In these verses Jesus gives eight beatitudes that describe the true character of those who are citizens of His kingdom. The word “beatitude” is from the Latin meaning “blessing”. We could simply call these “the blessings”. The beatitudes are not given in a random order, but overflow into each other providing a complete picture of a kingdom citizen. Interestingly, the first and the last contain the same promise (“for theirs is the kingdom of heaven“). These bookends show that this is a description of a kingdom citizen. All eight beatitudes state a condition and then provide a promise. When does the believer experience these blessings? In eternity they will be experienced in their fullness, however there is a true sense in which they can be experienced now.
1. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3)
This is a reference to those who see themselves as spiritually empty before God. This condition is the opposite of pride and self-sufficiency. To be “poor in spirit” means to recognise one’s spiritual poverty and look to the Lord for mercy (cf. Luke 18:13-14). Their reward is “the kingdom of heaven” which means they are a believer.
2. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4)
The second beatitude describes the believer’s grief over his or her own sinful condition. This is the natural response of the recognition of spiritual poverty. The outcome of this kind of mourning is comfort, which is provided by the gospel (cf. Is. 61:1-3).
3. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5)
The word “meek” is not to be connected with the word “weak”. Biblical meekness is not weakness. It refers to those who are able to harness their command and conviction. The meek believer demonstrates power under complete control. The promise is that they will “inherit the earth“. In the future they will reign with Christ as He will have dominion over all things, but in the meantime they allow this hope to drive their efforts in the world today.
4.”Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matt. 5:6)
This is a description of a believer’s internal longing for righteousness. Because this can only be found in the Lord, it is the believer’s desire to conform to this. The promise of such a longing is a true and lasting satisfaction.
5. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matt. 5:7)
As a believer longs for the righteousness of God, it is only natural that they be merciful like the Lord. The promise is the provision of matched mercy.
6. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8)
To be “pure in heart” is to have our minds and emotions set upon the Lord. It is an unwavering commitment in worshipping Him from deep within. The great promise of this condition is to “see God“. The ultimate fulfillment will occur when we are with the Lord in heaven (Rev. 22:3-4). However, this is experienced now I the intimacy of unbroken fellowship.
7. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9)
The believer is not at enmity with God because Jesus Christ made peace possible (Rom. 5:1; Col. 1:21). Now the God’s people enjoy this peace, they are to be “peacemakers“. This occurs though the sharing of the gospel and the application of the gospel within the body. The promise “for they shall be called sons of God” means that the believer will reflect the character of the Father.
8. “Blessed are the those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:10)
The final beatitude may be a bit surprising at first and appear to be an anticlimax. We have just seen a great progression, then suddenly persecution. But this ought not to be a surprise (John 15:18-20). To live as Jesus lived will inevitably lead to persecution and hardship in varying levels.
Jesus expands on this final beatitude by reminding His people of the reality and expectation of persecution. Though hardship may be experienced now, this has been an ongoing assault against God’s people in past ages. For this reason they are to hold onto the hope of the final reward in heaven (Matt. 5:11-12). How does a Christian provide a faithful witness to the world? The answer is by living out the beatitudes. Jesus likens this kind of lifestyle to two metaphors – salt and light (Matt. 5:13-16). The metaphors in this passage presuppose the reality of the world’s corruption and darkness. As salt, the Christian’s witness functions as both a preservation against corruption and a seasoning of the delight of Christ. As light, the Christian’s witness exposes society’s sin and reflects the holiness of Christ.
1. What are your overall impressions of the sermon of the mount? Are there any particular verses or passages that have been a great encouragement or challenge?
2. What is happiness in the world’s standard and how are the beatitudes in 5:3-12 contrary to the world’s view of happiness?
3. Discuss how the promises in all the beatitudes have a present and eternal fulfillment.
4. After examining the first seven beatitudes, why is persecution inevitable?
5. Discuss the significance of the two metaphors describing the Christian witness (5:13-16).