I want to thank you for joining me for a new season of Bible study. Last year, I took suggestions for topics that we could cover in the Bible and I believe we had a wonderful time with those studies. This year, I did not take suggestions for topics, but I believe you will enjoy these studies. We are really going to tackle scripture this season so that we can have a fuller understanding of what the scriptures are saying, and how we can apply scripture to our Christian lives.
We are going to kick off this season of study by taking a look at Jesus’ sermon on the mount (Matt. 5-7). The sermon on the mount is arguably Jesus’ most prominent sermon. Many of these teachings are often overlooked or not applied properly. So, over the next few weeks we will be studying the sermon on the mount. Be sure to ask any questions or make comments below. Also, be sure that you’re sharing these studies with others as well.
The first topic we will study from the sermon on the mount will be the very first thing that Jesus taught. Matthew 5:1-12, Jesus speaks on what we call the Beatitudes. The word “beatitude” is from the Latin word beatus, meaning “blessed.” Blessed means “happy”. Understand that this happiness (blessedness) does not come from anything of the world, but comes from the Lord above. There is a difference between worldly happiness and the blessedness that comes from the Lord (Please keep that thought in mind as we continue through this study.)
Before we jump into the Beatitudes, I want to point out that we can also find Jesus teaching the Beatitudes in Luke’s gospel. In Matthew’s gospel, the Beatitudes were given while Jesus was on (or in) the mountain with His disciples. We are told:
And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:Matthew 5:1-2 NKJV
In Luke’s gospel, we are told that Jesus came down from the mountain and stood on a level place with His disciples and a great multitude (Luke 6:17). The multitudes were waiting down below the mountain and so Jesus went down and then preached the same message to the multitudes in the plain. We will cross back and forth between both the Beatitudes preached on the mountain and in the plain as we go.
How we should view the Beatitudes
Now, when we study the Beatitudes, it is hard to ignore the physical relevance in His message. For example, the first group of people that Jesus talks about are the poor. When we think of poor folks, we consider those of us who lack wealth and finances. Yes, it is certainly possible to be poor because you lack wealth, but it is also possible to be poor in spirit.
I am going to take a view of the Beatitudes through both a physical and spiritual lens. I am a big believer in not being completely blind to the spiritual side of things. We should always view scripture through a spiritual lens because it’s intent is not only for teaching us how to live physically but also spiritually!
What it means to be blessed
I also want to point out that when Jesus says, “Blessed are you,” there are no “maybes” about it. The reason why I point this out is because people often make the Lord out to be a “transactional God” or a “God of conditions”. What I mean by this is that there are many people who believe that IF they do things to meet a certain condition, THEN God will reward them (pay them). (Ex: IF I pray everyday and night, THEN God will bless me.)
This makes God out to be like a grocery store or a restaurant – the only way you get your food is if you pay for it (transaction). God is not a God of conditions. Somebody will say, “Preacher, you tell us all the time that you have to have faith in order for God to bless us.” This is actually not true!
Jesus tells us that the Lord causes both His sun and His rain to fall on the just and the unjust (Matt:5:45). Both are blessings of living in this world, but I will tell you that His spiritual blessing certainly comes with the condition of having faith in Him.
Some will view the Beatitudes as being something they should live by in order for the Lord to complete a transaction. That is certainly not the case. For example: You do not have to live to be poor in wealth in order to enter into heaven. What I am trying to say here is that you do not have to purposely strive to meet one of these conditions to be blessed. We will dive more into this thought as we move into each of the Beatitudes.
The poor are blessed
Jesus starts off by saying (Matt 5:3; Luke 6:20), “Blessed (happy) are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” As I mentioned before, typically, when we see the word “poor” we think financially or wealth. This is fine, but we cannot get completely hung up thinking that this is solely about those who are poor in their finances or wealth.
Too often we take what Jesus teaches and solely focus on it in its physical nature. We have to understand that the sermon on the mount and even what was taught on the plain was also about what goes on inside of us (spiritually). Now, it just so happens that many “lower class” folks display ways that are closer to having genuine faith in the Lord than those who have greater wealth. (This is often shown to happen in scripture as well.)
Jesus came for the poor
At the start of His ministry, Jesus read from Isaiah (Luke 4:18; Is. 61:1), “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.” You see, the poor are not only those who lack wealth, but also those who have a spirit that cannot be quenched by the world. All of us start out being poor in spirit, due to living in a world of sin, and God is the only one who can renew our spirit. The gospel of Jesus is preached and has the power to satisfy those who are poor in spirit eternally.
There are, however, many people who are so rich that the gospel never reaches their soul. They are rich not because of their great wealth but also because they believe the world satisfies their soul. To them, the words of Christ does nothing for their spirit, and many feel no need to give up their way to turn to Christ.
There are many “broke” and “poor” folks who go about their days being completely “rich” in the spirit. These folks know everything! They know how to find happiness, but never seem happy. The “rich” can even tell you about how ridiculous faith in the Lord is and will mock you for it. This is honestly a sad and tragic thought because there are so many poor souls who are completely ignoring their riches.
The best way to describe one who are “rich” would be to say that they lay up their treasure in earthly things instead of heavenly (Matt. 6:19-21). Again, I tell you that there are man “broke” and “poor” folks who believes the only way they can become “rich” is through gaining the riches of this world. The only way we can truly become rich is by laying up our treasures in a place that is not temporary – the Lord’s kingdom.
Mourners are blessed
Jesus then speaks about those that mourn (Matt. 5:4). Typically, when we think of mourners, we think of those who are physically grieving. However, those that mourn can also mourn and grieve in spirit. To the mourners, Jesus says that they are comforted.
“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy will come in the morning,” is what Psalm 30:5 says. God certainly comforts us when we are physically grieved and in mourning. In Luke’s gospel (Luke 6:21), Jesus says that those who weep will laugh. Again, let’s consider that we can weep in our spirit but we can also laugh in our spirit as well. In the passage of scripture that Jesus read from Isaiah (Is. 61:1), Jesus expresses that He was sent to heal those who were broken in spirit.
Those who mourn or weep, again, are also those who are broken in spirit. Because of Jesus, the brokenhearted are happy and comforted because the Lord has healed them through His only begotten Son. There are many people who are brokenhearted and depressed in our world today, and I feel awful for them.
Sadly, many folks who suffer from a broken spirit end up finding useless help because it comes from the world. The brokenhearted are not suffering from a physical ailment but from something on the inside. Jesus is the great physician and He is more than capable of healing a broken heart.
The lowly inherits the earth
Jesus touches on those who are meek – meaning lowly – (Matt. 5:5). We define being meek as being quiet, gentle, or even submissive. Typically, the meek are the ones we would say are bullied in society; they rarely, if ever, fight back. We live in a society where typically the strongest are the ones who make it to the top – not the bullied. The king (or even oppressor) are typically the ones who “hold the whole world in their hands.”
The meek, again, are not only those who are physically lowly and humble but those who are lowly and humble in spirit. To them, Jesus says they will inherit the earth and be filled (Matt. 5:5-6; Luke 6:21). When Jesus read from Isaiah (Is. 61:1), He stated that He would proclaim liberty to the captives. (Liberty is freedom.)
At the end of time, when mankind spiritually lives on in eternity, believers will inherit a new heaven and new earth (Rev. 21). You have to hunger and thirst for that life in eternity. There are many people who believe that heaven can be found in our world (this reality) but it cannot. To think that say is frankly a sign of ignorance to the teachings of heaven according to scripture.
This world is a sinful place, whereas there will be no sin in heaven. In fact, there will be no sadness, no grief, no pain, and no depression in heaven. In heaven, you won’t have to worry about the oppressor or thief trying to rob you of your joy! This world, while beautiful as it is, is a place that is corrupted by sin and does not measure up to the beauty of the Lord’s kingdom.
We have to be meek (humble) enough to admit our place in the grand scheme of things, but many of us are unable to have this humility. No, a lot of us think so highly of our intellect that our ego and pride blocks us from this truth. It takes a humble man to come to the Lord! The person of great pride (or even disbelief) will not come to God, so sadly these folks cannot join in on this blessing.
The hungry are filled
Jesus then turned His attention to those who were hungry and thirst (Matt. 5:6). Again, when we think of the hungry and those that thirst, we think of those that are homeless and less fortunate than we are. Yet, as I said before, there are many who hunger and thirst in the spirit. Nothing in the world is able to fill their hunger spiritually or quench their thirst spiritually. Jesus says to this group that they will be filled.
I believe this saying really points to the fact that Jesus was speaking spiritually in nature more than physically in the Beatitudes. Mankind should honestly take care of mankind when it comes to those who are less fortunate. In the Old Testament days, Israelite farmers were never suppose to reap their entire crop. They were commanded to leave some of the crop in the fields for those who were less fortunate, and even a stranger in the land, so that they could have food to eat (Lev. 23:22).
Sadly, many people suffer in our world today all because of mankind’s greed. I truly believe we are capable of putting food into the mouths of every living human being in the world but we choose not to do so. Some will even try to blame God for the hunger many people face in both the world and our society. That is certainly not the Lord’s fault, it is mankind’s fault for choose not to love as they should.
The righteous ones are blessed
Jesus tells us (Matt. 5:7-10) that the merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, and those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake are blessed. I want you to keep in mind what I said about people’s thoughts towards the Lord being a “transactional God”. You see, we believe that there are things that we can do ourselves to meet these conditions, but you will find that there is nothing man can do by themselves to meet these conditions.
Jesus says that the merciful will obtain mercy (Matt. 5:7). This scripture is often misunderstood because people believe that if they are merciful, then God will be merciful to them but that is not the case. You see, God has already been merciful on mankind, so we should be merciful because God has been merciful to us. Paul wrote (Titus 3:5) that we were not saved by works of our own righteousness but according to God’s mercy.
Jesus says that the pure in heart will see God (Matt. 5:8). For those who want to try to make this a condition that man can reach on their own, how can you make yourself pure in heart? There is absolutely no way that anybody can make themselves pure in heart without Christ. The heart, by the way, is not the one pumping blood throughout your body, but your soul (spirit).
By nature, mankind is sinful which means our spirit (soul) in sinful. The only way to clean your spirit and make it pure is through the washing of the blood of Jesus (John 3:3-5). Jesus said to Nicodemus (John 3:3), “unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” You have to be made pure to enter through the gates of heaven, and you are unable to do that without the Lord’s intervention.
Jesus says that the peacemakers will be called the sons of God (Matt. 5:9). Are there any “real” peacemakers in our world today? We believe there are, but in all honestly the answer is actually no. Mankind doesn’t really know what peace is or what it even looks like! Christ tells us (Matt. 5:44-45) that we should love our enemies, bless those who curse us, and do good to those who hate us so that we can sons of our Father in heaven. These are the ways of peace, but even the genuine believers struggle with aiming for this type of peace.
There is only one true peacemaker and that is Christ. This peace will only be established in the heavenly kingdom after all those of sin are cast into the lake of fire (or outer darkness). That being said, there are people who fight the good fight of peace; they do so by sharing the Lord’s way of love and mercy.
Blessed are the persecuted and hated
Jesus then ends on this note (Matt. 5:11-12), “Blessed (or happy) are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Jesus also says this same thing to those in the plain, in Luke’s gospel: “Blessed (or happy) are you when men hate you, And when they exclude you, And revile you, and cast out your name as evil, For the Son of Man’s sake. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets.”
One thing I have found to be… peculiar… in the faith is how many people misconstrue what it means to be persecuted. Honestly, I feel more persecuted as a black man than I do as a Christian. To be persecuted is to be persistently harassed or annoyed; or be completely mistreated. This, again, will bother some but I am far more persecuted because of my race than my faith in the world today. I think people who have never been persecuted struggle to understand what it means to be persecuted.
Does this mean that the persecution of Christians does not exist? Certainly not. The disciples certainly underwent much persecution in the early days of the church. Paul was hounded by the Jews relentlessly on his missionary journeys. I certainly believe that there are believers who are harassed today because of their faith. There is also a great persecution that awaits those who will become Tribulation Saints in the days of the Great Tribulation. Personally, I believe the genuine believer today is more likely to be hated than persecuted.
Hate is the intense feeling of dislike towards someone. In our society that is becoming more and more secular, there is certainly an intense hatred growing towards Christian faith. Admittedly, some of the hate is aimed at Christianity because of those who are not genuine believers of Christ but are simply Christians in name only.
The reward is heaven
One thing is very clear: those who are persecuted and hated for Christ sake, will have a great reward in heaven. Many of these folks would be considered outcasts in our society: the poor, depressed, lowly, and hungry are certainly mistreated and even despised by our society. Even those who are humble and try to do good in our world are now mocked and laughed at. If you’re in the world preaching God’s gospel and do your best to walk in His way, again, you will be mocked if you have not been mocked already. Each group is viewed as not part of the world, but they have an inclusive home with the Lord in heaven.
The pronouncement of woe
Not recorded in Matthew’s gospel are the pronouncement of woes that followed Jesus’ teaching of the Beatitudes to those on the plain. As I mentioned earlier, the sermon on the mount recorded in Matthew’s gospel was given specifically to the disciples. On the plain, Jesus not only gives the people the Beatitudes but He mentions these woes which are essentially the opposite of the Beatitudes. We will include these woes into our study of the Beatitudes.
Jesus says (Luke 6), “Woe to you” four times in this passage of scripture. Blessed means happy, and on the opposite side of that you have woe which means sadness, sorrow, or misery. I want you to pay very close attention to those who Jesus pronounces these woes too. We don’t focus on these groups in our world today because we like to believe that the folks in these groups have found joy.
Woe to the rich
Jesus says (Luke 6:24), “Woe to you (how sad for you), who are rich, for you have received your consolation.” Jesus told the rich young ruler to give away all he had and distribute it to the poor, but the young ruler could not do so (Luke 18:22-23). The rich person lays up his or her treasures in their riches (worldly things) and that is, honestly, a very sad statement, but his heart has been filled by the world.
Nearly every day, especially on social media, you will find that there are people who love to flash their “wealth”. To many of these people, their wealth is absolutely everything. There are many people who thirst after, hunger, and desire the riches of this world as well, more so than they do the heavenly treasures. Again, this is certainly very sad and tragic.
Someone may think, “Should I not want nice things?” There is nothing wrong with working hard for nice things or wanting to live comfortably. The problem is when we start to treasure those things over our relationship with the Lord. Jesus says to this group, you cannot inherit the riches of heaven because to you, you have already received your prize (or joy).
Woe to those who are full and merry
In the Beatitudes, those who hungered and thirst would be filled. Yet, in the pronouncement of woes, Jesus says (Luke 6:25) that the full will hunger. Jesus says that those who laugh now, will mourn and weep. There is no better example of what Jesus is saying here than what we see with the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31).
The rich man had such a wonderful life. He lived in a wonderful palace, never had to want for food, or have to depend on anybody – he was merry. Living just outside of his gates was a beggar named Lazarus. Lazarus was a poor man who would beg for the crumbs of the rich man. Sadly, the rich man was so greedy and careless that he never gave to the poor. After their deaths, the rich man went to Hades and Lazarus went to dwell in Abraham’s bosom. In Hades, the rich man begged Abraham to let Lazarus give him so water to cool his tongue.
There are many who are living in our world today, who live happily in all of their wealth. In all of their power, they do nothing to share the wealth with those who are begging for help. In their spirit, they are full and merry, but they are also lacking the kind of heart one must have to enter into the heavenly kingdom. They have their reward now, but when all of this passes away, the Lord will cast them into outer darkness. In hell, these people will be tortured by their regrets of how they chose to live today.
Woe to those who are glorified now
Jesus then says (Luke 6:26), “Woe to you when all men speak well of you,
For so did their fathers to the false prophets.” This, in a way, points back to remaining meek (humble). There is a struggle for many folks to remain humble when they have gained some sort of notoriety. Some folks love the praise and the glory that they receive from people, but you have to be careful with your love for being glorified.
Later, in His sermon on the mount, Jesus said to the disciples (Matt. 6:2), “when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” He continued and said, “that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.” To those who are glorified by man now, how sad for you, because you are choosing to be glorified by man instead of being glorified by God.
The Beatitudes in conclusion
The announcement of who are blessed according to Christ should always fill the believer with great joy. There is a reward that awaits all of us who struggle in this world both physically and spiritually that has been promised by Christ. Let’s remember not to use the Beatitudes to make God out to be a transactional God because He is certainly not that. Use the Beatitudes for your comfort and also for your strength as well in your days of trouble. Be sure to share them with those who are in need of a good word as well.