Living For God and Finding Blessing (Matt 5:1-12)

Bible Passage: Matthew 5:1-12

This passage kicks off the Sermon on the Mount and starts by briefly setting the scene. By the end of the previous chapter Jesus had begun his public ministry and had travelled through Galilee teaching and preaching. Seeing the crowd, Jesus went up to the mountain with his disciples, and we are told in verse 2 that it was these disciples who he was addressing. This is important, because it means the ethical teaching of this sermon is for those who already follow Jesus. This in not an explanation of how somebody enters God’s kingdom, but rather an exploration of what it is to live as part of the kingdom.

Living Your Blessed Life: The passage takes the form of a series of beatitudes (declarations of blessing). These follow a pattern from several Old Testament passages, for example Psalm 1:1, and they highlight a characteristic and describe the blessing that comes with it. The word (makarios) that is translated as blessing also has connotations of ‘happy’ or ‘things are well’. In a culture where people can seem obsessed with living their ‘best lives’, Jesus begins his sermon with a picture of the truly blessed life.

What Is the Blessed Life: The eight beatitudes in this passage should not be seen as independent statements that promise different things to different people but rather sit together as a comprehensive promise of what and whose the blessed life is. The beatitudes are bookended with the promise of the kingdom of heaven. Jesus came preaching the incredible news that his new kingdom is breaking in, and he invites his hearers to taste this kingdom life. The other beatitudes elaborate on what is involved in living as part of the kingdom: being comforted in mourning, inheriting the earth (notice the link to Psalm 37:11), being filled with righteousness, receiving mercy, seeing God and being called children of God.

Whose Is the Blessed Life: The twist in this passage is that the people Jesus says this blessing belongs to are exactly the opposite to who people would expect. He does not say blessed are the successful or the religious or the holy, but those who are poor in spirit, mourn and thirst for righteousness. It is not those who think they are smashing it but those who know they need God and long for his help. It is not those who lean into earthly power from the top of the heap but those who cry out to God from the bottom. The point isn’t mainly about possessions and position but heart attitude, but in this teaching as well as in Jesus’ interactions in Matthew, we see that the kingdom life is primarily received by the unlikely and lowly in the eyes of this world.

Potential Applications:

  • There is an invitation here for anyone who feels desperate and helpless and longs for God’s mercy. The kingdom of God is for you and you can come to Jesus and receive the blessed life.
  • There is a challenge for those who have become complacent, entitled or self-righteous. How do these words of Jesus land? Are you ready to humble yourself and come to him with poverty of spirit?
  • This vision for the kingdom is challenging for our own attitudes to different people groups. Do we sometimes show favouritism to those who seem successful in worldly terms but overlook the meek and lowly who Jesus promises the kingdom to?