The sermon on the mount is one of the most well remembered teaching segments from the Bible. The repetitive phrase “blessed” is key to understanding the passage. Some people have interpreted this as “happy”. This is however too narrow a definition because happiness is focused on how we are feeling. Rather being blessed is God’s favour towards us. The sermon on the mount is not teaching a simple formula that if we do A we will get B. Jesus is explaining that when these character traits are evidenced in our lives we have God’s favour working in our lives ! In Matthew 5:1-2 we learn that Jesus is speaking to the disciples and so He is explaining what it means to be in the Kingdom. This is consistent with the fact that becoming a Christian is a gift which is offered to us and we receive by repentance of sin and faith in Jesus’ death.
Further, these qualities of “poor in spirit” and “mourning” et al build on one another. Jesus in Matthew 5:3 is teaching that critical to being in the Kingdom of God is to be poor in spirit. When Jesus began His public ministry (Luke 4:18ff) He quoted from Isaiah 61:1ff. In Isaiah’s context the poor in spirit were the exiled of Israel who looked to God to save them. He was their only hope because they could not save themselves. So to be poor in spirit means that we come to Jesus recognizing that we are spiritually bankrupt and that we have nothing to commend ourselves. There is a wonderful hymn by Toplady and he says :- “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling, naked, come to thee for dress, helpless, look to thee for grace, foul I to the fountain fly, wash me saviour or I die.” This first beatitude is critical to the rest because unless you realize you need Jesus and his salvation you won’t be open to receive from Him. To realize this shows that you are blessed and God’s favour is on your life. Being poor in spirit naturally leads to mourning. The mourning that is pointed to is to mourn over our sins because we see how evil and wicked we are. The Good News is that God doesn’t leave us in this state but promises us comfort. This comfort is of course the work of the Holy Spirit as He applies the benefits of forgiveness of sins won through His death on the Cross. IT is natural that if you understand your spiritual poverty then you will grow in meekness because you realise that you have nothing to boast about. But meekness is not weakness but a recognition that God is in con-trol of your life and this gives you grace to be humble and gracious with people without letting them walk over you. These beatitudes are framed by the phrase “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” v3 & v9. This is a writing device called an inclusio which means that everything between these verses is about possessing the kingdom of being possessed by Jesus and His kingdom. God bless you as God grows His character in you as you allow God to work in your life. Please pray about this teaching.
Rev David O’Mara