Summary: In this text we want to ask and attempt to answer four questions concerning the poor in spirit.
“Blessed are the Humble”
In the last message we compared happiness and blessedness. So if I asked you this morning, “Are you happy?" Being the spiritual people that you are, and knowing that happiness is not the same as “blessed,” you might stumble and hesitate because the question is not an easy question to answer. Some theological dictionaries define "blessed" as a "state of happiness" but this is not completely accurate because blessed differs from ''happy'' which describes a person with good ''luck''. Because as we learned last week the English word "Happy" comes from the root hap which means luck as in favorable circumstance. Isn't it true that even for most Christians that as long as we still reside on this Earth that our happiness tends to go up or down depending on what "happens" or how things are going in our life?
John Stott writes, “Happiness is a subjective state, whereas Jesus is making an objective judgment… He is declaring not what they may feel like (happy) but what God thinks of them and what on that account they are – they are blessed.” [John Stott. “Essential Living: The Sermon on the Mount.” (IVP; 1988) p. 33]
Anyone in their right mind would choose to be blessed over just being momentarily happy. After we get through with our study of the Beatitudes if someone ask you, “Are you happy?” I hope that you will be able to answer them, “Yes sometimes, but I am blessed all the time.” That might even lead to them asking you to explain the difference between being happy and being blessed and I hope that you will be able to do that.
How much superior is the condition of the saint who is “blessed” – the state in which we are still in the world and yet are independent of the world because our satisfaction comes from God and not from favor-able circumstances. Yet we need to understand that one can be “blessed” and yet be in less than favorable circumstances. Jesus points this out in just few verses when He says, "Blessed (makarios) are you when they insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven…" (Matthew 5:11-12)
“Most people are interested in being happy! The pursuit of happiness is the driving force of our affluent western culture. However, when you look at the list of ingredients Jesus gives for happiness, (in the Beatitudes) there is a big shock in store! This is a strange list to say the least, and many of these qualities appear the exact opposite of what most of us are looking for.” (Charles Price. “Focus on the Bible Commentary: Matthew.” (Christian Focus Publications, 1998).
With the difference between blessed and happy in mind think of those who had come out into the wilder-ness to hear Jesus speak. They came because they were convinced the He was the one – He was the Messiah – He was the long awaited deliverer. They had dreams and hopes and expectations for the future and they all hinged on Him. What would He say? What secrets would He share about the future? What strategies would He lay out to defeat Israel’s enemies and restore the kingdom. With great expectation they awaited His first words. The very first sentence of His first sermon stunned them into silence. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (v. 3)
This morning we want to ask and attempt to answer four questions concerning the poor in spirit.
First, Why Does Jesus Begin With Poor In Spirit?
There is in the field of study of the Bible (Hermeneutics) what is called the “law of the first mention” which to put simply means that the place in Scripture where something is first taught is very impor-tant in determining its significance. This is the first statement, of the first recorded sermon of Jesus, recorded in the first Gospel. Jesus begins with the state-ment “blessed are the poor in spirit” it is therefore fair to ask, why does he begin here?
As D. Martyn Lloyd Jones points out, “There is, beyond any question, a very definite order in these Beatitudes. Our Lord does not place them in their respective positions haphazardly or accidentally; there is what we may describe as a spiritual logical sequence to be found here. This, of necessity, is the one which must come at the beginning for the good reason that there is no entry into the kingdom of heaven, or the kingdom of God, apart from it. There is no one in the kingdom of God who is not poor in spirit. It is the funda¬mental characteristic of the Christian and of the citizen of the kingdom of heaven, and all the other character-istics are in a sense the result of this one.” [D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. “Studies in the Sermon on the Mount “(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Pub., 1959) p. 42]