Summary: What does it mean to be happy? What does Jesus intend for us to do and be according to His Sermon on the Mount?
This morning we will be looking at Matthew 5:1-12. If you do not have a Bible you can look inside your bulletin and the Scriptures are printed on the back of the insert.
This morning we will begin a series of sermons focusing on the teaching of Christ found in the gospel of Matthew 5-7. We are calling this series, RED because we will be looking at 3 chapters that contain a lot of red letters (if you have a red letter edition of the Bible). Matthew 5-7 contains the first of 5 sets of sermons by Christ (commonly called discourses).
Matthew 5-7 is commonly referred to as the Sermon on the Mount (in Luke it is called the Sermon on the Plain, cf. Luke 6). In this sermon Jesus teaches on a variety of topics relevant to those who heard it the first time and ultimately to us as well. He opens His sermon with a litany of “Blessed are the…” statements. We call Matthew 5:1-12 “The Beatitudes.” This section of Scripture will lay the foundation for the rest of Christ’s teaching.
Let’s read these together this morning. So that we are all on the same page let’s get out the bulletin insert and read verse 3-12 in responsive reading – EXPLAIN (I will read Blessed are the…you will read the lines beginning with ‘for…’)
We live in a world where great emphasis is placed on being happy – or at least ways to try and be happy.
According to a June 2013 article in the Huffington Post on 1 in 3 Americans would describe themselves as very happy. The article is reflecting on a recent Harris Poll that happens annually to gauge America’s “happiness index.” The poll shows that American are unhappy because they are stressed about (1) the economy and (2) the future.
The study does show, however, that fewer Americans are seeing “wealth” as a core value for happiness. Instead, this is being replaced with the idea of a “more fulfilling life” which does not necessarily equate with having large sums of money.
Another study reported on by the Huffington Post describes that a large portion of Americans see “well-being” as a core value to happiness. The article goes on to tell us that “well-being” is about being healthy (physically and emotionally). Basically, the report is showing that Americans believe that health = happiness. (Which could mean that health problems = unhappiness). In the end, a persons well being was determined by their access to tools for better health, lower crime rates, intellectual opportunities and more).
(TRANSITION) But what does God consider to be the core values of being happy (or what the Scriptures often refer to as BLESSED).
The Scriptures we read together are often referred to as “The Beatitudes.”
Question: What is beatitude?
Answer: Simply put ”beatitude” is a pronouncement of blessing. So, when Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” what is he doing? He is telling the “poor” person that even in their condition they possess the kingdom of God.
Question: This idea brings up another question. What does “Blessed” mean?
Answer: I am afraid there is no short answer to this question but I will do my best to summarize.
The book of Matthew was written sometime between 60-65 A.D. The book was written primarily to a Jewish audience. However, that Jewish audience was living under the rule of a Roman government. Roman and Greek culture and philosophy had heavily influenced how people went about their everyday life.
To the Greek mind “blessed” carried the idea of good fortune. Mostly they only used the word to speak of the gods because they were not subject to he ups and downs of a human existence. Nevertheless, they would, at times, call people blessed who seemed to have really good luck (because the gods must be giving them favor). It was used of those who had a good wife, good kids, and wealth, honor and fame.
Beatitude: Blessed is the rich man, for he has a good wife, kids, honor and fame.
The Jewish (OT) way of thinking about what it means to be “blessed” was similar to the Greeks/Romans because it was about “doing right” and “being rewarded” or “divine favor for doing the right things.”
The Psalms contain a lot of beatitudes. Blessed is the man…
• Who has God as Lord (Ps 144:15)
• Who fears God (Ps 112:1-3)
• Who trusts in God (Ps 84:12)
• Who dwells or take refuge in God (Ps 2:12; 84:4)
• Who prudently obeys God (Ps 119:1-2)
The Psalms also show what the reward is for having this kind of attitude toward God:
• A full quiver of sons as heirs (Ps 127:3-5)