|1 And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: 2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, 3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.||8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. 10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.|
Happy are those
Here we have the start of what we have come to know as the Sermon on the Mount, also known as The Beatitudes.
Ponder on who the blessed are. These are those who are poor in spirit, mourn over their sinfulness, meek at heart, have a desire to be filled with righteousness and holiness of living. They are merciful, peacemakers, and do not seek revenge when persecuted for the sake of the Gospel. They will have all manner of evil said against them, but they seek not to harm or fight back against their accusers. They rejoice and are glad in the Lord because they are God’s people. A chosen people, a holy people and blessed people.
Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven, a comforted people, a people with a glorious inheritance. They are satisfied and filled. God’s people are happy in Him. All their needs are met in Christ. The character of the Christian displays joy in Christ, a public witness of the changed heart. The greatest joy in life is knowing Christ as Lord and Saviour. Our joy is completed in Heaven, although we do have a foretaste of this on earth.
The sermon Jesus gave deals with our real problem, the heart. Our heart must be set free from the bondage and demands of evil and this sinful world to have true lasting joy and happiness. We cannot be truly happy in sin. We cannot change the outward appearance to obtain happiness. The meaning, purpose and fulfilment of life are ours only in Christ Jesus, the author and finisher of life and all human bliss.
Salt and Light of the World
Matthew writes that Christian people ought to be the salt and light of the world. Salt has two main purposes. Firstly, to persevere and secondly, to season or flavour. Salt is the main ingredient in the food. People have appreciated the value of salt for many centuries. In the Book of Job salt is mentioned as a source of improving the taste of food (Job 6:6). Salt in Scripture is an emblem of friendship and loyalty.
God’s people are placed in every corner of the world and in every level of society and life to persevere their community from evil. We are not here to simply gather dust and wait to die. We are here as servants of righteousness, to be God’s mouthpiece as it were in a lost and sin-cursed world. The church of God is to be a lighthouse of truth, grace and hope, shining forth the Gospel in a darkened world of sorrow and woe to fallen men and women. Christians are called by God to share the hope that is found in Christ alone and warn against sin and to promote holiness and righteousness in their respected nation.
If those who are called to be salt neglect their purpose, then what good is that salt? The church is useless if we do not what we ought to. Think of the church of Laodicea who lost their joy and love for God. At the heart of their estate was a dry and casual attitude for the things attaining to spiritual well-being. This kind of position is not fitting the true Christian, for it is useless and worthy to be cast out and trodden underfoot. Be zealous for God. The true Christian is to be in the world not of the world. In the world for good, to be a shining light, a beacon pointing to the Saviour of souls.
Light in every regard is opposite to darkness. A tiny spark in a dark room can be seen from every angle of the room. Darkness is the absence of light. Sin is the absence of salvation’s king.
Men love darkness. The natural man finds comfort in the gloom and blackness of darkness. They can hide in its shadow; they fear a beam of light lest their wickedness should be revealed. In the dark men and women unwisely enjoy their sin, thinking that no-one can see nor know the depths of their heart. Just like Adam and Eve hid from God in the Garden of Eden so do the ungodly. When the knowledge of sin is exposed, great dread besets the soul. The law of God shows our sinful and fallen reality. The light of the Gospel points to the way of redemption and reconciliation.
Christians are to be that light that points to the remedy of wickedness. By the grace of God men and women are brought to a knowledge of sin and faith and repentance in Christ Jesus. Only God can redeem a hell-bound soul. The Christian is the ambassador of truth, a soldier in the battlefield against sin, a proclaimer of peace. Salvation is a work of God’s grace. Mortal man can never revive his dead soul. As Paul wrote to the church in Rome, how can lost souls believe on God if no-one tells them, for faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God? If our Gospel is found hiding it is hidden to them that are lost. Our light is not to be hidden under a bushel but set on a hilltop for all to see. The reason for this is so that men and women may give God glory.
Christ fulfils the demands of the law.
The Lord Jesus Christ came to meet every requirement of the law. He is the Messiah who God sent to fulfil the words of the prophets. Jesus goes on to speak about the importance of personal righteousness. He says that our righteousness must exceed that displayed by the Scribes and Pharisees. This means that true godly righteousness is from the heart, to be seen of God and to glorify God. The outward vain display of righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees was to be seen of men, they had no desire for godly worship. Their hearts were drawn to themselves and a superficial view of righteousness. The righteousness that Christ is talking about here changes the heart. It causes men and women to honour God and fix their gaze on things above and not on the vain things of the world. Those that have the righteousness of Christ as a result of salvation shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
Christ’s teaching on anger
Jesus starts by quoting the law on anger and says that this law of old is still for us today. Jesus stated the sixth commandment, “you shall not murder.” Jesus says here that this commandment deals with more than the actual act of murder, it is also a matter of the heart. The root of actual murder is in the heart, so if you have an evil thought against another in the sight of God you are guilty of actual murder, even though you may not carry out the deed. All thoughts are known to God. There are no secrets with God, He knows all things. Jesus says that anger is murderous. This is a very hard-hitting statement. The Christian ought not to be bitter, malicious and should not seek revenge. Many human hearts have been destroyed by anger. Souls and hearts are changed in the light of God’s grace when matters are dealt with in Him. Jesus says that we ought to do all we can to be reconciled with each other. In other words, deal with that matter now, don’t let unresolved issues go on. May God give us the grace to have hearts that are free from the dangers and folly of anger.
Jesus deals with lust
Again, Jesus states the principle fact that sin comes from the desires within the heart. Jesus states the law of Moses on adultery. He says that this commandment goes much deeper than physical acts. Jesus teaches that even lustful thoughts are sinful. Here the teaching of mental adultery is set before us.
Lust is the pursuit of illicit thoughts or images in the mind that stimulates sexual pleasure. The Bible teaches that sexual relationships are to be enjoyed within the bounds of marriage, between one man and one woman. Marriages make sexual activity righteous and a blessing from God. Anything outside of a biblically defined marriage is sinful. Marriage is a godly remedy for lustful thoughts. It is my view that lust, passion and pride is the devil’s foothold in every adulterous thought and relationship. We must guard and protect both our heart and eyes, especially in a society that has a very casual view of lust and sexual relationships.
The teaching of Scripture is that divorce is not a godly pursuit but is permitted in some cases such as marital unfaithfulness. An agreement of divorce was given to the woman, which was a certificate ending the marriage. Safeguarding and protecting the woman from divorce for no reason is at the heart of Jesus’s teaching in this passage of Scripture. When a man divorces his wife for the wrong reasons, he causes her to commit adultery.
We need to be very careful what we swear to and promise. Many times, we make a promise and do not honour them. When or indeed if we make an oath, we should do so if we were making it to God and before God. Remember that every word we speak will be judged by God. No-one can escape that day when the account for our words will be given.
Be not fast to react is the lesson here. Before we take any action, think about it first. Consider the Scriptures on such matters at hand. Bear in mind that vengeance belongs to the Lord. We ought not to hold the burden of resentments in our heart towards those who have wronged us. Christians have not the spirit of bondage, but freedom. Freedom to forgive as we have been forgiven in Christ. Be ready to suffer patiently with those who have hurt us. Let go and forsake bearing grudges. Foster not a spirit of hatred, harden hearts and strife.
Love toward enemies
The Lord Jesus Christ taught his follows to display love even towards their enemies. How do we love those who hate us and persecute us is a very important question to consider? Doing good towards those who treat us badly is a key principle and teaching of Christ. Christian charity is a vital teaching of the Bible. Paul wrote without such the Christian is nothing. God exhorts his people to diligently consider love towards others. Christian love is unselfish, a love that seeks not its gain, but the best for others. Self-Denying love is a great virtue.
The mark of the Christian is not to return evil for evil, for that is the standard of the ungodly. If your enemy is hungry, give him food. If your enemy is thirsty, give him water. The greatest display of true love shown to others is a clear and simple explanation of the cross, where God displayed his love for sinners.
Christ showed an unfailing gracious love towards sinners. God is kind and merciful even to the unloving, unthankful and evil, thus a Christian ought to show Christ’s grace on the just and unjust, the thankful and thankless. Never become tired of doing good. We may never reap the benefits of such love on earth, but rest assured in heaven above we will see our rewards.
In this life, our goodness may be abused and misused by the ungodly and we may suffer some mockery for such compassion. Behold, we seek not earthly riches but seek the furtherance of the gospel and the expansion of the kingdom above.