When He saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain, and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. Then He began to teach them, saying:
“The poor in spirit are blessed,
for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
Those who mourn are blessed,
for they will be comforted.
The gentle are blessed,
for they will inherit the earth.
Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are blessed,
for they will be filled.
The merciful are blessed,
for they will be shown mercy.
The pure in heart are blessed,
for they will see God.
The peacemakers are blessed,
for they will be called sons of God.
Those who are persecuted for righteousness are blessed,
for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
Wherever we are in our life with God, the question we all have is, “how?” How do we live the life? This was the question on the minds of Jesus first followers, the early church and all the way up to today.
Some people are waiting on God and wonder what they are supposed to do while waiting. Some people are walking with God and they are wondering how they are supposed to live. And some people believe God is about to bless them with a whole new set of gifts or put wind in their sails or gas in the tank of their life and they are gonna take off and they are asking how they should live or prepare themselves to live.
As I open up Matthew 5 and see the crowds that Jesus saw, these are some of the questions I think that they had that were universal questions in the human heart that we also have today. Today, we are in that crowd that is following Jesus Each one of us are in a different place with God. We come from different backgrounds and we have different ideas about what the life of God in people’s lives is all about. We probably have more in common than we think.
Everyone is just trying to survive. Married people are just trying to stay married and keep the peace with one another and keep on the the three legged race or two becoming one. Couples are just trying to raise their kids in our ever so fast changing and dangerous world. Couples without kids, singles young and old, people who have become homeless, people who are in trouble or have become incarcerated, people who are in a battle for their lives with a disease or a debilitating problem embedded in their soul that they can not shake.
This is small sampling of what people are going through. Everyone is carrying secrets of suicide, abortion, divorce, secret addictions, self-hate, unresolved issues from their families of origin and betrayal. Much of the world today is marred and scarred by war, famine and human trafficking, where people are treated worse than cattle as sex slaves and work slaves.
These are the faces in the crowd on the earth who are looking to Jesus for help, for guidance, for a way out and a way in and on with God. The cry of the heart is “help!” and “how?”. “How?”, comes way after “help!”, and we get so wrapped up in asking for help, and I do not blame us when we have crisis and insurmountable problems; that we are not even that concerned with the “how?” We say, “I don’t care how, just help me!”
To all of us, Jesus comes, knowing we have come to him because we have wanted something. And Jesus says, “Here is how you must live”. But is is not his new legalism.
Jesus does not teach us how to live, so that we can gain merit with God. Jesus teaches us about how to live after we have gained merit with God through him. As we walk on with Christ, or walk with God in Christ, our new life in Christ is going to look, feel and act different than our lives before or outside of Christ.
We have the crowds coming to Jesus and we have His disciples who came to him and we have Jesus teaching them all. The crowds are followers with all levels of commitment to Jesus. The disciples are learners. You can be in the crowd and be or not be a disciple, and you can be a disciple who doesn’t get it or has some things mixed up.
Jesus taught people in very small to much larger groups. At times he taught larger groups with parables that seemed to be on purpose hard, if not impossible to understand, unless he explained them, which he sometimes did not do, when he taught. This was not preaching (proclaiming), but teaching (explaining). Jesus seemed to preach to wider, larger audiences; and taught smaller more committed groups.
And whether he preached or taught, the topic was usually (always) the kingdom of God. The disciples and Paul preached the kingdom and taught how to live in the kingdom. Preaching is a call and teaching is explaining and instruction.
Jesus begins with these eight items, points, or sayings, that each build upon the previous one; before he goes into detailed teaching explaining how to live the life. We call these ‘beatitudes’ which means, ‘blessed state’. In other words, this is how we live on and in the blessing of God.
Again, these are not rules on how to get merit or favor with God. But these are how to face God, live our lives and interact with God on the one hand and people on the other. These are how the blessed ones live.
Christ in us lives the way Jesus describes. All that Jesus is saying is for us to let him grow in us in how he does life. And again, a Christian is a person united with Christ who now has Christ’s life living through theirs.
You can attend Christian meetings and even become a Christian scholar, writer, or clergyperson, through the ropes and levers of Christian academia, but not be a person in Christ, not really be a Christian. And being a Christian is not even about how you live, but it is about letting Christ live in you.
All of that is the introduction to Jesus first words, his first saying, his first piece of teaching; that is the foundation for the whole of his set of teachings about how to live the life, that we have called “The Sermon on The Mount”.
It is funny that there is no mountain there, near the Sea of Galilee or Capernaum, but plenty of hills. Matthew was perhaps using a bit of hyperbole and the point being that this audience was steeped in the law of Moses that was famously delivered to him by God, on a mountain top, in the midst of a terrifying cloud. Jesus came and sat at the top of a hill, a nice hill perhaps, probably on a beautiful, sunny day, with a bit of wind and beautiful birds and various flowers and vegetation growing around.
The object lesson is that Jesus supersedes Moses. Only He fulfilled the law and we can only live righteous lives through him. It is all going to be about him now, to walk with God and live the life of a believer.
The new order is superseding the old order. The old covenant was brilliant, but the new covenant is superseding it. Fulfilling your duties in and through the law of Moses, to keep the relationship with God going is over and Christ, Messiah is here with the new.
God has always wanted to save everyone. And the Jewish people were his ambassadors, missionaries and showcase of his grace to the whole world. And they failed to evangelize the world and the world was in a large degree hostile to them and the message they carried.
Jesus as a Jew, came and fulfilled the Jewish destiny and aims to evangelize the whole world, every tribe and tongue. Jesus fulfilled and is fulfilling all the promises of God to and through Israel and all of his followers are a part of it.
In this collection of sayings that Jesus began to teach from the little mountain is his big message of the new order and how to live in the new covenant and how to live in the kingdom of God.
Here is the foundation that all of what follows rests upon. And if we do not get this and live in this place, we can not live the life.
The poor in spirit are blessed, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
We get the kingdom, we get blessed in the kingdom, in our lives through our poverty of spirit. The Passion Translation has it like this: “What wealth is offered you when you feel your spiritual poverty!” “The total reliance on God is the doorway into the kingdom realm”, writes Brian Simmons, in his footnotes.
The only door into the kingdom and walking in the kingdom is saying, “I have nothing from me”. The more rich in spirit that I see myself as, the less I am walking in the kingdom. So, the way it works is that we do have stuff to give, all sorts of things starting with love; but they come from and through God, our utter and total reliance and allegiance and dependency on God; and it is through Christ.
Everything I do, seek to accomplish or dream of becoming completely depends on my totally relying on God. I am bless as I sense, realize and know my own spiritual poverty outside of God.
How can we understand how the opposite is not bless and the kingdom is not theirs? The rich in spirit are not blessed and the kingdom of heaven is not theirs. What would that mean?
The so-called or self-identified “rich in spirit’ are self-righteous people. When you are “rich in spirit”, you are self-reliant and say, “I’ve got this”, in your life. And the kingdom of heave is not theirs. Instead they have an earthly kingdom.
Earthly kingdoms are built on self-righteousness and self-reliance. We are vulnerable to flipping over to this mode at any time and that is why Jesus puts it first as a warning because it shuts the door of kingdom blessing in our lives.
Jesus offers a new way, beyond and superseding the old way, to walk in the kingdom of heaven. To follow him means to come through him into a spacious, wide and deep life all through him, beheld by God. His call is to come out of religion, self live and doing life on our own and see our inability and surrender our lives unconditionally to Him and let our selves be free to go on with Him.
There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do.
She gave them some broth without any bread;
And whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.