Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount with the beatitudes, a collection of declarations of blessing for people who fit certain descriptions. The section is bookended by two blessings that state ‘for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’, and that should be seen as an overarching theme of these verses. Jesus is describing the characteristic of one to whom the kingdom of heaven belongs.
The Kingdom Belongs to the Poor in Spirit – The first three beatitudes all speak of something similar. They are addressed to the poor in spirit, those who mourn and the meek. In each case Jesus is describing those who have come to the end of themselves and are ready to receive God’s grace with humility. To such belong the kingdom of God. Receiving the kingdom is not for the proud and the powerful but for the meek and lowly of heart.
Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness – In the centre of the beatitudes is verse 6, which is a pivot verse. Jesus says that those who hunger and thirst fro righteousness will be fulfilled. This flows from the poverty of the spirit that knows we can’t inherit the kingdom by ourselves, and it leads the soul to desire the righteousness that comes only from God. Those who hunger for this righteousness will be satisfied as God it gives it freely as a gift.
The Kingdom Is Expressed – In the next three beatitudes, Jesus begins to outline what it is like for the kingdom to be expressed in the lives of his followers, and he particularly emphasis mercy, peacemaking and purity of heart. There is a tenderness of heart that accompanies being poor in spirit and receiving God’s free gift of righteousness, and this tenderness is an outward expression that shows something of what the kingdom is like.
Blessed are the Persecuted – In the final beatitude, Jesus says that the kingdom belongs to those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness. Following Jesus is not always easy. Often it leads to opposition, and yet those who suffer and endure for Christ line up with the prophets before them, and as they suffer for Christ they can know that he is promised that the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
- Humility – This passage of Scripture challenges us to examine our own heart for pride. The kingdom belongs to the poor and spirit and we should look to see whether this poverty of Spirit is in us.
- Comfort for the Broken – These beatitudes show that God is at work in those who may be overlooked. There is comfort for those who mourn and blessing for the persecuted. You can offer comfort and prayer for those who are suffering and hurting.
- Challenge – Jesus speaks incredible words about mercy, peacemaking and purity. Let these words sit with people and challenge them, and pray that the Holy Spirit will produce these characteristics in our lives in increasing measure.