The Sermon On The Mount: Part One – Matthew 5:1-16

**This post will be the first post of an exciting new series to this blog on the Sermon on the mount in Matthew 5-7, as translated in the English Standard Version of the Bible.  You can read the passage online by Clicking Here so that you can gain the most value and context for these posts.  Please subscribe to this blog to receive updates on new posts!**

The sermon on the mount is known to be both inspiring and challenging.  Within these three chapters, Jesus says some things that, if we are to apply them literally, would drastically impact most of our theology and the way that we view others – within the church, and outside of it.  Please join me on this journey to study this compelling, controversial, and undeniably thought provoking segment of Scripture.

The Sermon On The Mount: Understanding the context

The context of Matthew 5 is that Jesus has started his ministry, picked his disciples, and is traveling and preaching to cities and towns throughout ancient Israel.  In Matthew 4:23-25, we discover that the crowd that Jesus is addressing in Matthew 5, is made up of people that were following him from town to town to hear more of his message; this crowd would have been made up of common people, mostly of the Jewish faith, who were curious about this man named Jesus who appeared at the least to be an inspiring teacher, and at best to be a prophet of God (They most likely did not think, or were convinced that, he could be their messiah at this point).

Therefore, in Matthew 5, we have an interested crowd following Jesus; having a hunger to know more about Him, and what He was saying.  These people most likely knew and practiced Jewish law as prescribed by Moses, were oppressed by a Roman Government that regularly overtaxed them and limited their freedom, and if they Did expect a messiah at this point, they would want this messiah to free them from Roman rule, and establish for them a nation of their own.  To convey this point further, within this group could have been some people who identified with the Zealots who were a political group at the time, who were seeking to overthrow the Roman Government, and desired to do so through a violent revolution. If members of this group were not a part of the crowd, the members of the crowd were certainly aware of them.

Matthew 5:1-12: The Beatitudes

Based on the surrounding context, the beatitudes speak of hope to an oppressed, weak, and poor people, but parts of it would also be hard to swallow and to believe. To understand the beatitudes, we should break each of the blessings down.

  • “Blessed are the poor in Spirit – for theirs in the Kingdom of Heaven”
    • A broad message of Hope for a people who have almost lost all hope.
  • “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”
    • A more specific blessing to those who have lost family members, or friends.  Perhaps this could also be for those who have lost a relationship, even though the other person or people still live.  This gives them hope when all they see in the moment is grief-fed darkness.
  • “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth”
    • The oppressed meek, who are told to submit to and bear with the trials of this world, are told that they will inherit the earth.  This could be referring to the eventual ruling of Christ over the new world/New Kingdom, or it could be a metaphorical statement meaning that believers will find great joy in their faith.
  • “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied”
    • The crowd was longing for the redemption of their people; for they have been under earthly oppression for a long time.  Though they grew weary, they still wanted justice and for the wrong to be righted.  Jesus told these people that they will be satisfied; though contrary to their possible assumptions as to how that satisfaction would be met, Jesus knew that spiritual renewal was more important than physical renewal in the form of politics and nations.
      • In many instances, our hearts cry for justice and righteousness for our world, and for our own lives.  This message is meant for us to know that Christ has, is, and will continue to satisfy our hunger for righteousness; for He is a God from which our idea of Righteousness originates from.
  • “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy”
    • To show mercy is to go above and beyond caring just for yourself, and to care and love those who need it most, those who have wronged you, and those who perhaps may not deserve mercy in your eyes.  Jesus is telling this crowd that mercy and love, as opposed to punishment and revenge, is the higher calling, and that good actions will not go unnoticed.
  • “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”
    • This message was for those who were honestly striving to be their best in order to please God, and for those who truly desire for God’s purposes to become a reality.  David was called a man after God’s own heart, yet David did awful things in the name of lust; God forgives and sees our true selves, and our true heart.
  • “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons[Sons and Daughters] of God”
    • Please take a moment to observe the word “Peacemaker” which is the common translation of the Greek word used in this passage in many translations (See the Greek word here).  The term “peacemaker” implies action; and not JUST action, but a kind of action that Creates peace when there may not be peace, or continues to make peace in a conflict ridden world. Some may have viewed this as peace being created through the use of violence; to overcome the roman rule so that Israel could finally have peace.  However, in passages that we will get to later, it is unlikely that that was the sort of peacemaking that Christ was referring to.
      • In our context, this statement is still a little bit of a shock to some, but I think that all people can agree on the need to make peace in areas of conflict throughout the world, and to do so non-violently would at least be the preferred option in most situations.
  • “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
    • If a person is persecuted for doing the right thing, and/or believing the right thing, than that person is blessed, and although this life may be full of trials, the Kingdom of Heaven awaits for them to find rest, peace, and joy.  To be persecuted for doing what Christ would have you do, or believe, showcases your faithfulness to God.  Jesus was speaking to a group that would face beatings, torture, and death for their belief in Him if some within the crowd came to believe He was the messiah later on in His ministry.

The beatitudes are a collection of statements that convey blessings for people throughout time to give them hope, and to give them a purpose. The later blessings are things that all Christians should strive to be:  Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those who are merciful, those who are pure in heart, those who are peacemakers, and those who are so faithful to God that they are willing to face persecution because of that faith and desire for righteousness.  We are to be more than what the world expects from us, and to strive to be identified with these attributes listed.

Matthew 5:13-16 – Salt and Light

Christians are called to more than what is expected from humanity.  We are to be different, and to be something that makes the world better; to be salt to enrich the world, and to be light to expose the bad and injustices, and to highlight, or reveal, the good.

Conclusion

There are blessings for those who continue to seek the Lord even when the going gets rough.  The Kingdom of Heaven is a hope that gives our life direction, and the idea of heaven and Jesus resolves the dissonance of life’s conflicts and trials when we honestly strive to follow Jesus.

Do not give up, for our reward is great, and our purpose on earth is to make it better for His Kingdom; to be salt and light.

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