Matthew 4:23-5:16 | The Beatitudes

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The Beatitudes

Matthew 4:23-5:16

Key Verse 5:6

 

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

 

Right after Jesus called his disciples to follow him, he began serving the needs of the crowds who were suffering from all kinds of problems. Jesus served them with the word of God and healed all their diseases with the grace and mercy of God. After that, Jesus turned his attention to his disciples! He began to teach them the fundamental tenets of the kingdom of God, and the essence of what Christian faith is all about. What Jesus teaches them and us is beautiful and profound. They are attitudes of the soul that this world can neither accept nor appreciate because they go against everything this world stands for. But for those who love God and have found life in and through Christ, these attitudes are everything we long for and want to be. But you and I cannot possibly live by them with our own strength. We can only strive to mature in our relationship with Christ and grow into them as we mature in our Christian walk with the Lord. God help us to reflect on them daily until they have become the spirit by which we live our daily lives.

 

Look at what Jesus did right after calling his disciples to follow him! Read 4:23-25. The Son of God began his Messianic ministry by first teaching the people who followed him the word of God, and by preaching the good news of the kingdom of God. It is always a delight to see that the Son of God was first and foremost a Bible teacher and a minister of the word of God. And Jesus did not stop with teaching and preaching. He went on to serve everyone who came to him with his personal touch of healing. Whoever came to him, and whatever they were suffering from, the Lord Messiah Jesus extended his blessing and his healing hand. Never did Jesus ever turn back anyone who came to him for mercy. Some day when all people stand before this great King of Heaven to have their lives weighed in the scale, one of the biggest regrets will be that they didn’t come to the Lord for his mercy. Many suffer, yet so few come to the Lord for his mercy. Even Christians who should know better, so rarely come to the Lord for his blessing— the Lord who would never turn them away! Jesus took the time to touch each of these people’s sores to ease their suffering. In this world no one can escape the consequences of sin. Sin brings the misery and suffering of guilt, shame and fear upon our lives. But in the midst of all our sufferings Jesus came to touch our lives with his mercy.

 

After this Matthew tells us how Jesus changed history and brought the Kingdom of God into our midst. Look at 5:1-2. He went to a mountainside, sat down in the view of the multitudes who followed him and began to give his disciples a teaching that cut right through the darkness of this world and shine the light of God’s heart upon all of us. Why did Jesus address only his disciples rather than the crowds? Because when Jesus said: Come follow me, they left everything behind to follow him! They committed themselves to following him at any cost. And they had done so by faith! If you look at Jesus’ address in verses 3-12 he repeated the word “blessed”. What does that mean? It has the meaning of happy. However, someone might think this strange because when we read these beatitudes, in a worldly sense they seem to bring misery more than joy for those who practice them! But there is nothing strange about this truth. When the Lord teaches us about joy or blessedness, he knows that this world’s concept about joy is shallow, temporary and fleeting. The Lord teaches us that true blessedness— or true joy— has everything to do with your relationship with him, and how you live your life for him. There is no real joy apart from that! Jesus tells us that if you practice these beatitudes, you will surely experience true joy. Many Christians can testify to this. You need to believe Jesus when he tells you: you will be blessed— happy—  if you live by them. So, let’s look at them.

 

First, the poor in spirit. Look at verse 3. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Who are the poor in spirit? It’s those who know how much they are in need of God’s mercy. The man or woman who are poor in spirit are those who, in their great need for mercy ask God to forgive their sins. They know they are poor and needy. They know they have sinned against God. They know that that they deserve God’s condemnation. And in this poverty, they long to be forgiven and reconciled to God. The poor in spirit are not so proud as to consider themselves beyond repentance. They take great comfort in the fact that God had granted repentance and faith to those who seek his mercy. And they are very precious to God! They often cry out to God for his mercy. And when these poor in spirit come to the Lord, he gives them the assurance of his grace of forgiveness. And what happens then? Their poor souls are enriched with God and the richness of his forgiveness and blessings. But those who seem rich in spirit, who do not seem to know their own sinfulness and the wretchedness of their souls before God, these remain in their self righteousness and receive nothing from God. The poor in spirit may have nothing in this world but a deep sense of poverty before God. But Jesus promises that they are blessed, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs! To receive the kingdom is the greatest of blessings.

 

Second, those who mourn. Look at verse 4. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” One of the most common of our human passions to sorrow and to mourn. We sorrow over so many painful events in our lives. Sometimes we feel sorrow without knowing why we are. But even without knowing it, people really sorrow the most because of the emptiness and meaninglessness they feel in life in general. And rarely, they sorrow for others. We can say that sorrow is the underlying story of humanity! But this kind of “human sorrow” isn’t what Jesus is talking about here. Jesus is talking about “godly sorrow”. What’s that? Godly sorrow is when you and I sorrow and mourn over our sins. Godly sorrow comes to our hearts when we come face to face with them. When a person recognizes that he or she is a sinner, and comprehend the enormity of such a revelation in their hearts— when they understand that because of their slavery to sin, they so much offend and grieve God— that’s when a person sorrows and mourns also for their sins. What’s the use of knowing that one has sinned, but there is no godly sorrow in their hearts over their sins! No, when I know that I have sinned against the God, and that my sin deserves condemnation and punishment, then I grieve and mourn and repent for my sins. I ask God’s forgiveness, and I receive it, because God never turns away a repentant sinner. Then there are those who not only mourn for their own sins, but for the sins of others as well, because they know that all sin grieves God. To them God gives enormous comfort, when his grace touches that heart. When we mourn for other’s sins, God also hears our mourning and in his grace opens the eyes of those we mourn for to acknowledge their sins and turn to God in repentance and in faith.

 

Third, the meek. Look at verse 5. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Sometimes being “poor in spirit” is confused with being “meek”. But they’re not the same. The poor in spirit are the humble at heart who understand full well how poor they are towards God, who know that they can offer God nothing but grief because of their sins, and who wait on God’s mercy. The poor in spirit know that without God’s mercy, they are nothing and have nothing.  In the same way, the meek are also humble of heart. They not only mourn for their sins, but they also decide to submit themselves to God and to his will in their lives. Why are they blessed in the sight of God? Because when we think about the world and its diverse ways and lifestyles, how so many people live as they please, do as they please, never giving a moment of their time to think about God and his ways, we are amazed at the meek who reject the world and its ways in order to submit to God and to his will! Most people think of what’s best for me and what’s not good and right for me, what to do and what not to do. But the meek understand that God is the sovereign creator, he is the Savior of my soul, and he sheds his grace on me and my life that I might deny myself in full submission to him and to his will in my life. That is the true way of blessing, our Lord Jesus assures us. People think they are happy and blessed if they live according to their desire and wisdom. But life under curse. Jesus was meek. He prayed: “Not my will, but yours be done.” (Lk.22:42)

 

Fourth, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Look at verse 6. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” What is righteousness that we ought to hunger and thirst for it? Righteous means to be right with God or to be in good standing with God. If you’re not righteous or in good standing with God, how can you have a good relationship with God, or expect God to rescue you from condemnation and welcome you into his heavenly home? So many people never give a thought to that! So many are under the illusion that they are righteous because of their good works, or because they are good people, or nice people. But here’s the Bible truth: “There is no one righteous, not even one.” (Ro.3:10-12) So, the world is divided into three kinds of people: Those who do not believe what the Bible says about righteousness and feel secure in their own goodness to lead them to heaven;  Then there are those who couldn’t care less if they were righteous or not; and finally there are those who believe what the Bible says about righteousness. They are eager to make things right with God. And God leads them to Jesus, who alone can make you and I righteous. We put our faith in him, and he begins to satisfy the hunger and thirst of our souls. To us who believe, Jesus’ words “they will be filled”, is not a promise but the experience of our lives and our life testimony.

 

Fifth, the merciful. Look at verse 7. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” How hard it is to find mercy in a world so much without mercy. We live in a world so unfamiliar with mercy. We are so easily hurt and embittered. We are so unwilling to forgive. We are too quick to hold grudges. So what’s the result of all this? The result is that people, who have offended and hurt God so much, don’t know how to ask God for mercy. And we didn’t! But God himself showed us such unimaginable mercy when he let his Son hang on a cross, and shed his blood so that our offenses against him might be forgiven. Not only that, but God also showed great mercy when he offered— not condemnation— but eternal life and the heavenly kingdom to those who seek his mercy. On the cross, Jesus said of all of us: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Lk.23:34a) Now that’s the epitome of mercy! And the Lord asks every one of us to show mercy and he blesses everyone who’s merciful. Mercy is at the heart of God’s loving character! And it’s your most noble virtue as a child of God. It’s what you should desire more than anything else as you pray to be more Christ-like! Our culture today is saturated with supposed advocates of justice who would help those who are offended— and of course, the lawyers are usually standing by for the right price! Showing mercy doesn’t come easy in this post Christian era. But at least among God’s children it should be your practice and mine! Show courage in forgiving others. Show mercy in being less sensitive to those who hurt you and more sensitive to what God would want you to do! Jesus promised that God too will show you mercy.

 

Sixth, the pure in heart. Look at verse 8. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Where can one find a pure heart? Young and developing years, for example, should be the purest of one’s years. It is during our young years that most of us should see God and grow near to him. But this liberal generation has taken that away from us and our youth. Most seem to secretly enjoy foul things in dark places, flirting with disaster. And there is no sign of grief over the things that shame. And we’re not talking about pornography alone. We’re talking about so many things in this world that are the idols of this age, which also rob all of us of a pure heart, and the privilege of seeing God! How can anyone see God if their eyes are too busy looking the other way! But Jesus wants us to have pure heart, and the only way to have a pure heart is to receive Jesus and his grace and let Jesus rule our hearts forsaking all our idols. When a person turns their heart away from the world to faith in Christ, something beautiful and mysterious begins to happen. Nothing in this world has the power to purify a heart like Jesus’ presence in that heart! And as your heart is purified by the Holy Spirit, and all the garbage in the heart ejected, there is nothing that can keep you from seeing. It is the promise of the Lord that those with a pure heart see God. Every Christian who has seriously turned their heart away from the world and embraced the Lord can testify that they have seen God’s hand at work, in you and all around you. But we must be careful. There are those who want to see God. But, without exercising their faith, they can only see their sins or their failures or their faults and burdens. Trust the Lord, and he will purify your heart. And you will see God in all his glory!

 

Seventh, the peacemakers. Look at verse 9. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” There was a young man who packed his bags one day, said goodbye to his Father and set out on a journey. And he never looked back. In his rebelliousness against his Father, with all his heart he pursued everything his Father told him was unrighteous and offensive. In his defiance to his Father he lived to celebrate his long awaited freedom. Of course, he didn’t want to become his father’s enemy. He just wanted some room to breath and to do what he wanted. He only wanted to enjoy all what he’d missed out on as a young man growing up in his Father’s house. His friends cheered him for his courage to stand up to his Father. His mentors praised him as a free thinker. The world celebrated his deliverance from oppression. But he didn’t know that the more he broke his Father’s rules, the greater was his offense against his Father. And soon, his offenses against his Father were so great that he was no longer considered a wayward son, but he was now considered his Father’s enemy. But something even worse happened. War broke out between his Father and his Father’s enemies. And when he saw that his Father’s enemies were being destroyed left and right, in his great terror he tried to reveal himself as his Father’s son. But the problem was that no one recognized him anymore, and so he was cut down with the enemy. Do you know whose story this is? It’s everyone’s story, whether they know it or not. We all must be cut down as our Father’s enemy. But do you know what the Father did? Instead of cutting us down, God sent Jesus to make peace with you and me so that we might come back home to our Father. That’s the kind of peace Jesus was talking about. Jesus himself is the Supreme Peacemaker. And he calls you and I to be peacemakers like him. He calls us to search for our lost brothers and sisters so that they too might make peace with their Father. There’s nothing you can do that’s more precious than that!

 

Eighth, the persecuted. Look at verse 10-12. “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” No one likes or wants to be persecuted. And everyone wants to be loved and treated well even if they do not deserve it. But Jesus told us that if you are his disciple, persecution is not optional or accidental but inevitable. But if and when it happens, it would be blessed— you’ll be blessed— because it’s the kind of persecution that happens for Jesus and on account of his name. Not only that, but Jesus also commands us to rejoice in our persecution. To be persecuted is difficult. How much more difficult it is then to rejoice in something so painful as unreasonable persecution! How we do that? Actually we can’t! Not with human effort at least! But we can rejoice in persecution when we are willing to accept it for Jesus’ sake— to honor his precious name. When you love Jesus more than your own comfort— more than your own pleasures— more than your life, then you can do anything for his sake, because Jesus gives you what strength you need not only to endure the discomforts of your troubles but to rejoice in them as well.

 

Jesus taught his disciples and us the principles of the Christian life. It’s what the Christians life should be like. It’s how you should live your life. It’s what you should strive for! He taught us that we are blessed if our heart attitude grows to embrace these beatitudes. Actually they are impossible beatitudes to live by with our own will or effort. Every beatitude goes against our human nature. But Jesus knew that if we embrace these principles in our hearts, your and my struggle to live by them won’t be futile. Instead our struggle would mature us in the image of the Lord Jesus who fulfilled every one of them and passed them down to us. Jesus also assures us that we would become the salt of the earth and the light of the world to those who are lost and would return to our Father. (13-16) May God help you to receive all of these beatitudes in your heart by faith, and let them become the grace by which you live in him and for him.

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