Before we discuss the nature of the blessings that come with them we need to understand the setting in which Christ delivered this sermon.
The Setting of the Sermon on the Mount
Matthew 4:23-5:2 gives the setting of the Sermon. Briefly …at the start of His ministry, Jesus ‘… went throughout Galilee, teaching in synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness… News about Him spread and large crowds followed Him from neighbouring towns and villages… when He saw the crowds He went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him and He began to teach them saying – ‘Blessed…’
The fact that Jesus sat down to speak had special significance for His (Jewish) listeners. Whilst in our present day settings, a house group leader might sit down to give a brief message in an informal manner and a minister stands up in the pulpit to deliver His sermon, in Jesus’ day the reverse happened. So when Jesus sat down, He was indicating to His listeners that what He was going to say was of the greatest importance; it added to the gravity of His message. It was the King speaking to His subjects and His words were not to be taken lightly.
The King’s Favour – the Blessings
To each of the beatitudes there is a blessing attached. The Greek Bible uses the word ‘makarios’ for ‘blessed’. The ancient Greeks believed that on the island of Cyprus or ‘He makaria’ everything necessary for happiness could be found. Completely self-contained, it had no need to import anything from outside; catastrophic events elsewhere could not disturb its tranquillity. Similar thoughts are contained in the ‘blessedness’ that Jesus promised:
1) It goes beyond happiness which is elusive as it is tied to unpredictable circumstances and other people’s words and actions.
2) It is joy rooted in the assurance of having found favour with God which not even the direst of circumstances can affect in any way. It is related to a person’s spiritual condition and is the result of obedience.
3) It is something that only God can give4) It is a condition which God desires for His people. In the Garden of Eden, God blessed Adam and Eve. He blessed Noah, Abraham and commanded Aaron to bless the Israelites.
The King’s Example
Jesus is the perfect example of one in whom all these attitudes were evident:
- ”Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus : Who … made Himself nothing (POVERTY OF SPIRIT)…” (Philippians 2:5-6)
- ”…taking the very nature of a servant … He humbled Himself (HUMILITY) and became obedient to death-even death an a cross!” (Philippians 2:7-8)
- ”Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted andHe had been tempted in every way just as we are… we have a MERCIFUL …High Priest who is able to sympathise with our weaknesses”.(Hebrews 2:17-18 and 4:15)
- He was ‘a man of sorrows’ and He ‘carried our sorrows’. (Isaiah 53:3-4). In the gospels we find Him MOURNING over the sins and impending judgement of Israel.
- He was the spotless Lamb of God, PURE and without blemish and so He was fit for sacrifice as a guilt offering. (1Peter 1:19 and Isaiah 53:10)
- He was despised and rejected by men; He was oppressed and afflicted; He endured such opposition (PERSECUTION) from sinful men… (Isaiah53:3,9)
- ”He Himself is our PEACE … and He has reconciled both of them (Jew and Gentile) to God through the cross”. (Ephesians 2:14-16)
- It was on the cross that we find Him acknowledged as a RIGHTEOUS man by those who had no previous relationship with God (i.e. the thief and the centurion.
So as we bear the same attitude as Christ we will reflect Him to the world. He will then be ‘lifted up’ in our lives and draw men to Himself.