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The Beatitudes

“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….” Matthew 5:1-12 As my children have been growing up, every so often they have enjoyed playing a game they call “Backwards Day.” On that day everything needs to be done, well, backwards.  A shirt will be worn inside out, shoes on the wrong feet, walking backwards, writing with the wrong hand. Word meanings are also turned around. “Yes” will be said when “no” is meant, and vice versa. As you can imagine, it gets to be a rather mixed-up day.

If one looks at our Scripture verses from Matthew 5 apart from their context, it could appear that Jesus Himself was having some kind of a “backwards day” – because what He says here surely seems to be backwards!

What could be blessed about being poor or in mourning? How can the suffering of persecution be a source of rejoicing and being exceedingly glad? Sure sounds backwards!

To whom did Jesus speak His “Sermon on the Mount”? Matthew records that Jesus saw “the multitudes,” and upon seeing them, that “He went up on a mountain.”  It was there that “His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them,” so no matter how many people heard Jesus speak, we do know that He was directing His words primarily to His disciples.

Was it “backwards day”? To the world it may seem so, for that upon which God declares His blessing is not at all what the people of this world would consider to be fortunate circumstances. Their idea of being “blessed” would certainly involve being successful in the ways of the world and wealthy in the things of
this Earth.

This is the mind-set of our world today too, not just when Jesus walked upon this Earth.  The Lord’s beatitudes need to be heard and heeded in our believing ears as well, for the temptation to be taken in by the secular seduction of success is still great indeed.

Jesus’ opening words in His Sermon on the Mount set the stage for the rest of this section.

Not this: “Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom.” Rather this: “Blessed are the poor IN SPIRIT, for theirs is the kingdom OF HEAVEN.”

Being poor in spirit has nothing to do with money, but rather identifies the Christian’s view of himself before God. We know that we can bring nothing of saving value before God, for in our sinfulness we are but dust and ashes. It is to those who realize their spiritual poverty that the Lord—out of love, for Jesus’ sake—day after day gives His grace, the hallmark of His kingdom.

It is from this spiritual vantage point that children of God are to view the rest of these “blesseds.”

I am blessed, not because of what I make of myself, but because of what God has done for me and what He judges me to be!

I have a Lord who comforts me in my repentant mourning over my sinfulness [v. 4].

God directs the affairs of this  Earth for our benefit; we do not wish to be demanding and insist on “our rights” [v. 5].

He satisfies my soul’s hunger with His living Water and Bread of life [v. 6].

His great mercy shines upon me—mercy which I will strive to reflect on those around me [v. 7].

Through Spirit-worked faith in His Son, God has made me pure; with my sins forgiven I look forward to heaven [v. 8]!

Any peace-making efforts on my part begin with the peace which the Lord has given in His Son, whose coming brought “peace on earth” (Christmas event, Luke 2) [v. 9].

As for persecution, our Lord Himself “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38), and was persecuted for it, even to the point of death. Any persecution His disciples face marks them as being His; and to be identified as Jesus’ disciple does fill us with exceeding gladness and rejoicing [v. 10-11].

Was it “backwards day” there as Jesus sat with His disciples on the mountain and spoke to them?

No – only in the sense that the “blesseds” pronounced on us are the opposite of what we deserve. God be thanked for His amazing blessings in our Savior Jesus Christ!