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.”
Now we come to the Sermon on the Mount in chapters five through seven. This sermon is the first of five discourses by Jesus in Matthew.
Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
The exact location of this mountain is unknown, but it was in Galilee near Capernaum.
The “disciples” here are not the twelve but the “crowds” (7:28). Normally the teacher sat down and the crowd stood during the teaching process, so Jesus “sat down.”
And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
It is important to understand that the Sermon on the Mount is about the Messiah’s offer of the kingdom to Israel. What are the qualifications to enter the kingdom? The issue is not the way of salvation but the platform of the kingdom.
This verse begins the beatitude section of Matthew. The beatitudes are not ethical in orientation but are grace-oriented. They do not deal with how we are to ethically function but how we orient to God’s provisions.
The beatitudes consist of three fundamentals:
a declaration of a state—“Blessed,”
a statement of a quality of life,
a cause for the state of blessedness.
The Sermon on the Mount is not a discourse on how to become a Christian but a description of the conditions for entering the kingdom. Liberal and leftwing evangelicals perceive the beatitudes as a paradigm for the social gospel. The beatitudes have nothing to do with society as we know it but with the Messianic kingdom. It is a serious mistake to assume that we can change our society by applying the principles of the Sermon on the Mount. Liberals who have attempted this have failed miserably.
Neither is this kingdom an “already but not yet” kingdom. This is a manifesto for Israel to accept this kingdom. Since Israel rejected the Messiah’s kingdom, God will again reintroduce this kingdom at Jesus’ Second Coming (the Millennial kingdom). Certainty, we can apply the principles of the Sermon on the Mount today, for they are consistent with who God is. However, the church and Israel are entirely distinct with different purposes. The primary recipient of the sermon was the nation Israel. The term “kingdom” must not be misused to describe Christianity, even though today we enjoy some of the blessings of the coming kingdom.
The word “blessed” is not a commandment to be blessed but a state of fulfillment for those already blessed. It is a by-product of a state, an inner condition of the soul where the soul is satisfied from the source of God.
The word “blessed” does not mean happy. It is not an emotion but a blissful state and carries the idea of fortunate. The Greek word implies passivity—God is the Actor and we are the receivers. Blessedness is a state that outside circumstances cannot affect. Outside circumstances cannot produce this state. Blessedness is intrinsic within the person, in a place where God interacts with us. Blessedness is a quality distinctly God’s. This state needs nothing but God’s resources. It is God’s grace or favor. It is a quality of character intrinsic to God, which only He can impart.
…in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted. 1 Ti 1:11
Jesus pronounced eight beatitudes. These beatitudes are pronouncements of the state of those who acknowledge the King of the “kingdom of heaven.”
The inner state of the mind is more important than overt acts.
The Bible speaks of a blessed state for the one who knows God personally. This Christian is independent from outside influence and needs nothing from without. This person is in the world but needs nothing from the world.
Blessedness is not happiness. The word “happy” comes from the word hap, which means circumstance or chance. Blessedness is the state that enjoys God.
God is the One who blesses us. Blessedness is the divinely bestowed well-being of those who receive God’s grace. We do not find this blessed state in wealth, savings accounts, prestige, or gaiety. Blessedness is the polar opposite to self-sufficiency. It is the humility of recognizing our bankruptcy before God. We find satisfaction and sufficiency in God.