What does it mean to be happy? To be fortunate? Blessed? Who are the ones we as people regard as the lucky ones? The fortunate, the blessed ones? What do we think of? We tend to think of those with money. They can afford to live the way they want. They never have to worry about paying their bills. If they want something, they can have it. We think of those who can afford a nice home, a nice car. When they travel they fly at the front of the plane and not in cattle class. And who can afford whatever their heart’s desire is. We don’t just think of the rich though. We think of the beautiful, those who are so attractive. Everyone wants to be with them. If they are an attractive guy, they can get whatever girl they want. And vice versa. The attractive woman gets the guy she wants. We can envy the beautiful people. We also think of the powerful. Those who have access to privilege and status. And of course, these things often go together. The rich, beautiful, powerful people. The fortunate ones, the lucky ones, the blessed ones. People like pop stars, movie stars, sports stars. Who wouldn’t want to be Micheal Jordan, Paris Hilton, Darren Lockyer, Taylor Swift or Justin Bieber? Who of us hasn’t wondered why we haven’t got the lucky breaks they have? Now even if we don’t go looking at famous names, who of us wouldn’t wish to be more beautiful, richer and more powerful than we are now? Why do we desire these things? Because we think that if we have these things we will be happy, fortunate, blessed. But are these the things that bring true happiness? Are these the things that bring lasting, eternal, happiness? And most importantly, are these the things that Jesus regards as the true hallmarks of happiness?
Today we start on the Sermon on the Mount and we start with Matthew 5:1-12 which is commonly known as the Beatitudes. In the beatitudes Jesus describes those who are happy – blessed. And He turns our idea of happiness and fortunate on its head. We think happiness is to be rich. Jesus says the happy ones are those who are poor in spirit. We say happiness is not to be sad. Jesus says those who mourn will be happy. We say it is the powerful who are happy. Jesus says is the meek and humble and merciful and those who are peacemakers who are happy. We say it is those who are able to indulge in whatever vice they want and get away with it who are happy. Jesus says it is those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, and who are pure in heart, who are happy. We reckon we are happy when we lead a life where everyone thinks we are wonderful and everyone looks up to us. Jesus says the happy ones are those who are persecuted, reviled and who are insulted and have evil things said against them. Wow, what a difference. What sort of happiness is this? What sort of blessedness is this that welcomes persecution, poverty and humility?
But first, a little bit of context. We are continuing on preaching through Matthew. Last week we looked at Jesus calling some of His disciples and we also looked at Jesus starting His public ministry. And in verse 25 we read that vast crowds began to follow Him as he taught and healed many people. And our passage today opens in chapter 5:1 with (pg 809)