Summary: Sermon discussing the first 4 "blessed" phrases in Matthew 5:1-12. Touches on the Greek background of this passage. What does the word "blessed" mean? How does God want us to be?
Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father in Heaven, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit who keeps us steadfast in our faith. Amen.
Today we celebrate All Saints Sunday with the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the mount. As we examine this message from Matthew, we will see that it has a wide range of application for all Christians. In this message, Jesus is giving us a list of things that we as believers should be trying our best to do. It’s a list of qualities that God finds honorable and good.
There are nine different qualities described in this short paragraph of scripture. Each has a starting state and an end state; there is a today, and there is a future in each of the verses. Throughout these passages, we see that they are joined together with a common theme. They are not isolated ideas. Instead, they build a common thread, a common view of how we are to act, how we are to think and how we are to react. Each verse builds on the idea of the previous to build a more complete personality picture.
In essence, we find a formula for how to be a Christian or a Saint. This is exactly the opposite of what our world and society see as useful and productive. If you were to take Jesus’ phrases from Matthew 5:1 - 12, and turn them inside-out, you would find a clear reflection of the secular world. You would see the world as viewed outside of the walls of the church. You would see a world that puts God as secondary to gathering possessions, a world that chooses to put selfish concerns over helping our fellow men. In essence, you would see an ideal of a world with no place for God. The ideas expressed in these 12 short verses, are contrary to how the world expects us to act. We, as Christians, are not intended to be the norm; we are the outsiders. Here, Jesus is describing how to avoid the errors of this world and how to embrace the will of God instead. For our place is not of this world, but of a heavenly kingdom to follow.
The Apostle Paul summarized it quite well in Galatians when he wrote:
For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. (Galatians 5:17, ESV)
Jesus spoke this message to His disciples as well as a crowd up on the mountain. Although He did not speak directly to us, the message applies to all of us today as well. Let’s take a closer look at what Jesus was explaining.
We need to start with the word “blessed.” This word continually repeats throughout this message. By itself, this repeating of a word is an indication of the stress that Jesus was placing on these verses. The act of repeating a word is used to show the importance of the message. He was stressing how we should act. But, the word “blessed” itself is often misunderstood as being restricted to meaning an outward blessing. We must consider that the New Testament was originally written in Greek and not English. By examining the Greek behind our English translation, there are a few nuances that language has a difficult time trying to convey to us. The word “blessed” is not intended to mean outward blessings, but inward blessings. This is not fleshly blessings in any way, but spiritually blessings. Another way to look at this Greek word is to define it as “spiritually prosperous and fully satisfied.” This is the joy that comes from being a member of the family of Christ. To be blessed is not static, but it is a progressive state in much the same way that each verse here builds on the last. It is the movement from one spiritual condition to another. As members of the body of Christ, we are all at different spiritual development levels and we are all moving in our spiritually health. Consider the spiritual health of both the church as a whole, as well as the message that Jesus was trying to convey on all those people on that mountain. With this in mind, we need to use this word, “spiritually prosperous,” as a lens to view the remaining scripture. These phrases all refer to spiritual health.
The first 4 of the “blessed” phrases deal with issues internal to each of us. The next 3, to how we treat others. The final 2 address our own response to oppression. Each of these phrases, we could dedicate an entire sermon to. However, since we will want to eat lunch at sometime, we’ll concentrate our discussion on the first 4, the verses that deal with how we are internally.