The Beatitudes

The Beatitudes

The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12)

With Peter Veysie and

Bible Commentary / Produced by TOW Project

George Methodist Church

7th November 2021

8am communion

10am 

OUR TRIP TO GALILEE AND THE MOUNT OF THE BEATITUDES

Introduction

The Sermon on the Mount opens with the beatitudes—eight statements beginning with the word blessed.

[1]This word affirms a state of blessing that already exists. Each beatitude declares that a group of people usually regarded as afflicted is actually blessed. Those blessed do not have to do anything to attain this blessing. Jesus simply declares that they have already been blessed. Thus the beatitudes are first of all declarations of God’s grace. They are not conditions of salvation or roadmaps to earn entry to God’s kingdom.

Those who belong to each blessed group experience God’s grace because the kingdom of heaven has come near. 

2]As we step into God’s kingdom, we hope to become more like those named as blessed—more meek, more merciful, more hungry for righteousness, more apt to make peace, and so on. 

This gives the beatitudes a moral imperative. Later, when Jesus says, “Make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19), the beatitudes describe the character these disciples are meant to take on.

The beatitudes describe the character of God’s kingdom, but they are not conditions of salvation. Jesus does not say, for example, “Only the pure in heart may enter the kingdom of heaven.” This is good news because the beatitudes are impossibly hard to fulfill.

Community not just individuals – life options yfc

A further grace of the beatitudes is that they bless God’s community, not just God’s individuals. By following Jesus, we become blessed members of the kingdom community, even though our character is not yet formed in God’s likeness. Individually, we fail to fulfill the characteristics of some or all of the blessings. But we are blessed nonetheless by the character of the entire community around us. Citizenship in God’s kingdom begins now.

8 and your fingers

1. “Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit, for Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 5:3)

The “poor in spirit” are those who cast themselves on God’s grace.[4] We personally acknowledge our spiritual bankruptcy before God. 

It is the opposite of arrogance. In its deepest form, it acknowledges our desperate need for God. Jesus is declaring that it is a blessing to recognize our need to be filled by God’s grace.

Thus, at the very beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, we learn that we don’t have the spiritual resources in ourselves to put Jesus’ teachings into practice. We can’t fulfill God’s call by ourselves. 

Blessed are those who realize they are spiritually bankrupt, for this realization turns them to God, without whom they cannot fulfill what they are created to do and be. Much of the rest of the sermon rips away from us the self-delusion that we are capable of acquiring a state of blessedness on our own. It aims to produce in us a genuine poverty of spirit.

What is the practical result of this blessing? If we are poor in spirit, we are able to bring an honest appraisal of ourselves.

We commit ourselves to honesty about ourselves. We remember that even Jesus, when he started working with wood, must have needed guidance and instruction.

2. “Blessed Are Those Who Mourn, for They Will be Comforted” (Matthew 5:4)

The second beatitude builds on our mental recognition of our poverty of spirit by adding an emotional response of sorrow.  When we face the evil in our own lives, it saddens us; when we face the evil in the world—which includes possible evil in our workplace—that, too, touches our emotions with grief. 

The evil may come from ourselves, from others, or from sources unknown. In any case, when we honestly mourn evil words, evil deeds, evil policies on the job, God sees our sorrow and comforts us with the knowledge that it will not always be this way.

Those blessed with mourning about their own failings can receive comfort by admitting their errors.

3. “Blessed Are the Meek, for They Will Inherit the Earth” (Matthew 5:5) Power under control.

Many assume the term means weak, tame, or deficient in courage. But the biblical understanding of meekness is power under control.

 In the Old Testament, Moses was described as the meekest man on earth (Numbers 12:3, KJV). Jesus described himself as “meek and lowly” (Matt. 11:28-29, KJV), which was consistent with his vigorous action in cleansing the temple (Matt. 21:12-13).

Power under God’s control means two things: (1) refusal to inflate our own self-estimation; and (2) reticence to assert ourselves for ourselves. Paul captures the first aspect perfectly in Romans 12:3. “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” Meek people see themselves as servants of God, not thinking more highly of themselves than they ought to think. To be meek is to accept our strengths and limitations for what they truly are, instead of constantly trying to portray ourselves in the best possible light. But it does not mean that we should deny our strengths and abilities. When asked if he was the Messiah, Jesus replied, “The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.  And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me” (Matt. 11:4-6). He had neither an inflated self-image nor an inferiority complex, but a servant’s heart based on what Paul would later call “sober judgment” (Romans 12:3).

A servant’s heart is the crux of the second aspect of meekness: reticence to assert ourselves for ourselves. We exercise power, but for the benefit of all people, not just ourselves.

In contrast, Jesus said that the meek “will inherit the earth.” As we have seen, the earth has become the location of the kingdom of heaven. We tend to think of the kingdom of heaven as heaven, a place completely different (golden streets, gates of pearl, a mansion over the hilltop) from anything we know here. But God’s promise of the kingdom is a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1). Those who submit their power to God will inherit the perfect kingdom coming to earth. In this kingdom, we receive by God’s grace the good things the arrogant fruitlessly strive for in the present earth, and more. And this is not a future reality only. Even in a broken world, those who recognize their true strengths and weaknesses can find peace by living realistically. Those who exercise power for the benefit of others are often admired. The meek engage others in decision making and experience better results and deeper relationships.

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