Lesson 35: The Sermon on the Mount (#3, Beatitudes)
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A Blending of The Four Gospel Records. Welcome again. This is lesson #35. In our last lesson we tried to look at the sermon on the mount from a broad perspective. In this lesson we would like to take a more in depth look at those paradoxical, proverbial statements with which Jesus started his lesson. These are sometimes called "Beatitudes." And books have been written on the Beatitudes; so obviously our analysis here is going to be rather shallow. Each statement started with "Blessed" which is probably closer to the everyday word "happy" that you and I use. The idea may be more like: ultimate happiness. All the beatitude follow a similar form. First, a "blessed" characteristic is stated and followed by a promise to those who possess that characteristic. There are about 7 or 8 of these statements depending on how you count them. Like I said before, this must have really got the crowd's attention. Something you may NOT pick up on readily is that most of the beatitudes grow out of or are subordinate to the first beatitude. So, let's give due attention to the first one. Get your eyes on that first statement (v.3) and let's try to see if we can digest it. "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for their is the kingdom of heaven." Poor in this case means "bankrupt" or the opposite to wealthy. Now, there's no virtue in simply being poor; but this says POOR IN SPIRIT. The idea is "ego." So, let me rephrase this beatitude like this: ultimately those that are empty or destitute of ego shall be happy. And the promise is that "theirs is the kingdom of heaven." That is, this is an attitude one must have to ENTER the kingdom and to CONTINUE in the kingdom. And, of course, needless for me to say; there is that kingdom connection here; we have talked about this before. You see, very early in life we begin to depend upon ourselves. As a little child begins to develop ego they say: "me do!" "momma, me do it!" It's just natural, isn't it? We want to be self-sufficient. But then, as we mature, if we ever grow up; we learn that it ALL depends upon God's providence. We are never more than one heart-beat a way from eternity. We are not sufficient in our own self-pride to do anything. But, and if, we ever learn that; i.e. just simply empty ourself of pride and ego; THEN, we have quite a different attitude. You see, THEN we are poor in spirit. So, to be wealthy in ego and pride are the opposite to that required in Christ's kingdom. And, brethren, I mean that takes a lot of work on SELF. I don't believe it can ever be attained to the n-th degree, upon this old planet. But, on a scale from 1-10, with a little sobering effort — did I say a little?, it may take more than that— ;but with enough sobering effort we can move well down toward the zero-end of that scale. Where do we have to be on that scale? Well, we have to be in range! Where is that? Just as close as you can get to zero. Got it? It's a requirement in the kingdom and we must seek the kingdom first and foremost. We covered that (Matt. 6:33). It MUST BE the most important thing in your life. It's just that simple. Now, this quality that we're talking about —being destitute in ego— is a very elusive and deceptive quality. I'm JUST SO PROUD that I'm humble, right? Brother, I mean it's elusive. The moment you start celebrating this accomplishment; you've lost it! I mean, it's elusive. But, if you can get this in focus; your understanding and your appreciation of Jesus' understanding of human nature is going to go up about 10,000 percent. Imean, Jesus knew where to slice the mustard. You better believe it.
Now, let's go at this a little different way. Jesus had just appointed the 12 apostles, probably, only an hour or two before he gave this beatitude. So, if we study the men that Jesus chose to be apostles; maybe we can gain a little insight here. Surely, Jesus selected men "poor in spirit"; his own requirement. What apostle do we know better than Simon Peter? So, let's consider Peter. Jesus said he was "a stone," Cephas is the word. Just an old, hard-working, net-setting fisherman. Peter was a married man, took care of his mother-in-law. He must have been a good man, right? And, he was an accommodative old cuss. Do you remember how Simon Peter moved the boat out a little at the beginning of Luke ch. 5; so that Jesus could speak to the crowd? Then reluctantly, he took Jesus on a little excursion over the lake. He launched out into the deep, just for Jesus. Then came that net-breaking catch of fishes, you remember. A miracle really! What did he say? Lord, you really catch'em big! and start telling fishing stories? Is that what happened? You know the story! When Peter began to feel the gravity of the situation; what did he do? Luke 5:8 said, "When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, 0 Lord." My friend, Peter was poor in spirit! He suddenly realized how insufficient he was in himself. He realized how dependent he was upon God and upon God's providence. It made him SAD just to think about how terrible SIN really is. Peter was humbled beyond words. Peter was getting down close to zero on that little ego-scale we made. His ego was deflated. And Jesus said THAT'S the first step. That's the first beatitude. "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Those folks will find the kingdom and they'll get in the kingdom and they'll obey Jesus. You can count on it! It's a characteristic that Jesus wants his disciples to have. Have ye got it? We'll we're trying, right? And, there's no place to celebrate.
Now, I said before; the rest of those beatitudes pretty much fit under that first one. Take a look at the second beatitude in v.4 , "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted." The characteristic here that is blessed, i.e. will ultimately make you happy is to "mourn." Now, you can't get much more paradoxical than that! To "mourn" means to cry, weep or have real sorrow. But, like being poor; there's no virtue in just crying. The prisons today are full of people who weep because they got caught. But, the idea in v.4 is to mourn about sin. To realize how terrible sin is and to be saddened by that fact and that thought. You see, it's the same thing that got to Simon Peter, "I'm a sinful man, 0 Lord!", i.e. sorrow for sin. You see that's quite a different attitude than what we observe in most people from day to day. Many people take pride in their sins. They don't call it sin! They don't call it adultery! lying! stealing! They call it doing their own thing; and they're proud they're defying God. Mourn? They think it's funny. The apostle Paul said (in II Cor. 7:10); that "godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation." And, you see, salvation is where that comfort part come in. "Blessed are they that mourn: for they SHALL BE comforted." It tells us the characteristics that Jesus expects in his disciples.
Alright, v.5, "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth." You mean it's a blessing to be meek? That's just exactly opposite, 180 degrees, from the world's view, isn't it? Meekness, mourning, and lacking in ego; isn't that what the world looks upon as weakness? My friend meekness is not weakness. Did you ever wonder why God chose Moses as his servant to lead the Israelites out of Egypt? That old man was 80 years old. He had been herding sheep for 40 long years, half of his life. Surely, God could have found a better leader than Moses, with more ego and more self esteem than Moses had. But, I found the answer one day! Numbers 12:3 says Moses was the meekest man upon the face of the earth. Meekness? Now, don't get that mixed up with weakness. Did you ever read how Moses and Aaron went before Pharoah, the king, and said: "Let my people go!" Do you call that weakness? The word "Meek" means to be humble. Not to think of ourselves more highly that we ought to think. (Rom. 12:3). It doesn't mean to be passive, sissy, or helpless. Jesus in the sermon in the mount was quoting from Psalm 37:1]. And if you chase that word "meek" there in Psalms, it means to tame or domesticate, i.e. to cause a wild animal to become gentile by proper conditioning. The point is that we must be domesticated (or tamed) in God's service. It's a characteristic Jesus wants in the citizens of his kingdom. And FOR those that discipline themselves in this way, Jesus said, "for they shall inherit the earth." What does it mean to "inherit the earth?" Jesus was talking about a great reward; but he was NOT talking about this old planet we call Earth. Later in the N.T. we learn about a new heaven and a new earth. It's that new earth; that Jesus was talking about in Matt. 5:5.
Verse 6! "Blessed are they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled." Is it blessed to be hungry? Is it blessed to be thirsty? Of course NOT'! As with the other beatitudes, this statement is to be taken spiritually. We're talking about the same people. People that are meek, humble, sorry for sin and empty of pride are the very people who want to know more about God and God's word. They hunger and thirst after RIGHTEOUSNESS. They just can't get enough. If you talk to someone and they say, I'm tired of worshipping. The sermon's too long! I can't find time to attend! It's too far to drive! And forty other excuses; you can mark it down; they haven't discovered the meaning of this beatitude yet. And, they're not likely to. Oh! They may have read those words; but that's all it amounted to. It hasn't sunk in yet! One of the things that never ceases to amaze me, as a gospel preacher is, that some of my brethren come to every service; morning, noon, or night; Week in and week out; year in and year out. They never miss! If they miss; you know that they are either dead or chained to a tree. And those very people are the best listeners in the crowd. Most of them know far more scripture and know it better than I do. It humbles me to realize they come expecting and hoping to learn one more little tid-bit about God through my preaching. They hunger and thirst after righteousness. Jesus said, "they shall be filled."
My friend, did you ever notice that where you find one of these characteristics that Jesus listed; you usually find all of them? Like I said, we're talking about the same people. Somebody may say, well ye got it or ye don't. Now, that's not right! Animals are not naturally tame, domesticated, gentile and useful. Take an old wild mule! He'd kick your head off; if you got close to him. But, if he was domesticated and trained; he's help you plow your garden. You could ride him to the mailbox. The next day he'll have his head stuck over the fence wanting to help you again. How did he get from a wild mule to a gentle, helpful and useful mule? Training, attitude, disposition! He wasn't born that way! Those people poor in ego, sorry for sin, meek and humble people and people who hunger and thirst after righteousness; they wasn't born that way. They developed those characteristics. It didn't come easy. But, Jesus said: they'll be rewarded. They will be filled, and comforted. They will inherit the earth and theirs is the kingdom of heaven. They'll be there, Jesus said so! Do you know why? Because, that kind of people will obey whatever Jesus said. Jesus can depend on those people.
O.K. v.7, "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy." What is the opposite of mercy? The answer is selfishness. How many people begin and end with their own interests? I, me, my and mine. You see the first and greatest element in mercy is concern for others. What if everyone in our country had mercy for their fellow man to a very high degree? What about muggings, stealing, rape, murder? How much would it save us each year in security alarms, locks, building fences, insurance, hospital bills, and the police? How much would it save us in misery, pain, tears, suffering, agony, fear, and distress? You see it's the most practical thing that could ever possibly happen. Even, if there was no reward beyond just plain everyday practicality. How many problems would it solve in our world today? How much would it save us in taxes? But, the mercy that Jesus said we shall obtain is NOT here. And believe me, Jesus knows HOW to show mercy. "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy." Mercy is another characteristic that Jesus expects us to develop. And like the others, it takes practice, it has to be developed, we were not born with mercy. But, Jesus expects it in his disciples.
v.8, "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." What kind of purity? "Pure in heart!" The word heart means mentality or the center of the thinking process and the center of the human nervous system. NOT the blood pump! This beatitude involves character, integrity, moral decency, and conviction. Surely it is not necessary to define "pure." How many of the crimes that we just mentioned are driven by jealousy, hatred and greed? Robbery starts in the heart first. Murder starts in the heart first. Jesus put GREAT emphasis upon the purity of the heart. This characteristic that Jesus requires figures much deeper into Christ's Law, that we shall get to shortly, than most religious people ever see. But, let's look at the reward side just a moment. What is the reward for a pure heart? "They shall see God." What is the antithesis of that statement? Those that DO NOT have a pure heart will NOT see God. What is the goal of any religion? To see God? Jesus said in this beatitude that goal would NOT be attained without a pure heart. The heart is no place for harboring smutty, indecent, and rotten fantasies about sex, riches, sensual, immoral and indecent deeds. It might be accepted by our entertainment world; but it's not accepted by God. And Jesus laid it on the line right here in this beatitude.
V.9, "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." Do you love peace? Of course! But, this beatitude did not say those who love peace. This beatitude said blessed are they that MAKE peace. What is peace? Peace in the Bible sense is not merely the absence of conflict. There has never been a time in the history of the world that humanity did not long for peace; real, lasting, meaningful peace. It has never happened! The evil of our race has never totally subsided and seldom come close for very long at any time. The world was full of conflict at the time of Jesus and it still is. There are a lot of agitators in this old world; but, few peace makers. It is a characteristic that Jesus expects in his kingdom: "they shall be called the children of God."
V.10, "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness's sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Those who possess the beatitudes we have covered in this lesson should realize, even they are going to be persecuted. Those people that do not have these characteristics are going to prey upon those that do. So, do not think that developing these attributes is going to immediately make you free from evil. V.11-12 are an extension of this thought. Our time is up, so have a good day.