The Sermon on the Mount, delivered by Jesus of Nazareth, is the greatest sermon ever preached. The Sermon, as found in the Gospel of Matthew, is found in chapters 5, 6, and 7.
Understanding the Structure of Matthew Chapter 5
The Sermon falls into three distinct parts. Broadly speaking, chapter 5 is about “true righteousness”; chapter 6 is about “false righteousness”; and chapter 7 is about “self-righteousness.” The first part of the Sermon – chapter 5 – begins with “The Beatitudes” (5.1-12). “Beatitude” comes from the Latin word “Beatus,” which means “blessed.” For many, the Beatitudes are about how we can be blessed; about what we must do if we are to be blessed.
The Most Common Way – Of Understanding the Beatitudes
So, many people think: if we want the kingdom of heaven, then we should be poor in spirit; if we want to be comforted, then we should mourn; if we want to inherit the earth, then we must be meek and humble; if we want to be satisfied, then we should hunger and thirst for righteousness; if want to receive mercy, then we must be merciful; if we want to see God, then we must be pure in heart; if we want to be called children of God, then we must be peacemakers; if we want the kingdom of heaven, then we must be persecuted.
This is one way – the most common way – of understanding the Beatitudes. There is, however, another way of understanding the Beatitudes.
According to this understanding, the Beatitudes are actually telling us not to do anything. They are merely describing the state of the people in general, and how the coming of Christ makes the difference in the state and stature of human existence. Jesus is saying, we who are poor in our spirits are now blessed and can find our share in the kingdom of heaven because Jesus the Saviour has come. “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Our True Identity
We who have been mourning in life because of life’s sorrows and shames can now be comforted because Jesus has come. “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.”
We who often have no share or inheritance in life’s resources and wealth can now be considered to be the most wealthy and fortunate on earth because we can have Jesus. “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” We who continually and miserably fail to live up to our own standards of righteousness – let alone God’s standards of righteousness – can be filled with the righteousness that comes from God, because Jesus has come. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled.”
We who are merciful to others, but are ourselves in need of mercy and forgiveness, can now receive it because Jesus has come. “Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.” We who deeply long to see purity in life and the world can see and know the purest of purities – the beauty of God’s own face, because Jesus has come. “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”
Blessed are the Peacemakers
We who work and strive for peace in the world, often caught in the middle – between conflicting groups, misunderstood and mislabelled by both sides, without an identity. Now we can truly have an identity that is given by God himself – we can now be called the children of God. “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.”
Once we were not blessed; now we are blessed. Jesus, the Blessed One, has come. We have received Him. And that is the ultimate blessedness that ultimately counts.
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