Matthew 5:3–5 - The First Three Beatitudes
How beautifully Jesus introduces the Sermon on the Mount! The words used are as well-known as any other part of Scripture. Don’t let your familiarity with these words close your eyes to their simple beauty. Jesus grips his audience immediately. What a Preacher!
In the beatitudes our Lord is not merely using catchy phrases to gain the attention of his audience, He is giving his hearers the basic teaching on which the rest of the Sermon will be built. He is going to preach to them about the Kingdom of Heaven. In the beatitudes he outlines the qualifications for citizenship in that Kingdom. These beatitudes are, therefore, very important for the understanding of the rest of the Sermon on the Mount.
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Note that not only this statement but also all the others which follow begin with the word “blessed”. Jesus is speaking of the qualifications for citizenship in his kingdom. To be a citizen of that kingdom is most blessed. Scripture uses this term to denote a perfect, lasting, spiritual state which becomes the property of an individual who has been reconciled to God. Only the child of God is blessed. He can be blessed only if his sin is pardoned (Psalm 32:1). Blessedness is found only in the spiritual realm. No earthly state makes a person blessed. These are things necessary for the citizens of his kingdom.
In the very first beatitude our Lord mentions the most fundamental requirement for citizenship. Those are blessed who are poor in spirit. Notice that he does not declare those to be blessed who are poor. Poverty does not give admission to his kingdom. Of course, there will be more poor people than rich in the Kingdom of Heaven. However, some of the richest people of their time have also tasted of the salvation of God. A man may be poor or he may be rich, as the world counts poverty and ric h e s, and still not qualify for citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven.
A man must be poor in spirit. He must realize his own spiritual poverty. He has nothing of which he can boast. He needs everything and is sufficient in nothing. All that he needs must be obtained from a source outside of himself. To put it in other words, the first requisite for citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven is to know how great our sins and miseries are.
If a man is truly poor in spirit; if he knows, not only his limitations, but his utter bankruptcy, then, says Jesus, he is blessed. “Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” It is a present reality.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Every systematic study of the Bible should make it clear to us that we may never take the words of Scripture out of context. If we pay no attention to the words which precede or follow the words we are planning to use, we can make them say anything we want them to say. This is often done and it always does violence to Scripture. Although it seems as though each one of the beatitudes is a statement standing by itself, it win soon become evident that this is not true. Not all people who mourn are comforted. The Bible speaks of a sorrow of the world. It would be folly and totally ununderstandable to say that all those who mourn are blessed.
What does Jesus mean by these words? We must, first of all, see very clearly what it means to mourn. Mourning is not the same as sadness. We mourn when we miss someone or something. It is a deep feeling of sadness for a loss.
In the former statement Jesus spoke of the poor in spirit. nose who realize this poverty are filled with a feeling of deep sorrow. They mourn. Their poverty in spirit is so great because they realize that their sin has become a barrier between them and their God. We speak so much of sorrow for sin, repentance, etc. that often these terms mean very little to us. The real sorrow for sin, says Jesus, is like the sorrow we feel when a loved one is taken away. It is mourning.
Yet, those who have this feeling about their own sin are not to be pitied. They are blessed. Their blessedness stems from the fact that they will be comforted. This comfort can be given only by their God. Those who feel the burden of sin to such an extent that it becomes a mourning will find forgiveness. Being forgiven they will be citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. Being citizens of that kingdom they are most blessed.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
The qualifications for entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven are indeed strange ones. A person must be poor in spirit, he must mourn, he must be meck. The world of today has very little use for these characteristics. A person should believe in the dignity of man; he should seek happiness; he should be aggressive. It is no wonder that the natural man believes the Gospel to be foolishness. There is no room in Christianity for Hitler’s concept of the ideal man.
Is meekness a virtue? It would seem that the militant nature of the church of Christ leaves little room for meekness. Yet, Jesus was meek. He says, “Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:22). However, Jesus was also very aggressive. He drove the money changers out of the temple. His denunciations of the Pharisees were not the utterances of a timid soul.
A person who is aware of his own poverty of soul and mourns as a result, will be meek. Such a person cannot be domineering. He is gentle and kind. That is the meekness of which our Lord speaks.
That meekness drives him to Another He gives himself up entirely. He puts himself into the hand of God. Whether prosperity or adversity be his lot, he leaves it all in the hands of his God.
Those are the ones who are blessed. Their blessedness consists of this that they shall inherit the earth. Everything will become theirs. Salvation is assured to them and that salvation will include not only the heavens, but the earth also. Though the world scoffs at them, they will be in possession of all things because the King of all things gives these to them.
Questions For Discussion
- What does Jesus mean by the term “blessed”?
- Why arc the beatitudes logically first in the Sermon on the Mount?
- Is it any virtue to be poor?
- How poor are we in spirit?
- How would you interpret Ecclesiastes 7:2?
- Do you think the r e is enough spiritual mourning today?
- According to Proverbs 28:13 we must confess and forsake our sins. Is it possible to forsake our sins if we do not mourn because of them?
- Why is it not possible for a proud man to be saved?