Summary: Jesus’ Beatitudes are a splash of frigid water in the face of the self-righteous, but a cup of refreshing water for God’s forgiven saints who are weary of the ways of the world. (All Saints Day, 2001)
BEATITUDES—MORE THAN SKIN DEEP (Matthew 5:1-12)
The Beatitudes are like a splash of ice-cold water in the face of those who are self-satisfied and full of themselves. The Pharisees, for example, were wealthy, successful, powerful, and very religious. They thought the coming of the Kingdom of God would surely bring them happiness, and that God would surely reward them for being such good people. Their righteousness, however, was only skin-deep. It was a show. It was fake. They looked good on the outside to other people, but in God’s eyes they were rotten to the core.
If we are like the Pharisees—and to some extent all of us are—then we had better pay attention! God wants us to empty ourselves of all the things that we have prided ourselves on. He wants us to take off those religious masks and the fake smiles and simply be ourselves with him—warts and all. He knows our true spiritual condition much better than we do. He knows the secret, hidden sins of our hearts and minds. He knows the true motivation behind each of our actions—the selfishness, the greed, the ambition, the desire. He knows what we do when we think no one else is watching. None of this is news to him! He just wants us to acknowledge our pitiful condition before him—that our own righteousness just doesn’t have what it takes to “make the cut” in the kingdom of God.
However, the Beatitudes are also a cool drink of water for those who have a bad taste in their mouths from all the wicked, evil ways of the world, and are longing for something better—for something that brings true refreshment and satisfaction instead of leaving us dry. Jesus takes what the world calls “blessed” and turns it completely upside down. In the process, he gives special honor those who are despised and hated by the world, and shows us all where true joy and happiness in life really come from! Once we have been emptied of all our sinful pride and self-righteousness, we discover that God has always wanted to fill us with the good things that can come only through faith in Jesus Christ, our Savior, who is more than willing to forgive us, cleanse us, and make us new from within—a new heart, a new mind, a new life!
Jesus began by saying, “BLESSED ARE…”
These first words mark Jesus as the Giver. The word “blessed” shows that God has acted or will act for man’s good:
Psalm 32:1-2 Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.
Psalm 65:4 Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts!
Deuteronomy 33:29; Blessed are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD?
Revelation 14:13 “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”
Revelation 19:9 “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!”
In Matthew, “blessed” is always linked to God’s action in Jesus himself.
Matthew 11:6 Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”
Matthew 13:16-17 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
Matthew 16:17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.
Jesus’ Beatitudes therefore declare what He IS and GIVES. In pronouncing these blessings, he is announcing himself as the Messiah! Jesus then identifies those who are blessed:
1) “The poor in spirit”: people who are helpless, and look to God to meet every need.
2) “Those who mourn”: people who are heartbroken, and look to God for comfort.
3) “The meek”: people who are powerless, and look to God for strength
4) “Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness”: people who are empty, and look to God for purpose and satisfaction in life.
Jesus also names the blessings they receive:
1) The poor in spirit will receive the kingdom of heaven. Really, we are all helpless before God. We are born into this world as spiritual corpses—spiritually deaf and blind.
Ephesians 2:1-3 "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath."