Matthew 5:1-12 (ESV)
1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Jesus called his disciples and began his ministry, and now, in chapters 5 through 7 of Matthew’s Gospel, the author records what is commonly known as the “Sermon on the Mount.” Much discussion surrounds the principles Jesus taught throughout this lesson. Some believe that his commands were given to show that no one can be saved by his her own efforts. Others see Jesus’ exhortations as motivating behavior that should properly characterize all of his followers. It would seem that both sides are valid. In the first twelve verses of this discourse, Jesus explains to the crowds around him what kind of person is blessed. The word “blessed” in its simplest sense means “happy.” Jesus described the kind of people who are happy because they are doing what God wants.
Remember that most of the religious men and women at this time thought God was obligated to accept them into his kingdom because they were good people and of Jewish descent. Jesus painted a beautiful portrait of those who are right with God, describing them in different terms than the religious people of the day valued. Let’s look at the eight core qualities of a happy person according to Jesus:
- Poor in spirit—they realize their spiritual need and depend on God for salvation; they will inherit the kingdom.
- Mournful—they are painfully aware of their sin; God will bring them comfort.
- Meek—they are dependent upon the Spirit; they will have a place with God.
- Hungry and thirsty for righteousness—they desperately want to live God’s way; God will fulfill their longings.
- Merciful—they extend mercy to others; they will receive God’s mercy.
- Pure in heart—they are clean through faith in Christ; God will reveal himself to them.
- Peacemakers—they work to bring peace to others by speaking the truth in love; they are like the Father.
- Persecuted for righteousness—they are willing to do the right thing, even when it means rejection; like the prophets who have gone before them, they will be rewarded.
This is what characterizes people who are more than clean on the outside. They are right with God on the inside. As you meditate on these eight characteristics today, think about where you might want to make changes so that you will be a person Jesus calls “blessed.”