The Gospel of Matthew provides a detailed description, given by Christ Himself to a listening crowd, which characterizes those of whom are the citizens of His kingdom. In chapters 5-7, in the “Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus refers to this specific group of people as being “blessed.” Interestingly enough, Jesus does not mention any ethnic or social requirement with regards to those labeled as the blessed. Instead, He reveals what distinguishes them from the rest of the world; and it’s solely in terms of what their lives look like when lived out… and nothing else. In other words, how the blessed respond in the midst of a fallen reality is what characterizes them as the ones of whom “theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10)… and NOT their lineage or social status.
*To view any verses mentioned, simply click on those scriptures to read them.
Jesus says that the blessed exhibit certain qualities. He describes them as being…
1) …poor in spirit,
2) …those who mourn,
4) …those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
6) …pure in heart,
7) …and as peacemakers.
Jesus explains that when the blessed are persecuted due to righteousness (because of Him), He then encourages them to rejoice and to be glad because of how great their reward in heaven will be. Jesus also reminds the blessed that this is how the prophets before them were also treated by the world. In other words, they too are in good company.
Further portrayal of them is also given by Jesus when He, in addition, refers to the blessed as…
“…the salt of the earth,” and “the light of the world.”
Two more unique characteristics describing the citizens of the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus makes it clear to the listening crowd that He did not come to abolish the ethical standard which is represented in the codified, Old Covenant law. No, He announces that He came instead to fulfill it; that He came to demonstrate what it looks like to conduct a life devoid of law violation. And now, at this pivotal point in the monologue, He describes exactly what it is.
Jesus achieves this by reminding the listening crowd of what they had always been taught about the law, and then He unveils, with explicit examples, what is its fulfillment. Something they had never heard before. He selects several individual commands from the law, illustrating how those commands are each specifically satisfied. (This provides an overall picture of how the changed person, the blessed, live according to the Spirit. It’s what holiness looks like.) Jesus astonishes the hearers by disclosing to them that only those who exhibit a righteousness greater than that of the Pharisees, will enter the kingdom of heaven. (The blessed exhibit such a righteousness.)
The first command that Jesus refers to is, “You shall not murder.” (Exodus 20:13) On face value, this command seems simple enough to fulfill. But, murder is rooted in anger. Jesus makes it clear that the fulfillment of this command is not fulfilled merely by the avoidance of a violent action which is intended to inflict death, but that it is fulfilled by the avoidance of anger. (Those who inherit the earth, the blessed, fulfill this command because they have a changed heart, and a changed heart does not exhibit anger.)
The second command that Jesus references is, “You shall not commit adultery.” (Exodus 20:14) Again, on face value, this command also seems pretty simple to fulfill. But, just like murder, adultery is a heart issue as well. Jesus makes it plain that the fulfillment of this command is not simply the avoidance of cheating on a spouse, but the avoidance of lustful thoughts. (The blessed fulfill this command because they have a changed heart, and a changed heart does not lust.)
The third command that Jesus brings up is about divorce. He explains that the law permitted divorce, as long as a certificate of divorce is provided by the husband. (Deuteronomy 24:1) In other words, as long as the husband has a written notice, he could divorce his wife for any reason that he wishes. But, Jesus brings out that the true fulfillment of this command is demonstrated when divorce only happens under a certain circumstance… sexual immorality. (The blessed would never consider divorce, unless they were confronted with this specific situation.)
The fourth command that Jesus addresses is oath breaking. The law warned against breaking an oath. (Leviticus 19:12, Numbers 30:2) But, Jesus reveals that to truly fulfill this command, one must avoid making oaths all together. In this way, He says, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” (The blessed do not make oaths, because their “yes” means “yes,” and their “no” means “no.”)
The fifth command that Jesus references is “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” (Exodus 21:24) The point of this law was to protect the law breaker from excessive penalty. In other words, the penalty for a crime should never be more severe than the crime itself. However, Jesus explains that in order to truly fulfill this command, the victim should not only absorb the loss or pain experienced, but that he or she should take it to the next level by, in turn, doing good to the criminal. (The blessed not only DO NOT look for reciprocation, but they also look to find a way to bless the evil doer.)
The sixth command which Jesus uses to make His point is, “You shall love your neighbor.” This command is very specific with regards to who is in view. The law commands that love is to be expressed towards those of the Old Covenant, the “sons of your own people”…
Leviticus 19:17-18 (ESV)
“You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”
This doesn’t mention enemies. But, Jesus shows that this law is not fulfilled in its truest form unless enemies are also shown love. (The blessed fulfill this law because they not only love those who are easy to love, but they also love those who are hard to love.)
Jesus warns the hearers about practicing righteousness openly in order to be seen by others as the hypocrites do. (The blessed never do such things.)
A proper model for prayer is then laid out by Jesus. He explains that the hypocrites love to pray out loud in the synagogues and in public. Their goal is to show off how lofty their praises to God are. Jesus, however, explains that those who pray in secret will be rewarded. He then outlines for the hearers how prayer should be done. (The blessed do these things properly: When they pray in secret, they… address God as “Father,” exalt His name, desire His kingdom to come, welcome His will, rely on Him for their daily sustenance, ask for forgiveness as they forgive those who wrong them, plead to God to not allow them to be led into temptation, and they petition God to be delivered from evil.)
Jesus talks about the hypocrites once again, describing this time how they over-dramatize their fasting practice. (The blessed also do not do this.)
Those who are hung up on accumulating worldly treasures miss what is important. Jesus explains, “where your treasure is, there your heart is also.” He then adds that man, “cannot serve God and money.” (The blessed serve God.)
Anxiety over life’s basics (what we wear, what we drink, what we eat, etc.) is explained by Jesus as something that the “Gentiles seek after.” The point is, the Gentiles do not acknowledge the fact that it is God who provides all things, and not themselves. Therefore, the anxiety which they experience is the result of not first seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness. (It is the blessed, however, who do seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness first, and as a result, it is why they are not anxious… where everyone else is.)
Judgement, as illustrated by Jesus, is in error when we judge others for things which we ourselves are also guilty of. (The blessed first remove the log in their own eye before attempting to remove the speck in someone else’s eye.)
Jesus encourages that those who “ask,” “seek,” and “knock” will receive. (The blessed do all three.)
Jesus gives several illustrations of how life ought to be approached. He touches upon what ought to be done to others, encourages entering life through the narrow gate, tells how to recognize false prophets, warns that not everyone who proclaims to know the Lord actually do, and teaches that one’s life needs to be built on rock and not sand. (The blessed do to others what they would want others to do to them. The blessed have entered by the narrow gate, which leads to life. The blessed can recognize false prophets by the fruits that they bear. The blessed are the ones the Lord knows. The blessed build their house upon the ROCK… Christ Himself!!)
The crowds were astonished by His teaching. It was not devoid of the Spirit, as was the teaching of the scribes, which is what the crowds were used to hearing. (The blessed are certainly astonished by His teaching.)
So, the question now remaining to answer is…
Are You Astonished by His teaching? Are You of the Blessed?
Luke 7:23 (ESV)
“…blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
Godspeed, to the blessed!