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  1. The context in Matthew’s Gospel

  • Matthew is about the King and the Kingdom

  • about acceptance and rejection of the King

  • about a struggle between the scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees, and the Lord

  1. The correct background

  • Not the Gospel message of John 3 (“you must be born again” and “God so loved the world …”) or Paul’s outline of the Gospel in Romans – pieces from different puzzles … doesn’t fit, nor does it contrast well so you can see exactly what is going on.

  • Not the church – you tend to end up with a set of platitudes or a utopia promised to the poor and wretched to keep them happy with their lot – and in some state churches they have been exactly that.

  • What does the rest of the Sermon on the Mount say? What is this an introduction to?

  • 5:20 - unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven

  • 5:21,27,31,33,38,43 - "You have heard that it was said of old …" (+ variations) - who have they heard it from?

  • Chap 6 - the hypocrites who pray on street corners, do their charity in public …

  • 5:11 - Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you … who is "they"?

  • Jesus setting out his stall against the backdrop of the teaching of the scribes and Pharisees – when you see that, it’s easy to see the contrast, it’s easy to see where He’s going and it makes the whole Sermon of the Mount easy to understand.

  1. What did the listeners hear?

  • listening to the good news of the kingdom with the prophets, such as Isaiah in their heads

  • it's a surprising message for the listeners - it's a contrast to what they were used to

  • 7:28-29 - the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

Not a NT 10 commandments

  • not "do this and you'll get that"

  • not a list of nice things to aspire to

  • μακάριος is a statement of fact, not a wish, a hope, a promise, a benediction

3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit,

For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

  • First (and last) issue - who is the Kingdom for?

poor in spirit:

  • not spiritually poor

  • spirit in the sense of attitude, not spiritual vs physical

  • Isaiah 66:1-2 - … on this one will I look:

On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit

And who trembles at My word.

  • Revolutionary idea

  • Opposite of this is the PROUD - scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, Jewish leaders, learned, respected people, the establishment - the people who thought they were somebody

  • Not them, but the poor, the humble, the nobodies

4 Blessed are those who mourn,

For they shall be comforted.

  • Not talking about general sorrow - we all mourn at some time, but not all will receive eternal comfort

  • Prophets - mourning for sin, mourning for desolation of the land, of Jerusalem

  • Isaiah 61 - passage the Lord quoted in Nazareth

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,

Because the Lord has anointed Me

To preach good tidings to the poor;

To comfort all who mourn,

To console those who mourn in Zion,

To give them beauty for ashes,

The oil of joy for mourning ….”

  • Opposite of religious leaders - the parable of the Pharisee & the tax collector (Luke 18:10-14)

  • Comforted not when they die, but because the Messiah is here!

5 Blessed are the meek,

For they shall inherit the earth.

  • The poor in spirit have the Kingdom of Heaven

  • The meek have "the earth" - perhaps better "the land"

  • Quote from Psalm 37:11

  • Inheritance promised to Abraham

  • Quite possibly seen to extend to the whole earth in the Christian era

    • Paul talks about the promise to Abraham that he would be "the heir of the world" (Romans 4:13)

  • Who are the meek?

  • Follows on from v.4 - mourning for the land - now inheriting the land

  • Not the violent, not the proud, not the boastful, not a particular clan - Remember covenant with Abraham that he would be a father of many nations and through him all families in the earth would be blest - Abraham's promise is not for "good Jews"

  • New heavens and a new earth - for the meek to inherit

6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

For they shall be filled.

  • Complement of mourning for sin

  • Earnestly seeking, craving righteousness

  • Not the Pharisaic living righteously - not those that arrive, not those that have, but those that crave, desire, seek after

  • The righteousness is not theirs, but God's - He supplies it

  • Your righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees

  • Progression from the promise of the land - Jeremiah 23:5-8

“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord,

“That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness;


… And they shall dwell in their own land.”

  • Again, the link with the land, the inheritance.

  • Jesus is the righteousness they are seeking - he's ours too (contrast Jewish leaders) - through him the kingdom of heaven is ours - Jewish leaders offer?

7 Blessed are the merciful,

For they shall obtain mercy.

  • goes with 7:1 - "Judge not …"
  • 9:13 & 12:7 - "I desire mercy and not sacrifice"

  • Back to "the poor in spirit", Isaiah 66:3:

He who kills a bull is as if he slays a man;

He who sacrifices a lamb, as if he breaks a dog’s neck;

He who offers a grain offering, as if he offers swine’s blood;

He who burns incense, as if he blesses an idol.

  • parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:23-35)

  • God is pro death penalty in principle, but not in practice

    • David

    • woman taken in adultery

  • contrast between Jesus' theology ("My yoke is easy and my burden is light" - Matthew 11:30) and the scribes and Pharisees ("they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers" - Matthew 23:4)

  • presents a God who wants to show mercy, rather than requiring judgment and sacrifice - the spirit of the law, not the letter

8 Blessed are the pure in heart,

For they shall see God.

  • The Mishnah has 6 "orders" or sections. One out of those six is on purity or cleanliness

  • all external, ritual

  • preview of Matthew 15:1-20:

    • Pharisees complain about disciples eating with unwashed hands against "the tradition of the elders"

    • Jesus teaches "Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man, but what comes out"

  • man looks on the outward appearance - the Lord looks on the heart (the Lord to Samuel on which of Jesse's sons to anoint as king)

  • see God … what Moses couldn't do! Startling claim! He who has seen me has seen the Father - John 14:9 - He came to show us the Father

9 Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.

  • never happy about this, what is being a peacemaker about? Only time word appears in scripture

  • Jesus is Prince of Peace, but how are we peacemakers?

  • 5:21-26: Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift."

  • 5:38-41: You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.

  • 5:43-45: “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven….

  • Back to your righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees

  • Being called sons of God is not a reward for doing this - it's recognition of the display of God's character

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven." [Matthew 5:10]

  • Back to the first one - who does the Kingdom of Heaven belong to

  • persecuted for righteousness' sake - He is our righteousness - for Jesus' sake

  • peacemakers - love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you .. yours is the kingdom of heaven, because you are God's sons … not just in his likeness, but his heirs

So what do the Beatitudes tell us?

  • Who the Kingdom is for

    • poor

    • meek

    • unimportant

    • downtrodden

    • discriminated against

    • outcasts

  • What those people will be like

    • mourn for sin

    • seek righteousness – His righteousness

    • show mercy

    • peacemakers

    • pure inside, rather than out

  • That their Kingdom, their land, their inheritance is certain

  • What kind of person the Lord Jesus is

This Gospel … this Kingdom, proclaimed by the Lord Jesus

  • is not for the powerful, the respectable, the religious, the connected

  • is for the poor, the meek, the downtrodden, the outcast, the discriminated against, the ordinary