewish tradition is that the one “sawn in two” was Isaiah! The culprit was Manasseh, King of Judah.
The promise of this beatitude is important. Those who are persecuted receive the Kingdom. Only those who believe in Jesus are sons of God. Thus, the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who believe in Jesus. In other words, the beatitudes concern how those who believe in Jesus are to live. Is that you???
Not all believers have a good life on this earth, but the promise of Scripture is that they will have a wonderful life in heaven. Heaven in this sense takes on a couple of meanings. First, there is the reward of the eternal kingdom, the greatest of all blessings. This includes life in our glorified bodies during the Millennium where we have roles as rulers, then we enter into the ultimate blessing of eternity.
The Beatitudes are about the kingdom of heaven. They start and end with this thought. In Christ we become citizens of the kingdom now and forever. Nothing man does to us can remove this great blessing. We are forever citizens of God’s kingdom.
Making it Personal
What a blessing the Beatitudes add to our lives. In the immediate context of Matthew, the Beatitudes point out to the Jews what life will be like in the Kingdom if the people accept Jesus as Messiah. The Beatitudes should be us much happiness and contentment. They describe life as a son of God.
The world is empty. It is only in knowing and obeying God that a person finds true happiness. By referring to the life of the Old Testament prophets, Jesus is pointing out that the Beatitudes are nothing new. They follow in the same message delivered in the Old Testament. It has always been about knowing and obeying God. This is not an emotional response to a message, but a personal, well thought out response to a Person. Any other attempt at finding happiness will fail.
Just look at the world around you. Consider all of the ways people attempt to find happiness in today’s world. Examples include powers and materialism. Can you think of others? How many of them last?
The Beatitudes teach us how to find true happiness. Have you found this happiness and blessing?