Sermon on Matthew 5:1-12
Text: Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
There is an old saying that goes “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” What this means is that someone sees something that someone else does well or has success with, others will copy what was done. If a football team has particular success with a particular formation or defense, it will likely be imitated by other teams. If someone has a hit song, it won’t be too long before there are sound-alikes. This copying shows respect, if not for the person, at least for the success they are experiencing. Today, we are going to see that JESUS’ DISCIPLES IMITATE HIM 1. In His Attitude Toward God, 2. In His Attitude Toward People and 3. In His Reactions Toward Opponents.
Our text begins with the words, “when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.” These words introduce Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. This occurred at the high point of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus had chosen his twelve disciples. Jesus’ fame was growing and people came from all over to be healed. Now seeking solace, Jesus used a remote place to teach his followers.
One thing we want to take note of before we continue our study of these words from our God is to note that Jesus was teaching believers who had already been brought to faith in him as their Savior. The reason we make note of this is because it will shade our understanding of this text. Jesus is not teaching people how to be saved. These are people who have realized that they have sinned and, as such, deserve to be punished in hell for all eternity. They believed that Jesus was the promised Savior who had come into the world to set them free from their sins. We can also translate that picture to include us, as well. We, too, by the grace of God, have been led out of the darkness of sin and unbelief to the light of faith in the Gospel.
In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is showing believers of then and now how they can show their faith to others, how they can show their thankfulness for all that God has done for them. There is enough material in these verses that we could have an eight-week sermon series. However, we will just touch on several high points and see how we can show our faith in God and our love for God.
As we study these verses, the word “blessed” is repeated again and again. The word means “fortunate” or “happy.” In other words, Jesus is telling his disciples that, when they act this way, they will be happy. As we study these verses, note that what Jesus is teaching is often the opposite of what the world would have you believe.
Verses 3-6 deal with our attitude toward God, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” In verse 3, we read the words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” A good picture from the Bible to describe this is the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector or publican. Remember how the Pharisee got up and prayed to God saying, “I thank you, God, that I am not like other men,” and then he went on to list all of the good things that he had done. By contrast, the tax collector stood in the corner, with his head bowed down, and said, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Which of these two would you say was “poor in spirit”? The tax collector realized his sin. He acknowledged his helplessness. He begged for God’s mercy. This is the exact opposite of the sinful nature, which is proud and self-assured. Those who acknowledge their complete helplessness are poor in spirit.
How are the “poor in spirit” blessed? Jesus tells us, “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” We might automatically think of that future day when we will be in heaven with Jesus for all eternity. However, note that Jesus uses the present tense “is.” He said, “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Even now, we enjoy the blessings that God offers us, the blessings of forgiveness and eternal life with Christ. As we acknowledge our helplessness, we are reminded all the more of the blessings that God gives us by his grace. We lean completely on him. However, do we find ourselves becoming proud and self-sufficient, once we have been blessed with Christ? We forget that we continue to sin every day and need to come to him for forgiveness. Ours is the kingdom of heaven.
Verse 6 speaks of hungering and thirsting “after righteousness, for they will be filled.” Our bodies daily desire food and drink. When we don’t get them, our bodies tell us that we need them. Here it speaks of hungering and thirsting after righteousness. This righteousness is not that perfection that comes from Jesus. That is already ours, when we are brought to faith. This is speaking of a loving obedience, a wanting to serve Jesus with all of our lives. Here it speaks of a hungering and a thirsting to do this. This is something we need to do. When it is missing, when we don’t have this in our lives, we miss it. When we strive to live lives like this, we find the satisfaction in knowing that we have done things pleasing to our God.
In verses 7-9, we learn of how we are blessed in our relationship with other people, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” Again, as we study these verses, we note that what Jesus praises isn’t always what the world would hold in high honor and esteem.
In verse 7 we read, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Merciful — We are moved to pity and compassion when tragedy strikes. Is there someone who needs assistance, whether it is temporal or spiritual? Is there someone in need? Those who imitate Jesus will show them mercy. We may put a priority on assistance to fellow believers, but we are never to exclude our enemies. Think of the story of the Good Samaritan. When he saw the man wounded on the side of the road, he didn’t turn aside, because the wounded man was a Jew. He stopped, took care of the man, took him to an inn, paid for the stay, never once asking, ‘What’s in it for me?’. He didn’t think, ‘How am I going to be repaid for having taken the trouble to do this?’. He saw someone in need and helped him. Jesus’ followers show mercy.
Jesus said, “they will be shown mercy.” The Lord does not only display his mercy to others through us. He, also, promises to show mercy to us. When we are in need, will the Lord look the other way? The answer is a resounding “No!”. He tells us, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” (Psalm 50:15)
In verse 9, Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” Since Jesus is called the “Prince of peace,” it only follows that his followers will want to be peaceful people, at peace not only with God, but also with others, again with both believers and unbelievers. The world teaches an “eye for eye” mentality. If someone does or says anything that hurts you, you have the right, indeed the obligation, to get back at them. However, Jesus’ followers are different than that. They promote peace by serving rather than demanding to be served. They seek the welfare of others rather than acting in their own behalf. They don’t always insist that it be their way. They realize that other viewpoints are as valid as their own.
When our sinful nature hears this, it bristles and comes up with all sorts of reasons why we can’t do this. We don’t want to be doormats for others to walk on. We have rights and no one had better take any of them away from us! However, what did Jesus do? “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)
What blessing is enjoyed by those who do this? “They will be called the sons of God.” Not only are we the children of God, but when we behave in this fashion, people will recognize it. They may ask why we behave in this way. Then we have the opportunity to tell them about our Father who loves us. We are the children of God and give glory to our Father.
There’s one final area that I’d like to focus on this morning, as we seek to imitate Christ. Jesus tells us about this in verses 10-12, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Jesus is obviously speaking about being persecuted for our faith. We might be tempted to think that this doesn’t happen today. Jesus is getting his disciples ready for the Roman persecutions that will follow after Jesus ascended into heaven. Such a thing couldn’t happen today! However, let me share this startling statistic with you. I heard that more Christians have died for their faith in the past 100 years, than died the 1,900 previous. Yes, persecution still goes on today. People are still losing their lives for Christ.
Thankfully we live in a country where we are allowed to worship as we please. However, persecution does still happen, if only in a more subtle form. Have you ever been made to feel uncomfortable because of your Christian faith? You know that something someone did or said was wrong, but you don’t want to be made fun of or have someone angry with you. That is a subtle form of persecution. What should we do? Again, we look at the example of what Jesus did. When others made fun of Jesus for his teaching or became angry with him, how did he respond? When Jesus was on the cross and the crowds were mocking him, what did Jesus do? He was silent. He didn’t wish evil on the people. He continued what needed to be done.
Pointing to persecution, Jesus might have been asked what was the worst thing that could happen to them as a Christian. They might be stoned like Stephen was. They might have been crucified, as Peter apparently was. What would happen then? They would be with Christ in heaven. What could be bad about that? For the faithful in the Lord, even death at the hands of wicked men would be a blessing.
This morning, as we have noted how we can say ‘Thank you’ to God for all he has done for us, we’ve noted our relationship with God and with others. However, as we have studied this, we are also reminded of how many times our lives have not been ‘Thank you,’ but rather ‘I don’t really care what you’ve done for me.’ We see that we still continue to sin against our God. For these shortcomings, we come to our God and plead for his mercy. We have the assurance that Jesus also paid for these sins, as well. Having been assured of this forgiveness, we pray that God would help us to live lives that show our love for him.
There are times when someone is imitating us and it upsets us. They are trying to see how far they can push us, as they repeat everything we say and do. There is one, however, who does not get upset when we imitate him. Indeed, he wants us to imitate him. That person is Jesus. As we study his life and his words, may we take note of his words and actions and model our lives after his. In this way we show our love and thankfulness for all he has done for us. In this case, imitation surely is the sincerest form of flattery. Amen.
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