[The Sermon on the Mount]
Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
(Matthew 5:1-12 ESV)
For a good deal of my time this week, I’ve been living, breathing, eating and marinating on this text. I love this text. The beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. A sermon, taught by Jesus, that I wish, desire and long I could have heard – live.
If I could get my hands on a time machine, I would try and travel back to the Sermon on the Mount. Not the resurrection. Not Pentecost. Not the crucifixion. Not creation. Not any of Jesus’ miracles. Not even to the birth of Jesus.
No, I would take the time machine back to this sermon – Jesus’ first recorded sermon.
I would want to watch Jesus teach this to His newly found, formed and called disciples – who had no idea what they were getting themselves into. How could they? For some of them, Jesus literally found them on a beach and told them to drop their nets and come follow Him. Shockingly, based on the info we have to this point in the story, they did! Why? Others He told them to leave behind their father and follow Him and they did! Obviously, Jesus had influence and authority.
But this sermon. On this mountain. Can you imagine what this moment was like?
What were the disciples thinking when Jesus told them “Blessed are the poor in spirit”? “Blessed are those who mourn” – how is that a blessing? Can you imagine what these disciples thought? “I just left behind my business and my family, to come follow you and now you’re telling me…” These words of Jesus, which we so carelessly and haphazardly rush over in calm, cool, collected ways, were revolutionary to His disciples.
The Sermon on the Mount would have ruined them.
They had to have questioned Jesus with questions of “Really?” or “How?”.
In this passage above, all you see are the Beatitudes. I love the Beatitudes.
My question is do you ever think about what Jesus was actually saying with these words? What was He trying to imply? What did He long for His disciples to hear?
He is creating and ushering in a new kingdom – a kingdom opposed to Caesar and one which operates in the way Israel always should have. In God’s kingdom, the world’s values and ideals are turned upside down. In God’s kingdom, we cannot succeed without Him. In God’s kingdom, Jesus will embody everyone of these Beatitudes at some point in His life and ministry. Jesus is the central theme and message of God’s kingdom.
The Beatitudes show us the values and the vision for how we are supposed to operate. To the disciples the Beatitudes were the framing thoughts they needed to shape their traveling community around and then, eventually the first church. These were not just novel ideas or wise sayings. The Beatitudes are the values kingdom people are called to step into and embody. We cannot read these words carelessly; we must remember the Beatitudes are a call to action.