The Beatitudes

Carl Bloch's painting depicting Jesus sitting before a crowd and delivering the Sermon on the Mount
The Sermon on the Mount
Carl Bloch, 1890

We’re going to be looking at the Sermon on the Mount through the next several weeks. This is Jesus’ longest recorded sermon, and it contains some concepts that are easy to read but difficult to actually live. This message is also meant to change minds about what people look for in Christ and their roles in God’s kingdom.

Prior to delivering this message, we see Jesus tempted in the wilderness. When He returns from that, Jesus begins His ministry, teaching in synagogues and performing miraculous healing. While this is going on, Jesus’ gathering grows into a great crowd. It is to this crowd — these people who had been listening to His teaching and had benefitted from His miracles — that He begins to deliver the Sermon on the Mount.

Jesus Begins His Message

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.”

Blessed Are Those That Seek

Starting from the beginning, Jesus lays a foundation of spiritual humility. Being poor in spirit means admitting we cannot reach perfection on our own, and we have to come to Christ in full knowledge of the emptiness that only He can fill. Like both James and Peter say in their letters, we should humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand so that he can lift us up from our broken state.

From this humility, Jesus then blesses those who mourn. In this, Jesus is not talking about those who are always downcast and find the worst in any situation. Instead, this is a person who has a tender heart for their own soul and the souls of others. They are those who comfort others and look for comfort in turn. When we know we are truly poor in spirit, we will seek comfort and we will find it in the Lord.

This humble need then leads us to a mind of meekness. This is a preference and deference for others. This is a quiet strength that speaks of an outpouring of inner peace that God is in control. When we look for the peace that comes from God’s comfort in our spiritual humility, then we hunger and thirst for His sustenance. We look to Him to fill that empty feeling in our souls. We know we are empty, and that leads to humility, mourning, and meekness. These guide us to fill that emptiness with our God.

Blessed Are Those Who Act

Jesus then transitions to what we do with the fullness we receive from God. First, Jesus says we should demonstrate this in the mercy we show others. As David in the Psalms, we often ask for God’s mercy, but we must also be showing that mercy to others, especially if they have wronged us in any way. As God forgives us our wrongs, so should we forgive others.

This mercy helps purity of heart. In this, we truly seek the good in others, laying all grudges and ulterior motives aside. It’s a heart that does not seek credit, praise, or vindication. It is a humble heart at peace with fulness from God that does not seek out fulfillment from this life.

If we are pure in heart and showing mercy to others, then we will be peacemakers. We will be the type of people who actively seek peace in times of anger and conflict. We value peace over conflict, and we value restoration over resolution. This carries right into those times we face criticism and persecution. If we are passionately pursuing righteousness, then we will come under fire from those who do not seek God. But we should be gracious in persecution, full of mercy and peace toward those who would mistreat us.

All of these things describe the identity of us if we are to be Christ-like. We hunger and thirst for our God that He might fill the emptiness in our lives. This fulfillment should then bring us a pure heart and inner peace. We then share this peace with others, whether or not we feel they might deserve it, through our peaceful conduct and the mercy we share.

A Christ-Centered Heart

This is a fundamental shift in our perspectives, our priorities, and our conduct. This is not about maintaining a checklist; it’s about an identity. This is not about success in this life; it’s about the next. It’s not about doing well based on my own standards; it’s about holding ourselves to God’s. It’s not about having my way; it’s about completely submitting myself to something higher. We are called to a better way, but better does not always mean easy.

The attitudes and conduct Jesus’ describes in these verses take commitment. They take sacrifice. They take resolve. These are more than a collection of proverbs or general suggestions. These are commands from our Savior about the mindset that should define our Christian lives: humility. When we start with that, our relationship with God and our relationships with others will all begin to reflect these words that open the Sermon on the Mount.

lesson by Donn Koonce