“Now when Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. And He opened His mouth and began to teach them,” (Matthew 5:1)
Jesus proclaims the new values of the kingdom.
“For I say to you that unless your righteousness far surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20)
The main theme of Matthew 5 is God’s righteousness as contrasted with the hypocritical righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. The religious leaders had an artificial, external righteousness based upon the law (5:17-20). The Pharisees taught that righteousness was an external thing, a matter of obeying rules and regulations. The sermon goes beyond the law because it deals with the internal attitudes as well as outward actions of a believer. It presents a picture of the truly righteous person and reveals the spiritual principles that control his or her life.
Jesus begins with a positive emphasis on righteous character and the blessings it brings to the life of the believer. Imagine how the crowd’s attention was fixed on Jesus when He uttered the word, “Blessed.” The Greek word often translated as “blessed” is makarios, which means “fortunate,” “happy,” “enlarged,” or “lengthy.” The word can also be translated “favored.”
Jesus used the term blessed in the framework of the Beatitudes to describe the inner quality of a faithful servant of God. This blessedness is a spiritual state of well-being and prosperity—a deep, joy-filled contentment that cannot be shaken by poverty, grief, famine, persecution, war, or any other trial or tragedy we face in life. In human terms, the situations depicted in the Beatitudes are far from blessings, but because God is present with us through these difficult times, we are actually blessed by Him in them.
Jesus went up on the mountain and began to teach the crowds saying:
- “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
- “Blessed are the gentle, for they will inherit the earth.
- “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
- “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
- “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
- “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
- “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in this same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
To be righteous means to be in alignment with authority, to be in right standing, have correct fellowship and be in right relationship with authority, to be in legal or lawful alignment, and to be in correct standing with the law or regulations (principles) of and to fulfill the requirements of authority. In essence, it means to be in right alignment with God as the governing authority over our lives. To be in right standing, to have correct fellowship, and to be in right relationship with God, and adhering to His righteous standards.
The Beatitudes describes the attitudes that ought to be in our life today. Yet, our culture has spiraled down hill, even in the church, and does not reflect these attitudes. All around us we see political chaos and divisions, incivility across the nation, a rise in racial tensions, unrest across the country over police brutality and racism, and ongoing deterioration of society under the weight of sin and immorality.
Many in the church focus more on external blessings like houses and cars based on Proverbs 10:22, “The blessing of the LORD makes a person rich, and he adds no sorrow with it” (Prov. 10:22 NLT). While God wants to make you rich in every area of life—your health, finances, relationships and more, it’s obvious from Matthew 5, Jesus emphasized that righteous character brings blessings.
The true believer (servant of God) is blessed, regardless of circumstances, because God has favored him or her with a fully satisfied soul (Psalm 63:1–5; John 4:14). The material things we crave can never bring genuine happiness or contentment. True fulfillment can only be found in a relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1–2).
In part 3, I’ll provide more insight on how we can live the Beatitudes in our every day lives.
Minister A. Francine Green
Note: All Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise noted.