“And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying(Mat 5:1-2)…”
And thus began what became known as Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, the most famous and quoted from sermon ever.
The Lord launched into His sermon by introducing a series of pithy sayings—brief, forceful, and meaningful in expression; full of vigour and substance. These sayings are widely known today as the Beatitudes.
The Beatitudes means “the blessings.” They are called such because the first word of each of these sayings is “blessed.”
The Greek word makarios, translated into our English Bible as “blessed”, means in its simplest definition “happy.” What the Lord introduces here in the Beatitudes are the keys to true happiness.
Happiness is the pursuit of every man and woman. Much of what we do is because of pleasant results we hope to attain. We work hard for the paycheck because we can then provide for our families. It brings us happiness when our loved ones are provided for.
We also enjoy the (licit) pleasures of life. Recreation—sports; reading, etc.—are pleasurable activities. We can read in the American Declaration of Independence that the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human right.
In other words, we are free to live howsoever we choose to make us happy as long as we keep the law and respect the rights of others.All these are fair and good. But it is also right here in the pursuit of that fleeting sense of pleasure that man has bought into the ancient lie that sin will bring happiness.
We are meant for so much more than the pleasures of this earthly life. The Lord Jesus gives us the keys to true blessedness—true happiness—in the Beatitudes. He is saying to us, in effect, that if we want to be truly happy, we must do it His way.
A read-through of these sayings will immediately impress upon us the stark contrast between the world’s understandingof true happiness and the Lord’s definition of it. What could possibly be the rationale behind the connection between spiritual poverty, mourning and persecution with true happiness? Whatever could Jesus mean by that?
In the Beatitudes the Lord is describing for us the character of the Christian. The rest of the sermon deals basically with the Christian manner of life. But conduct is an outpouring of character, and so it is here at the Beatitudes that our Lord begins His great sermon.
What can we draw from this? First of all, since the Lord is describingthe Christiancharacter, it dawns on us that every Christian ought to develop the character set forth here.
No, he is not describing an elite class of Christians. There is no such class. Every Christian is a saint (Rom 1:7, 1Co 1:2, Eph 1:1, et al.), called out of the world and sin by the gospel (2Th 2:14) for God’s holy purpose and service.
Secondly, every Christian ought to exemplify by daily living every one of these character traits.
Jesus does not mean for us to exhibit some and not the rest of these characteristics. We are not to choose which of these Beatitudes is more suitable to our temperament or disposition and focus on them to the neglect of others.
The Beatitudes are not personality traits, where the melancholic are more likely to mourn whereas the sanguine are cheerfully optimistic, spared from mourning and the comfort which the Lord says will follow.
Each one of us, whatever our personality may be, is to manifest the Beatitudes in our lives.
These Beatitudes are not disjointed, stand-alone sayings. It is a system of traits closely linked with each leading necessarily to the next. It is a progression; we develop our Christian character beginning with the first.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit (Mat 5:3).” It leads on to the next, “Blessed are they that mourn (Mat 5:4).” It is those who are aware of their spiritual poverty who will mourn for their condition.
And such grief for one’s spiritual poverty makes no room or allowance for pride. The worldly idea of self-confidence (or confidence in one’s abilities or sense of identity without consideration of God), is set aside. Instead we find meekness. “Blessed are the meek (Mat 5:5).”
Jesus paints for us a picture of a Christian as a person distinctly different from a worldly person. We are meant to show the world the difference between them and us. In the same sermon the Lord says that we are to be salt of the earth and light of the world (cf. Mat 5:13-16).
We need not fret ourselves too much with how we could attract more visitors to our worship services, or how we could interest a friend to study the Bible with us. When the world sees the difference, their interest will be piqued.
They will respond generally in two ways: they will either become curious to know more, or they will resent our difference from them and hold us in contempt. The Lord does not shield us from the very real possibility of suffering persecution for His sake (cf. Mat 5:12).
The power of the gospel, not only to save us but to change us, is real and in the Beatitudes and the rest of the Sermon on the Mount we see how the change is to be manifested in our lives.
True blessedness is the saints’ glorious heritage.