Matthew 5:1-12, RSV
By Rev. Dr. Sergio E. Arevalo, Jr.
November 02, 2014 (21st Sunday after Pentecost, All Saints Sunday)
The Beatitudes are 8 blessings in the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew. Each is a proverb-like proclamation, without narrative, cryptic (mysterious), precise, and full of meaning. Each one includes a topic that forms a major biblical theme.
The term “beatitude” comes from the Latin noun beātitūdō which means “happiness.” It may also mean “perfect happiness,” Exalted happiness,” or “supreme blessedness.”
Each Beatitude consists of two phrases: the condition and the result. In almost every case the condition is from familiar Old Testament context, but Jesus teaches a new interpretation. Together, the Beatitudes present a new set of Christian ideals that focus on a spirit of love and humility different in orientation than the usual force and exaction taken. They echo the highest ideals of the teachings of Jesus on mercy, spirituality, and compassion.
“Our Savior here gives eight characters of blessed people, which represent to us the principal graces of a Christian” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary).
The ideal characters of Jesus’ disciples are seen in the Beatitudes.
I. Possession of Humility: Poor in Spirit
1. Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Mt.5:3).
“Poor in spirit” means to be humble. Humility is the realization that all your gifts and blessings come from the grace of God. To have poverty of spirit means to be completely empty and open to the Word of God.
Although Pastor George Whitefield disagreed with Pastor John Wesley on some theological matters, he was careful not to create problems in public that could be used to hinder the preaching of the gospel.
When someone asked Whitefield if he thought he would see Wesley in heaven, Whitefield replied, “I fear not, for he will be so near the eternal throne and we at such a distance, we shall hardly get sight of him” (sermonillustrations.com). George Whitefield was a great evangelist, but still he did not brag about it.
Mourning is a situation where hearts are broken, that brokenness humbled ourselves, and we accept the fact that we cannot do something about a hopeless situation. For example, death of a loved one; termination from our favorite job; etc.
However, according to our beatitude those that mourn, they shall be comforted. For us disciples of Jesus Christ, we believe that he would comfort us in times of “gloomy” situation, in times of hopelessness, and in times of discomfort. Just open our hearts to Jesus Christ.
3. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth (5:5).
“Meek” means overly submissive or compliant; spiritless; tame. No one can be meek without being humble. The text shows that if we are meek, we will inherit the world. That’s a wonderful prophecy to those who are meek.
II. Possession of Nothingness: Hungry and Thirsty After Righteousness
4. Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled (5:6).
If our bucket is empty, there’s big opportunity that it will be filled, since there are space for anything that one would fill it up. Those who are aspiring for righteousness, God would show his justice to those who could wait and for those who are humble. In theology, we have a term “creatio ex nihilo,” which means God created something out of nothing. Do you have “nothing?” let God do something about it. Offer our nothingness to God.
III. Possession of Something to Share: Merciful, Purity and Peace
Those who are filled, they have something to share.
5. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy (5:7).
Those who are merciful shall obtain mercy. His mercy helps him to know the people. He himself can receive mercy from the people. How Mother Teresa served the poor and the sick in India? Due to her heart full of love and mercy.
6. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God (5:8).
Those who are pure in heart, they could easily share that purity to other people. Without the pure heart we have nothing to share. Let us offer hearts to God and let him purify them.
7. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called sons of God (5:9).
Those who have peace can be peace makers. Peacemakers mean one must find peace or create peace where is no peace. Creating peace means creating harmony. If we have power to create peace, let us also create harmony.
8. Blessed are they that have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (5:10).
We thank the early martyrs of our faith. They gave up their lives so that we could enjoy our freedom in faith nowadays.
William Tyndale (1494-1536) was an English scholar who became a towering figure in Protestant reform in the years leading up to his execution. He became outlawed in his country, England due to his faith and translation of the Hebrew-Greek Bible into English.
In 1935, Tyndale was arrested and jailed for over a year. In 1536 he was convicted of heresy and executed by strangulation, after which his body was burnt at the stake by the Roman Catholic Church (Wikipedia.com).
Jesus expected that the ideal characters are expected to appear.
Mat 5:11-12 says, “Blessed are ye when men shall reproach you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”
In verses 5:11-12, the eight Beatitudes are followed by what is often viewed as a commentary—a further clarification of the eighth one with specific application being made to the disciples. Instead of referencing third-person plural “they”, Jesus changes to second-person “you.”
Together, the Beatitudes present a new set of ideals that focus on love and humility rather than force and exaction. They echo the highest ideals of Jesus’ teachings on spirituality and compassion (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beatitudes).
In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote, “Do not waste your time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor act as if you did. As soon as we do this, we find one of the great secrets.
When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.
If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more.
If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less” (sermonillustrations.com). What are the lessons here? Let us act out God’s love and humility to others and it will change our attitudes and decisions.