Blessed By God: Matthew 5:1-12

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As we move further into the gospel of Matthew, we come to one of the most famous events in Jesus’ entire ministry. While Luke’s gospel hints at a similar event, no gospel writer devotes as much time to a single event as Matthew does to Jesus’ first big sermon, often called the Sermon on the Mount. The only other significant event that all the gospel writers spend a lot of time on is the events leading up to the cross.

The three big focus points of Matthew’s gospel are the sermon Jesus shares near the beginning of His ministry, the parables and teaching Jesus shares about the time of His return, and the details surrounding Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion.

In our time for this episode, we’ll look at the opening section of Jesus’ big sermon, often called the Beatitudes, or the list of blessings. Jesus’ sermon starts in Matthew, chapter 5, and we will be reading from the God’s Word translation. Starting in verse 1, Matthew tells us that:

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up a mountain and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them:

“Blessed are those who recognize they are spiritually helpless.
    The kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
Blessed are those who mourn.
    They will be comforted.
Blessed are those who are gentle.
    They will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for God’s approval.
    They will be satisfied.
Blessed are those who show mercy.
    They will be treated mercifully.
Blessed are those whose thoughts are pure.
    They will see God.
Blessed are those who make peace.
    They will be called God’s children.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for doing what God approves of.
    The kingdom of heaven belongs to them.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you,
    persecute you,
        lie, and say all kinds of evil things about you because of me.
12 Rejoice and be glad because you have a great reward in heaven!
    The prophets who lived before you were persecuted in these ways.

Let’s stop reading here because I want to focus on what Jesus has shared in this opening list of nine blessings. For a long time, whenever I would read or hear this list talked about, I imagined this list was an either/or type of list, and similar to a multiple choice list, I had to pick one characteristic and one blessing from the list Jesus shares.

However, as I have grown, studied, and learned, I am beginning to wonder if the items in this list shouldn’t be seen as exclusive to each other, but instead as different aspects of a Christ-like character. The more I have read the characteristics and blessings, I believe all Jesus’ followers are called to be all these things because this is what Christ has modeled for us.

To open the list of characteristics, we have those who recognize they are spiritually helpless. While we have been given so many spiritual blessings through what Jesus has done for us, without Jesus, we are definitely spiritually helpless. I believe the essence of this blessing is directed towards those who recognize their need for a Savior and that Jesus fits all the characteristics we could ever want in Someone sent to save us.

The second blessing is for those who mourn. While this blessing doesn’t seem that significant, I wonder if a deeper angle to this is that we acknowledge the bad in the world and we bring our challenges and our pain to God. While some might challenge us to ignore our feelings or to push them to the side, according to this characteristic, we are blessed when we mourn, because by bringing our pain to God, we are able to be blessed with His comfort.

The third blessing is for those who are gentle. Jesus tells us that gentle people will inherit the earth. While it might be tempting to think that gentle people will take over the earth, this is not the gist of what it means to inherit something. When something is inherited, it is only after someone else has died. In the context of this blessing, we could conclude that when all the proud, self-centered, violent people have died, then the gentle people who are left will inherit the earth. Those who are gentle don’t take over the earth, they wait patiently for God to act and they are ready to accept the inheritance God has for them when He is ready to bless.

Next in our list of blessings are those who hunger and thirst for God’s approval. Those who whole-heartedly seek for God’s approval will discover where God’s approval can be found, and they will be satisfied.

Half way through our list of blessings comes a blessing for those who show mercy. Jesus promises that those who show mercy will be treated mercifully. In a way, this is similar to saying that those who are forgiving towards others will be forgiven.

Next, we see a blessing for those who have pure thoughts. Jesus promises that those with pure thoughts will see God. While there are several angles we could understand this to mean, I wonder if the first portion of this blessing is simply eyes that are open to how God is moving through the world around us. While those with pure thoughts may ultimately be saved and will see God when He returns, I’m curious if this specific blessing refers to more than just pointing us to the second coming, specifically that when we are living for God with His thoughts in our minds, we will see Him clearly moving in the world today.

Next comes a blessing for those who make peace. Jesus tells us that those who make peace will be called God’s children. This is fascinating in my mind because society wants to frame those who carry Christ’s name as anything but peaceful, and there are many in Christianity who have chosen to live in a way that does not promote peace. I wonder if God has a different word to describe those who claim to be His but who He isn’t going to claim as His own. This blessing ties making peace to being described by God as His children.

The last two blessings in this list are blessings related to being persecuted for doing what God approves of. If the world hates us for following God, then we should be happy and satisfied, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to us and we have a great reward in heaven.

This does not mean that simply calling ourselves a Christian and doing things that the world disapproves of will warrant being blessed. We must be doing things God approves of and be persecuted by the world in order to receive God’s blessing. We are called to live our lives following and obeying Jesus and then let God manage our inheritance. Some of these blessings may be realized in this life, but I am confident that regardless of how we are blessed in this life for following this list of characteristics, God is storing up a much larger inheritance for us in heaven, which He will be happy to reward us with when He returns!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always challenge you to do, intentionally seek God first and choose to apply all of these characteristics into your life. Choose to place God ahead of everything else and let Him bless you as you are a blessing to others. Don’t worry about what happens in this life or in this world because God has something better in store for all of us!

Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself to grow closer to God each and every day. Only through prayer and study can we learn what God is really like, and when we learn more about God, we are better able to be His witness and representatives in today’s busy, crazy, secular world.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or deviate away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year in Matthew – Episode 6: As Jesus opens His most famous sermon, discover in a list of blessings some major characteristics of His people, and the people who will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven!

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