The Blessings of Jesus

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Matthew 5:3–12 (NLT)
3 “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
4 God blesses those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 God blesses those who are humble,
for they will inherit the whole earth.
6 God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,
for they will be satisfied.
7 God blesses those who are merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 God blesses those whose hearts are pure,
for they will see God.
9 God blesses those who work for peace,
for they will be called the children of God.
10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
11 “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. 12 Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.”
A man once told J. Vernon McGee, the popular Bible teacher of the Through the Bible radio program, “My religion is the Beatitudes.”  McGee replied, “I congratulate you on your religion.  How are you doing with that?”   The Blessings of Jesus are certainly one of the most popular teachings of Jesus.  Yet it seems to me that, like the man who spoke to Dr. McGee, many people miss the point.
Jesus begins His famous Sermon on the Mount in Matthew ch. 5-7 with this declaration of “Blessed is…”   The theme of the entire sermon is what does life in the Kingdom of Heaven look like?  Matthew uses this phrase, “Kingdom of Heaven,” as a synonym for the Kingdom of God.  In Matthew, the Kingdom of Heaven has already begun as indicated by the present tense.
The word translated “blessed” in Matthew means “possessing the favor of God, that state of being marked by fullness from God.”  It indicates the state of a believer in Christ (Matt. 5:3-11 Blessed…for my sake; Luke 6:20-22 “Blessed for the Son of man’s sake.”)    Blessed differs from the word “happy” in that the person who is happy has good circumstances.  To be blessed, is equivalent to having God’s kingdom within you.
The word translated poor in v. 3 is particularly interesting.  The poor translates a word meaning someone in abject poverty, utter helplessness, and complete destitution.  The poor represents a particular group who are protected under the Law of Moses:  the poor, needy, the sick, the oppressed, homeless, widows, orphans, and immigrants.  The poor were those who were most likely to be taken advantage of by the rich and powerful because they had no one but the Lord to protect them.  Consequently, it was the poor who were most likely to depend upon God, for they realized their utter helplessness and their need for the Lord.  Jesus uses the term figuratively here, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” the humble person who recognizes their need for God.
When we read these blessings, we often want to focus on the reward, but the focus in the text is not on the reward but on the character of those who are blessed:
– poor in spirit (v. 3)
– those who mourn (v. 4)
– gentle (v. 5)
– hunger and thirst for righteousness (v. 6)
– merciful (v. 7)
– pure in heart (v. 8)
– peacemakers (v. 9)
– persecuted for the sake of Jesus (vv. 10-12)
These blessings of Jesus are concerned with the interior life of the follower of Jesus.  How should we live in the Kingdom of Heaven?  What does a disciple of Jesus Christ look like?  These blessings reflect on the traits of those who belong to the Kingdom and who as a result of their close contact with Jesus reflect Christ’s own life.  When people met the disciples later (after Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension), they recognized that they had been with Jesus.  (Acts 4:13) So our lives should reflect time spent with the Lord in the Word and prayer.
The rugged individualist in American Christianity wants to take each one of these and do it by our own power.  But the position of being “poor in spirit” comes not through hard work, but through submission to God, recognizing our own neediness and consequently a reliance upon God’s grace and favor.  You cannot develop humility, gentleness, mercy, and purity through force, but only through submission to God.  How do you get that?  By sitting at the feet of the Lord as did the disciples.  For us that means spending time reading the Word of God and in prayer until a bit of it rubs off on us, and then people will begin saying of us, “They have been with the Lord.”
Lord, help us to be people who reflect the character of Christ.  Bless us with Your grace through the Holy Spirit.  Endow us with humility, gentleness, righteousness, mercy, purity, and peace of Christ, so that when people see us they may say, “They have been with the Lord.”  Amen.

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