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  • Writer's pictureBrian O'Kelly

63 - Blessed Are ...

1)      Introduction

a.       This chapter begins the sermon on the Mount as it is called by some. There is a similar sermon in Luke.

b.       The two recorded sermons are not identical.

                                                               i.      It may be that they were delivered on the same occasion and we have two different reports about it.

                                                             ii.      It also may be that Jesus, like many teachers, would teach him the same subjects in much the same way on more than one occasion.

                                                           iii.      In Matthew’s gospel which we are studying today it says “he went up on a mountainside” while in Luke chapter 6 and verse 16 it says “he went down with them and stood on a level place”


iv.      We could have two separate instances of Jesus’s preaching here. It can also be that as they went up the mountainside they finally came down a little bit to a place that was level.

c.       The content is also somewhat different between Matthew and Luke for example will see in the third verse of chapter 5 Jesus saying 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. But in Luke 6:20 he says ““Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

d.       So we have poor in spirit contrasted with poor. This also repeats itself in Luke Jesus says “Blessed are you who hunger now” while in Matthew he says “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness”

e.       We need a way to reconcile these differences.

f.        One thing to be aware of is that no matter what in any instance of quotations of Jesus we don’t have his exact words. This may come as a shock to some of you. But it’s important to recognize that Jesus spoke Aramaic and we don’t have an Aramaic text to work from. The gospel writers wrote in Greek. If you’ve ever translated from one language to another you know that a word for word translation is sometimes impossible and at other times it is up to the choice of the translator as to which words or ideas best express that which was communicated.

g.       Matthew would have been an eyewitness to Jesus delivering these teachings whereas Luke was recording one of their eyewitnesses had seen and heard. Now whether it’s Matthew or Luke in either case the actual words of Jesus went from Aramaic to Greek.

h.       There’s also another issue with these two texts in determining whether or not they are in fact the same sermon and that is that the sermon in Matthew is substantially longer and has quite a bit more content in it than the sermon in Luke.

i.         This is likely due to the fact that these Gospels are written in different fashion. Most commentators agree that Matthew arranges his Gospel account topically. He’s collecting together the sayings of Jesus and arranging them in a topical order rather than a chronological order. Luke on the other hand is giving a chronology. Most of the content included in the sermon on the Mount from Matthew is included elsewhere in the gospel of Luke.

j.         From these pieces of information it’s impossible to determine whether or not this is all delivered at one sitting for if this or if this was a series of different teaching opportunities that were collected together by Matthew.

k.       What we do see in either case is Jesus communicating a value system that is very different from that of the rest of the world.

l.         These are expressed in short statements called the beatitudes and they all begin the same way with the words “Blessed are”. The word used here for blessed can also be translated happy or even fortunate.

m.     In each case we see Jesus expressing the blessed or fortunate status of someone who situation is the exact opposite of what the world considers to be blessed. It should be no surprise to anyone that the values of Jesus and the values of the world and society at large are not the same. But beyond this being self-evident it’s valuable understand Jesus’s statements on a level deep enough for us to gain from them. This is what I’ll be attempting to accomplish.

n.       Each case Jesus justifies his statement with a “for” statement. It’s always “Blessed are”fill in blank “for”. Tells us the the who of the blessing followed by the why.

2)      Let’s begin with the text of the chapter:

a.       Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them.

He said:

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

                                                               i.      Remember, as we been discussing throughout our study of Matthew, Matthew is writing to a Jewish audience. We only see “kingdom of heaven” in Matthew’s writings we know that this is a synonym for “kingdom of God”.

                                                             ii.      So what does it mean to be poor in spirit?

                                                           iii.      We know what it means to be poor. To have very little or no possessions. Have no money, no means, no resources.

                                                           iv.      The Greek word Matthew uses here is one that means beggarly. To be indigent. To quite literally have nothing.

                                                             v.      Jesus says in this beatitude that if you are beggarly in spirit, having nothing, the kingdom of heaven belongs to you.

                                                           vi.      What a strange idea. It would seem more natural to us that those who are rich in spirit would be the inheritors of the kingdom.

                                                          vii.      In Jesus’ day the Pharisees were those who would be considered to be rich in spirit. They were the ones who had it all figured out. They knew all the rituals and all the rules and they followed them in a very public manner. For many Pharisees it was almost as if they were implying that God was sure lucky to have them on his team.

                                                        viii.      Jesus told a parable about this, let me read it to you.

1.       Luke 18:9-14 9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

                                                            ix.      One thing is for sure when you are poor and especially if you are so poor that you are begging and that is that you are acutely aware of your need and of your dependence the benevolence of others.

                                                             x.      I have noticed that often those who are begging have difficulty looking people in the eye. There is a lot of shame that is felt by people who are poor. Here we have the tax collector of whom Jesus said he would not even lift up his eyes to heaven.

                                                            xi.      I believe that when we begin to understand how hopelessly and completely dependent we are on God that we begin to enter into the kingdom. In fact, I would suggest that understanding our need for God and our need for a relationship with Him is a pre-requisite for receiving grace and blessings from Him.

                                                          xii.      1 Peter 5:6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,

                                                        xiii.      Philippians 2:3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.

                                                        xiv.      Being poor in spirit does not mean some kind of self-debasement or self-pity. Have you ever noticed people who seem to take pride in their humility?

                                                          xv.      Being poor in spirit is a recognition that we have nothing at all to offer to God and that we need everything from Him.

b.       4 Blessed are those who mourn,    for they will be comforted.

                                                               i.      Once again here we have Jesus offering perspective that is the polar opposite worlds idea. As Rush Limbaugh used to say, this is 180 degrees out-of-phase.

                                                             ii.      To mourn is to be said about something that has happened some event that has transpired often we associate mourning with the loss of a loved one. It could be a friend or family member or pet which we are mourning. I’ve lost both of my parents and all my grandparents and some other friends. I know what it is to mourn. It could be the loss of a job or a career or some physical ability. I recently met a man who has spent his career as critical care nurse, working in ICUs, but because of an injury that affected the use of his hands he could no longer do this kind of work. In my discussion with him became clear that he mourned this loss.

                                                           iii.      If Jesus is saying Blessed are those who mourn it’s reasonable to ask why he would say such a thing seems like morning is not a blessing, after all, if mourning is the result of loss. then there must be loss preceded none of us wants to experience loss.

                                                           iv.      Morning can also bring a change in perspective, sometimes a change in attitude. For example, you may have heard people who have lost a loved one very young perhaps a sibling or close friend or another family member, a parent or child, these people often say that change their perspective on the brevity of life and the importance of valuing every day. Sometimes these people become embittered and even blame God for the circumstances. Mourning can cause a change in attitude and sometimes in personality and not always for the better.

                                                             v.      Many times, when one experiences a loss of some kind and is mourning over that loss there is one who comes alongside to comfort us. Someone who has been through the same or similar circumstances to our own. Many people believe that this is the meaning of this verse, but I don’t think this is the primary meaning as you’ll see here as we unpack it.

                                                           vi.      Sometimes we are mourning the loss of a loved one and we either know that they were or were not a Christian. When I recently lost my mom had a strange mixture of sadness and comfort.

1.       1 Thess 4:13-14 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.

                                                          vii.      While I was mourning her loss was also comforted by the fact that I’ll see both her and my dad again. Because I know God because I have assurance of my own salvation and of theirs I was comforted. For the unbeliever there is no such comfort.

                                                        viii.      When Jesus says “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted” this should not be taken as anyone who is mourning anything. For example, the criminal may mourn his lack of freedom not out of repentance for his crimes but out of the loss of opportunity to commit more crimes. A man or woman who is having an affair and ultimately discloses it and ends it may mourn the loss of it. This kind of mourning because it is not accompanied by repentance and submission to God is not what Jesus means. We often see people sad over the outcome of their behaviors but still justifying what they have done and unrepentant.

                                                            ix.      We need to make a distinction between mourning and sadness. Sadness can exist without mourning. And mourning can exist without repentance. Many people are mourning as a result of their own selfishness. They are mourning that life has gone in the way that they want it to and that they are not getting their own way. They stand in disbelief that something bad has happened to them or that they have some kind of misfortune but seem unsurprised and even unconcerned when it happens to others. They go into self-pity and depression. There is no comfort for this king of mourning.

1.       2 Cor 7:10 For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.

                                                             x.      We would expect that those who are sad or depressed would be to be envied. We spend a great amount of time, energy, and money to keep ourselves entertained and happy and comfortable. We spend money on medications and vacations and counselors and a wide variety of things to keep any sense of sadness or boredom away. We are trying to do anything to avoid feeling low. To say that anyone who feels this way is blessed is to be unexpected.

                                                            xi.      We need to remember that in Isaiah 55 he says that our ways are not His ways and that our thoughts are not His thoughts. We should not be surprised that this God who is so high above us would have ideas different than our own. We should not be surprised that when He comes down to earth to share His thoughts with us, that they would go against our own thinking.

                                                          xii.      Mourning can also be over circumstances for which one is responsible. It is my belief that this is the kind of mourning that Jesus is discussing here. I believe that Jesus is discussing mourning over our sinfulness. You’ll notice if you look at the Beatitudes, the poor in spirit, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, these are primarily spiritual qualities as well as qualities related to how we interact with people. It is perhaps not the only thing Jesus means with this statement, but it is my belief that this is the primary thrust of this beatitude.

                                                        xiii.      The Christian life begins and really ends with repentance. You’ve probably heard the word “pensive” to describe thinking or pondering. The “pent” of repentance is from the same root word about thinking. Repentance is to re—think something. It is my belief that a Jesus is discussing mourning over a re-thinking about how one has lived their life.

                                                        xiv.      The principal change of mind we need to make is a change of mind about who oversees our lives. We move from the concept of overseeing our own life to the concept of God overseeing our lives.

                                                          xv.      If we are going to call Jesus “Lord” this needs to mean something. The something it needs to mean is that He is the one who oversees our lives. You’ve probably heard small kids say, “you’re not the boss of me”. But in the case of Jesus if we are calling him “Lord” then we are in fact saying, “you are the boss of me, and I will do what you command”.

                                                        xvi.      Once we become Christians become aware of how much of our life has been self-willed and self-directed and much of this in a direction that is not the direction of God.

                                                       xvii.      Non-Christians and many Christians in the infancy of their fate, adopt the attitude that says “well, it’s my life and I’ll do what I want”. This attitude was expressed and crystallized in a song of the same title by Eric Burden and the animals in 1965. This attitude is so much a part of pop culture that this song has been covered by a dozen other artists including Bon Jovi and The Police.

                                                     xviii.      The idea of it being “your life” comes from the idea that you own yourself. How does ownership of something happen? We own something when we buy it, when we make it, when we inherit it, and sometimes when we find it. Well, who made you?

1.       Isaiah 64:8 But now, O Lord,

You are our Father;

We are the clay, and You our potter;

And all we are the work of Your hand.

                                                        xix.      God made us and is therefore the rightful owner of all of us. For the Christian once this is realized there is a second realization and that is that we were created for his purposes not for ours.

1.       Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

                                                          xx.      When you own something like a car or house there is often a document called the title that demonstrates ownership. We need to realize that there is nothing that we have done that would give us title to ourselves or to our own lives. God has done the thing both in creating us shedding his blood for us.

1.       1 Corinthians 6:20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s

2.       We have been created and then purchased. We belong to the creator and purchaser. God first created us for good works, then we became lost to him through our sinfulness and finally we were redeemed, or purchased, through the blood of Jesus on the cross.

                                                        xxi.      For most of our lives and for most of my life we don’t live according to the purposes of God in attempting to accomplish the things that he wants us to accomplish. For most of us, self-included, we are on a full-time mission to live life according to our interests, our desires, our goals and not the interests, desires or goals of God who made us.

                                                       xxii.      Not only have we not done what God would have us do, we compound the problem by often doing the opposite of what he would have us do. It would be bad enough if we just did nothing when he created us for something. Instead, it’s not just inactivity toward God’s purposes, it’s working against his purposes through our sinful behavior.

                                                     xxiii.      Once fully realized this should create deep mourning over the loss to God of his property and his plans as well as mourning over deeply offending one who loves us so much and has given us so much.

                                                     xxiv.      Jesus finishes this beatitude with “for they shall be comforted”. Since the species of mourning He is discussing is one of repentance over our misspent and misdirected opportunity to accomplish God’s purposes in us we must take from this that we are to be comforted in His forgiveness, His acceptance and ultimately His salvation from our sins.

                                                       xxv.      Ultimately as we receive this comfort we should begin and have the capacity to share this comfort with others who are suffering mourning for the same reason.

                                                     xxvi.      I want to say a word about salvation. We must not think of salvation as only some future event or we are saved from the fire of hell. We must think of salvation from our sins as a present and ongoing event. We are not only to be saved from the sins of our past but the sins of our present and future. In terms of our sins of the present, part of the concept of salvation is sanctification. We are to become holy. This means in part that we are to be saved from the sins we are about to commit. We are to be strengthened in our ability to resist sin and this because of the presence and power of God in our lives. Each time that we sin or rebel against God, which all of us do, we should experience both mourning and comfort. Our behavior and God’s loss and comfort that he is ever forgiving.


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