Summary: God directs the inheritance of the Kingdom toward the one who displays the spirit of meekness
John Paton was a missionary in the New Hebrides Islands. One night hostile natives surrounded the mission station on the island, intent on burning out the Patons and killing them. Paton and his wife prayed during that terror-filled night that God would deliver them. They resolved within themselves that, after they prayed, they would have peace and go on to sleep, and let God protect them in the night. When daylight came they were amazed to see their attackers leave. A year later, the chief of the tribe was converted to Christ. Remembering what had happened, Paton asked the chief what had kept him from burning down the house and killing them that particular night. The chief replied in surprise, "Who were all those men with you there?" Paton knew no men were present; it was just he and his wife--but the chief said he was afraid to attack because he had seen hundreds of big men in shining garments with drawn swords circling the mission station. When you resolve that your strength resides within, you need not worry about the power of the enemies from without.
In teaching, it is taught that a good teacher never begins on the negative but rather on the positive. Being a Master Teacher, our Lord did not begin this important sermonic discourse with a negative criticism of the religious scribes and pharisaic leaders. However, He begins with a positive emphasis on righteous character and the blessings that it brings to the life of the believer. Take note that the Pharisees in that day had taught that true righteousness was based upon that which is external, something that needed to begin and end with what one could see on the outside; a matter of obeying rules and regulations. Out of their legality they began to teach that righteousness could be measured by public praying, systematic giving, impressive fasting, attending Sunday School, playing the part, and many of the other external markings of religious upbringing and tradition. But it is in this opening section of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount that He reveals clearly and succinctly that true righteousness and Christian character is that which flows from God the Father through God the Son, empowered by the Holy Spirit and flows into the heart of the Christian believer, from the inside out. Essentially, Christ lets us know that true righteousness is an inside job.
Can you imagine, for a moment, how the crowd’s attention was riveted on Jesus when He uttered His first word: “Blessed.” The Latin word for blessed is beatus, and from this comes the word beatitude. This was a powerful word to those who heard Jesus in that day; for to them it meant “divine joy and perfect happiness.” This statement, no doubt, shocks His Jewish audience. To be sure, the first two Beatitudes regarding spiritual bankruptcy and mourning were also shocking. It is in the nature of Jesus, just like His Daddy, to call for a standard of living that’s foreign to those who hear. After all, they know how to be spiritually proud, pompous and self-sufficient. They are good at following their external forms of religion and ritual; and they are foolish enough to believe (like many of us) that they can survive and find fulfillment in life by their own strength, ingenuity, intelligence, influence, wisdom, connections, money and resources. In fact, they actually were foolish enough to believe that when the Messiah arrived, He would come with a sterling silver, diamond engrained trophy and say, “I’m here to commend you for your wonderful spirituality. God is very pleased with you. I am here to usher you into the Kingdom.” But Jesus gives to them a rude awakening, and He essentially says to them: “The Kingdom doesn’t belong to you. The Kingdom is not designed to enthrone self-righteous people who focus on form but have no faith; the Kingdom inheritor is not those who are spiritually pious and pompous but they who have a sense of their own spiritual destitution; and them who mourn over the fact that they’ve attempted to attain external righteousness without a righteous God.”
Essentially Jesus describes a ‘blessedness’ and ‘happiness’ from God’s perspective. The word ‘blessed’ here implies an inner satisfaction and sufficiency that doesn’t depend on outward circumstances for happiness. Bear in mind that these eight beatitudes fall into four categories. The first beatitude, in verse 3, reveals the attitude one has with SELF. That is when we realize that we are spiritually poor and have need of God. Verses 4 thru 6, which are mourning, meekness and hunger, reveals the attitude one has with SIN. Verses 7 thru 9 reveal one’s attitude with the SOVEREIGN LORD. And verses 10 thru 16 describe the attitude one has toward SOCIETY. And it is in this third beatitude that we find how one who is righteous sees life, others and God in light of their SIN: they are MEEK.