Reading through this incredible passage which has become known as the “Sermon On the Mount,” I am reminded of John 1:17 which states, “…the Law came through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Such is the character of this message of Grace spoken in truth by the Lord Jesus Christ, that I am certain His audience was stunned. That day on the hillside, they heard a message that was spoken with an authority that was different from anything they had heard.
Grace is a term that is defined in numerous ways with some being content to define it as “unmerited favor.” Others see grace as being a sort of merciful covering for the untidy, unholy aspects of one’s life. Some see grace as leniency where God, knowing our weakness and inability to help ourselves, sort of gives us a compassionate band aid and welcomes us into the house. Others simply stick to a literal meaning of the word as being “a gift.”
Perhaps the word “grace” contains a bit of all of these meanings, but I was struck by a particular entry in the Strong’s Dictionary of Greek words when defining the word we translate as “grace.” That entry speaks of grace being “…the divine influence on the heart and its reflection in the life.”
When I think of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, this is the exact way in which I would describe the content. Jesus was teaching His listeners about the “divine influence on the heart and its reflection in the life.” As He spoke this message describing the grace of the Father at work in the heart of His creatures, Jesus spoke the truth and He spoke it with all the Love and Authority of Heaven. Such was the power of His message, that when it was finished, the people were astonished.
Jesus begins this message in an interesting fashion. He begins by speaking of blessing. Yet what He speaks is not the typical content that accompanies my ideas of blessing. He doesn’t begin with blessed are you when you have enough food to eat and everyone likes you and you are at the top of your game. No, instead, He begins with “blessed” and then proceeds to couple this word with very unlikely conditions. Not only are they unlikely, they strike me as being impossible if not for the “divine influence on the heart and its reflection in the life.”
Perhaps as Jesus watched the people gathering around Him before He began to speak, He was observing their faces and hearts (we read that He didn’t need anyone to tell Him what was in a man because He already knew what was in their hearts). Perhaps as He saw these folks gather, He saw those who were poor in spirit, some who were in mourning, some who truly were meek, others who knew they were unrighteous and were thirsty to be righteous. Perhaps He saw others who were struggling with bitterness and needed to show mercy. I don’t know if there were physical inspirations for the message, but we know that the Father directed the words of Jesus in this sermon.
To be blessed is defined by the Strong’s dictionary as “Supremely blest; by extension fortunate, well off; blessed, happy.”
This definition with its various renderings taken in the context of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount undoubtedly speaks to a state of being as opposed to a good feeling. While the state of being may be blessed, the accompanying circumstances most likely feel like anything but blessed.
To be poor in spirit, in mourning or even to be described as meek, at the surface do not sound very blessed. And if we focus on the condition mentioned we would probably get depressed or consider Jesus cruel in His assessment. Jesus says the blessing is not in the continuation of the condition mentioned but in a reward that follows that condition. The blessing is the hope and assurance that this condition is not the end, but will be followed by something greater.
To be hungry and thirsty for righteousness, probably means that we have become aware we are lacking righteousness in our lives. Now I for one do not like the knowledge that I lack righteousness. It doesn’t feel blessed. It feels condemning and shameful. Knowing I am unrighteous makes it hard for me to lift my head in a group of people it weighs me down with guilt. Still Jesus says that this is a blessed state of being because it spurs us to the place where we will find righteousness. It is as simple as Jesus told the woman of Samaria, “If you knew the gift of God…you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” The blessing of being hungry and thirsty is that there is a bountiful supply to fill that need.
Being merciful sounds admirable, but showing mercy means that I must have experienced something unpleasant that I need to forgive. The condition that caused this state of being merciful is not to be desired presumably. Yet on the flip side the prospect of being shown mercy when I need it is very blessed.
“Blessed are the pure in heart” probably tickles my ears the most until I realize that purity is an impossibility for me on my own. When the Bible says, “all have sinned…there is none righteous…the heart in man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked…” and other such things, this begins to sound like a depressing part of the message. I don’t feel blessed because my sin keeps me from being pure in heart and without a pure heart, I question if I will be able to see God.
This is the one where I see most clearly that I need God’s “divine influence on my heart,” or I will never see His reflection in my life. It is only through the power of the Christ that I can even be considered pure in heart. Psalm 24 asks the question, “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in His Holy Place?” the answer is, “He that hath clean hands and a pure heart.”
Ps. 15 is very similar but asks a slightly different question, “Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill?” Both of these passages give descriptions of purity of heart and life.
Because purity is the requirement to see God, I believe Jesus is describing the blessedness because HE IS HERE. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand and where you used to be hopeless, there is now hope. He is able to forgive sins and make us pure in heart.
Blessed are the Peacemakers…This is a tough one. What is a peacemaker? To be a peacemaker sounds like you are either on the verge of or in the midst of conflict. Jesus says the peacemakers are blessed. They are called the children of God. Why? Because only the children of God who are empowered by the Grace of God are able to make peace. Left on our own we make war and contribute to conflicts. It takes a lot of grace to make peace. When Jesus says, “Blessed are the Peacemakers” He is speaking of the blessing of being under His Divine Influence when dealing with Conflict.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted” seems to defy logic. How can a man be truly happy when he is rejected, maligned, misinterpreted, hated, and mistreated? Again, the condition is not blessed, but the state of being. We are told to “…rejoice and be exceedingly glad” because our reward is great in Heaven.
We are also given an example, “…for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you…” In essence, Jesus is reminding us, “Do you remember those Heroic prophets whose writings bless you? Do you remember those godly people who stood against wrong and honored God? These guys were treated like you are being treated.” The blessing in this reminder is that as we look at the example and history of those great men and women of faith, we begin to understand that the same power at work in them is at work in us. The Divine influence of God, and its reflection in the lives of the prophets was resisted by the world. Jesus reminds us that we are on the same team.
Jesus spoke about some very difficult (impossible) situations and said that when we experience these we are blessed. That promise of blessing is only possible because Jesus is here. This was a message that hadn’t been preached before Christ, because Christ brought the promise. He was the fulfillment of the Law and the prophecies.
Imagine with me if you will that today is just like in Jesus’ day. He is getting ready to preach and He sees you in the crowd. Jesus knows your heart and is willing to meet your need. What does He see in your heart?
He is here and because of that, He says you are blessed. He is able to meet every need by applying His grace to your life and situation.
The only way the poor in spirit can obtain the Kingdom of Heaven is if the King of Heaven gives it to them.
The only way the mourning can find comfort is if the God of all comfort, brings them comfort.
The only way the meek can inherit anything is if Jesus, the captain of our salvation, makes them Kings and priests to God.
The only way those who hunger and thirst for righteousness can be filled is if the Bread of Life and the Living Water from Heaven are given to them.
The only way to be merciful or obtain mercy is if our debt is paid in full by the blood of Jesus.
The only way to be pure in heart is for the Righteousness of Christ to be applied to our lives and then we have access to the throne of grace by a new and living way.
The only way to be peacemakers is to be a child of God by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. It is then that we become ministers of reconciliation and can have the peace of God which surpasses all understanding in control of our hearts and minds.
The only way we can abide persecution is if we are empowered by the Spirit of God and Look for a city with foundations whose Builder and Maker is God.
Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, you have the promise of blessing in every situation because, grace and truth are here through Jesus Christ.