‘Jesus Tells us who are truly blessed, happy’
“Beatitudes” – Matthew 5:3-10
Each of us has a mental framework which we use to form our view on life, and to give events, people and experiences a consistent meaning. This is a part of our personality known as the attitude. It enables us to interpret reality in a consistent way. Attitude means a perspective or a viewpoint. We are talking about attitude as a major component of our personality — the overall orientation of our mind, a fundamental mindset that is with us for life. Our spiritual outlook towards life and all that we encounter would reflect in our, day-to-day attitude towards the materialistic world.
Matthew chapters 5, 6 and 7 present the most important passages of the scripture that gives us an insight into the right attitude we should possess under various circumstances. It is called the Sermon on the Mount because Jesus gave the sermon sitting atop a mountain, so that thousands could hear what He had to say and benefit. It is also endearingly called as the Beatitudes, short for beautiful attitudes. It is His desire that we introspect and change the attitudes we have so far developed, in line with the principles He preached. I like to look at Beatitudes as the most concise and precise presentation of what Jesus wants in terms of Kingdom Life. I also see it as the very Constitution of the Kingdom of Jesus. It is the most comprehensive statements by Jesus on how a believer cooperates with the Grace of God. It is a “litmus test” to measure our spiritual development. Jesus calls us to make it our primary goal to seek to be perfect by walking in all the light that the Spirit gives us as we embrace the Beatitudes and help others do the same. The Holy Spirit leads us in this effort and we cannot achieve this own our own merits. As a rule, He will talk to us if we start the conversation and He will talk as long as we keep talking. He will also go as deep as we want Him to go on the subject but He will not bring the subject up for us.
Today, we will focus on the first eight profound teachings of Jesus in this regard, which can be found in Matthew 5:3-10. Each Beatitude tells us how to be Blessed. Being blessed means more than happiness. It implies the fortunate or enviable state of those who are in the Kingdom of Jesus. The Beatitudes don’t promise laughter, pleasures or earthly prosperity. To Jesus ‘blessed’ means the experience of hope and joy, independent of the environment we live in, for this we must follow Jesus no matter what it would cost us.
- Jesus began by stating: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” - Matthew 5:3. If I may the basis of this principle in simple terms, it would mean, that unless we know what could be ours, we will never know what we haven’t got. To be poor in spirit is to be aware that we are in great need of experiencing spiritual growth in our hearts. The awareness, that we are deficient in our spirituality will come only when we instruct ourselves in the teachings of our Lord and submit to Him in total obedience. It is not the lack of Scriptural knowledge that makes us wanting spiritually, on the contrary, the more we pursue the Scriptures the more we realise the extent of our spiritual deficiency. Jesus, however, promised that any who live poor in spirit would experience the kingdom realities. This includes having a vibrant spirit, feeling God’s presence, and being a vehicle of His presence to others. This speaks of experiencing more of His Kingdom in a personal way.
- Then Jesus asserts, “Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.” - Matthew 5:4. This is a follow on from the first statement of Jesus. Mourning here must refer to how we feel about what we see our poverty of spirit; as we see our great need. It, therefore, tantamount to spiritual mourning. As we peruse the teachings of Jesus and relate it to our attitudes, it is natural that we become suddenly sorrowful of our wasted life thus far, our unpreparedness to be the citizens of the Kingdom of Jesus. In this second statement, Jesus is telling us to stay with it, in due time, little by little, He will touch us; He will comfort us and we will have a breakthrough which will come progressively. Therefore, our goal is not to enter into the joy that has no mourning or mourning that has no joy of the comfort that Jesus promises us.
- Jesus goes on to the third assertion: “Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.” - Matthew 5:5. Our poverty of spirit and meekness are related, yet they have important distinctions. The poverty of spirit is our awareness of our spiritual deficiency before God, but meekness is the awareness of our lacking in the right attitude for God’s people. We need wisdom from other people. We are not self- contained with all the wisdom. I know we have the Holy Spirit to help us, so do others. Holy Spirit may guide us through others. Jesus wants us to be humble and teachable to learn from others. That perhaps is the very reason He established His Church, His Body where we belong and where we interact with other believers.
- “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.”- Matthew 5:6, is the 4th statement about our preparedness for His Kingdom. There is no grace teaching that does not hunger and thirst and press in for God and for righteousness. It says, for righteousness, it is pressing into Jesus because you are not going to have a breakthrough of righteousness without connecting with Him, Who is the King of Righteousness. We do not just press in for ourselves alone. We press in for our loved ones. There are people I am praying for. I am pressing in for their breakthrough. You are doing it. We are pressing into Jesus for our nation, for the workers in the Lord’s vineyard, for the Cristian Community in the world, for all the people of God, irrespective of cast, creed, nationality and so on. Jesus relates to us based on our hunger in terms of how far we go in the Spirit. Our hunger for spirituality will develop, when we relish the taste of the Grace and Love of Jesus.
- Jesus goes on to state, “Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.” - Matthew 5:7. The world sees the first four are attitudes as negative qualities, but we have seen in our overview what those really mean. The second four, being merciful, pure, making peace, and enduring persecution with perseverance, are attitudes that the world sees as positive. Now Jesus is talking to people who already have received the mercy of being bought by His blood. He is talking to people who are already forgiven, people ready for His kingdom. And He is saying to those people that, they have received that introduction to the grace of God. However, there is a greater experience of mercy that awaits us, though it is contingent upon us to become merciful towards others. Much can be said about this attitude of mercy. However, a caution here is that the call to mercy is not the call to be casual about sin. I call that unsanctified mercy. Because our receiving and our giving of mercy are always with the view of strengthening people's resolve along with ours to walk in righteousness.
- “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” - Matthew 5:8 is the sixth beatitude Jesus spoke of. This is a Beatitude we approach with a sense of amazement and surprise. I mean this has to be the ‘mountain top’ experience, like the one Peter, John and James had when they witnessed the Transfiguration of Jesus. It is the high point we see God. Now to see God means to have a living understanding of Him by the anointing of the Spirit of God. The process is continuous, as we experience Jesus and live with a fascinated heart; and not live spiritually fatigued like may believers do. But, Jesus places a very clear condition that in order to experience Him, we have to walk in purity. Such purity is not easily achieved as it has to be the core of our thoughts, words and deeds. It involves our outlook on our morality and people tend to draw lines where it should start or end. As far as Jesus is concerned, in none of the principles and attitudes He taught us, there can be any conditions attached.
- The seventh assertion of Jesus is, “Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.” - Matthew 5:9. There is a two-fold dimension to the peacemaker. One facet of being a peace breaker. We should avoid creating strife because of our own pride, ego and selfishness, our own choices and our insistence on things that come from our pride. When we avoid bringing into relationships, of any nature, things that break the relationship, then we are being peace breakers at one level. We should be extremely careful that we don’t end up as peace breakers. The second facet of being a peacemaker is the hard work we must put in with sincerity to repair and restore broken relationships. It is hard work because it takes the time to hear people's hearts to honour their views and circumstances in a right perspective before we can bring about peace. Peace-making should be pursued with purity of heart as the core value. We must understand that in a strained relationship, the most critical factor that contributed to a break up is the lack of purity of thought in the parties. It makes the task harder for the peace maker.
- Now we come to the eight statement of Jesus. Herein He is telling us, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” - Matthew 5:10. Jesus is warning us that persecution does exist and then He is telling us how to respond to it. As a matter of fact, we ourselves as a minority community has come under persecution in this country. There are three blessings I have identified here that come out when we face persecution. First the process of persecution produces character, that is what happens when we take a firm stand in Christ. The second is best explained quoting from 1 Peter 4:14. Peter who has experienced persecution himself for the sake of the Gospel, speaks of the blessing thus, “If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part, He is glorified.” The third blessing is what Jesus has promised us. He says the reward for enduring persecution is Great. It is as if He is saying “I am going to reward you far beyond what you could ever imagine, because you stood with Me and it moved Me that you stood with Me.”
- eight Beatitudes reveal what God is like and they reveal what He wants from us. We need to have our faith strengthened for the grace of Jesus so that we work through these eight Beatitudes. We need faith so strong to give us confidence that all the eight Beatitudes are really within our reach by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. I would urge you to make this your daily prayer, "Lord, I am determined to travel the direction of making the Beatitudes You taught us as my goal for this life henceforth. I do not care what it will cost me. I do not care how many years until I feel the response from You, Lord. If it is years before I feel the difference in my attitude towards You, towards the circumstances I pass through, and more importantly my attitude towards your sheep my life here is justified, by Grace” We should never get spiritually fatigued. At the end of it all we not only enter His Kingdom but let others around also do so. The ultimate bonus will be that we receive Jesus Christ in a personal way. May the good Lord help us all achieve this goal. Amen