Summary: The first set of four beatitudes focus on our vertical relationship to God, the second set of four on our horizontal relationship to people. Each of the eight builds upon the other so that there is an amazingly beautiful and compelling progression.
Opening illustration: How good are you at making enemies? No, I didn’t ask how good you are at making friends. That’s easy. Just be a good Joe, an easy spender, a tolerant sort of fellow who never offends anybody.
But how good are you at making enemies? If you are a child of God and you can move among wicked, ungodly, cursing men and women today, and not be different enough to incur their disfavor or reviling words, you certainly are not much of a testimony. Do you avoid discussing spiritual issues because you’re afraid of criticism for your faith in Christ? Are you ashamed to talk to others about Him for fear of losing friends?
In fact James 4:4 says, “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” The Word of God is like a two-edged sword that cuts both ways. For believers it offers instructions on how to live a godly life (2 Timothy 3:16), and it brings conviction to the minds of unbelievers (Hebrews 4:12). [Our Daily Bread, M. R. De Haan]
Jesus’ words seem to contradict each other. But God’s way of living usually contradicts the worlds. If you want to live for Christ, you must be ready to say and do what seems strange to the world. You must be willing to give when others take, to love when others hate, to help when others abuse. By giving up your own rights in order to serve others, you will one day receive everything God has in store for you.
Let us turn to Matthew 5 and catch up with what Jesus was telling the listeners – things that were strange then as they are now, things that contradicted the world view then as much as is today. He raised more enemies for Himself than friends. In fact the ones that He had deserted or betrayed Him.
Introduction: The word “Blessed” is a grace word that expresses the special joys and sanctification granted the person who experiences salvation. It is more than happiness. It implies the fortunate state of those who are in God’s kingdom. The Beatitudes don’t promise laughter, pleasure or earthly prosperity. To Jesus “Blessed” means the experience of hope and joy, independent of outward circumstances. To find hope and joy, the deepest form of happiness, follow Jesus no matter what the cost.
Jesus said God’s Kingdom is organized differently from worldly kingdoms. In the kingdom of heaven, wealth and power and authority are unimportant. Kingdom people seek different blessings and benefits, and they have different attitudes. Are your attitudes a carbon copy of the world’s selfishness, pride and lust for power, or do they reflect the humility and self-sacrifice of Jesus, your King?
The first set of four beatitudes focus on our vertical relationship to God, the second set of four on our horizontal relationship to people. Each of the eight builds upon the other so that there is an amazingly beautiful and compelling progression.
Who are the blessed ones?
1. The Humble (vs. 3-5)
(a) Poor in Spirit - Humble; Recognize Sin (Luke 18:9-14 speaks of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector; Isaiah 66:2 trembling at the Word). To be “poor in spirit” refers to being a “spiritual beggar.” It means being completely destitute in the realm of the spirit, being totally dependent on the goodness of God. This is the type of person that God esteems (Isaiah 57:15; 66:2b). Martin Luther (1438–1546), once said, “God created out of nothing. Therefore until a man is nothing, God can make nothing out of him.” One of the most freeing experiences of my life is acknowledging my wretched state. I freely tell others that I am spiritually bankrupt apart from God.
(b) Mourn - Comfort and Strength will come. 2 Corinthians 7:10 tells us that godly sorrow works repentance. The word “mourn” in this context refers to mourning over sin. We should mourn the lack of righteousness in ourselves, our churches, and our society (in that order). We should also long for God to eradicate sin and usher in His perfect justice. To mourn, then, is to lament that the kingdom has not come and God’s will is not yet done. True Christianity manifests itself in what we cry over and what we laugh about. So often, we laugh at the things that we should weep over and weep over the things we should laugh at. In our heart of hearts, what do we weep about? What do we laugh about? If we are characterized by mourning, we shall be comforted by God now and in the eternal state.
© Gentle / Meek / Not Cowardly (Notice they inherit the earth which is synonymous with the kingdom of heaven mentioned prior in verse 3.) Jesus didn’t mean “blessed are the weak and deficient in courage.” “Meek” originally meant to bridle wild horses, to put strength and power under control. The word means “the ability to submit to God’s will.” The strongest man is not the one who forces his will upon others but the man who has power and willingly surrenders it. Moses was called “the meekest man on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3). Even though he murdered a man and was a strong leader, he learned to be gentle and meek before God and man. When attacked or criticized he would do nothing but fall on his face and pray. Our Lord Jesus also referred to Himself as meek (Matthew 11:29; cf. 21:5).