The Greatest Moral Discourse, Part 2

Another of the famous beatitudes or blessings pronounced by Christ is this one: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

Spiritually speaking, here mourning is sorrow over the effects of sin. It leads to a repentant state of mind before God. It includes the recognition that ultimately sin is against God.

The Psalmist, David, said, “Against you [God], you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” He petitioned God, “Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:2–4). This signals a genuinely repentant attitude. In the Sermon on the Mount, we find that Jesus often drew the contrast between the genuine and the artificial, between true spirituality and human vanities, between the spirit of the law and the letter of the law, and between pleasing God and wanting to look good to our fellow human beings. A willingness to admit our sins and to turn from them is central to the meaning of repentance. It is a turning from wrong ways and returning to God’s way as originally intended for humanity. How often have we done that?

Next in His discourse on the mountain, Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).And here, perhaps, is the source of a common misconception. “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild,” goes the children’s Sunday school rhyme. The picture so often painted is of a soft, delicate Messiah—certainly not the former carpenter and stone mason who worked with His father around Nazareth. The concept of meekness, it seems, is much misunderstood.

Meekness is a quality denoting the quiet strength of teachability. A teachable spirit—one willing to learn—is a meek spirit. It is an extension of being poor in spirit, of humility. The result of such an attitude will be, according to Jesus, possession of the earth, or the land: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”

In expressing this principle, Jesus was reiterating the same thought found in Psalm 37:11, which says “the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.” This is in contrast to “the wicked,” who will “perish . . . vanish like smoke” (verse 20).

But when will that happen, you might ask. No doubt the listeners in Jesus’ time asked the same. Clearly He was pointing to a future time—the time of the kingdom of heaven on earth; a time when Jesus Christ would be ruling in His kingdom on the earth; a time of future restoration.

Looking out on His disciples, Jesus continued: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6). Jesus knew that only those who really search for the right ways to live with an unusual earnestness will gain such fulfillment. It requires a strong determination to seek out God’s ways. The reward is great, because such people are going to have their desire for the right way to live before God fulfilled.

Next Jesus said: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (verse 7). We all want mercy when we are wrong or have done wrong. No one wants the penalty to be exacted; we all prefer to have another chance—but sometimes we are unwilling to extend that second chance to repentant others. Jesus’ words are very telling, cutting to the heart of our inadequacies, our meanness, our vindictive spirit: to obtain mercy, we must show mercy.

A category that Jesus emphasized next is those whose innermost being is honest and upright: “Blessed are the pure in heart.” When we meet such people, we usually know it. The pure in heart have integrity. Their intentions are good, their faces are open, and such people, Jesus said, “will see God” (verse 8). Their reward will be closeness with God that is one of the richest of blessings.

Psalm 24:3–4 tells the story: “Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart. . . .”

Tags: moral teaching, teachings of jesus