The Beatitudes: The personality of the Christian (Mat 5:1-12)

Publié le 3 janvier 2021 dans Traductions

Sermon by Pastor Vincent Bourrel

Introduction

We find the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 and in Luke 6 (in a shorter version), this is the message of Jesus at the beginning of his public ministry. Immediately after being baptized and then tempted, he began to preach the good news that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. 

Matthew 4:17 — From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”

He chooses his disciples and travels through Galilee (4: 23-25).

The message is widely known, even by people who are not believers. It is in this message that we find « If someone strikes you on the right cheek, present the other to him too », the Our Father, « Do not worry about tomorrow. Each day is enough its pain « and » Why do you see the straw that is in your brother’s eye, and do not you see the beam that is in your eye? « 

Now while this sermon is well known, it is not very popular. It has an extreme side; it demands not only righteous actions but also righteous attitudes, not only that men do what is right but that they be right.

Who is the Sermon on the Mount addressed to? cf Mt 5.1-2 “his disciples”, “he taught them”. 

They are already citizens of the Kingdom, children of his family. Throughout the sermon he speaks to them about God by saying: « your » Father (5.16), he teaches them to pray by saying: « our Father ».

There are a number of similarities between Moses and Jesus. Moses went up on the mountain to receive the commandments of God, Jesus gives his words from the mountain also, Jesus refers to Moses several times in his message as 5: 27-28.

“You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. »

The Law of Moses was given to a redeemed people, after the Passover, after leaving Egypt and crossing the Red Sea and the Sermon on the Mount comes after hearing the message of the good news it is addressed to the disciples who repented and followed him Mt 4: 19-20 and 22. We are not part of the people of God because we keep the law, but because we have been redeemed by faith in the Lamb’s blood. And because we are the people of God, we keep the law to please him. It is the same with the Sermon on the Mount. Martin Luther (the reformer) explains concerning Jesus’ sermon:

“Christ does not say anything about how to become a Christian; he speaks only of the works and the fruits which no one can bear if he is not already a Christian and for the benefit of grace « . 

In fact the whole sermon presupposes acceptance of the gospel, an experience of conversion, of new birth and of the work of Holy Spirit. The sermon outlines the portrait of the born again Christian (or what he should be).

Those who have experienced the new birth in Jesus Christ are able to live these requirements; this new birth which Jesus told Nicodemus is the indispensable condition for seeing and entering the kingdom of God. Fulfilling these requirements do not confer the status of a child of God, but complying with these requirements is a manifestation of the status of a son which has already been acquired through the grace and gift of Jesus Christ.

It portrays the behavior that Jesus expects from each of his disciples as citizens of the kingdom of God, behavior that is rooted in the attitude of the heart, in the motives, the thoughts that have been changed by faith in Christ.

The Beatitudes draw 8 lines which should characterize Christians. These are not traits of choice (soft option or option persecution), they are not traits reserved for an elite, but what should be in every Christian. No one escapes the responsibility of finding them all.

Reading 5.3-12

Like the tables of the law, the first Beatitudes concern our relationship with God and the following ones our relationship with others. There is an order, we go from one to the other.

Our relationship with God

The poor in spirit (v.3)

In Jewish thought then, as in the thinking of many today, he who is rich is blessed of God, because he prospers because God is favorable to him.

But Jesus said : « God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. »

What is a poor man? You have nothing that interests the world. Nothing that the world values: money, social status, family, talent, strength or beauty, skills… If you have these things or one of those things that the world values ​​you are not poor. But if you have none of that the world rejects you, ignores you, you do not matter for anyone, you have nothing to contribute, to offer, to promote. You are poor.

Now what is being spiritually rich? It is to satisfy the divine criteria of justice, holiness, fidelity, goodness, love, truth … Who is rich ? Jesus alone. No one in the middle of us would say: « me ». Looks like maybe I am middle class, trying to live a noble life, do honest work, have a kind heart and tolerant, generous. I try, I try hard.

This is precisely what religion (whatever it is) does. She strives to make herself acceptable to God. I can do this if I work hard enough.

But the Gospel says: no one is good, just, not even one, our hearts are rotten (cf. Romans 3), even my good deeds are rotten, because by them I feel superior to others or by them I seeks to control or manipulate God… « Since I did this you must grant me this. » « 

But Jesus the rich made himself poor so that I, the poor, could become rich spiritually. So I come empty-handed, as the hymn says:

Lord I have nothing to offer you except a heart tired of suffering

And who, without You, cannot heal: I only have my misery.

Take me as I am, without virtues, without support, 

As I am, As I am, O my heavenly Brother!

Do you see what Jesus is saying here: If you are of the middle class spiritually you cannot be saved, you are going to try to satisfy the righteousness of God by giving more and praying more and doing more.

The gospel is offered only to those who are poor in spirit.

Luke reports that in the synagogue of Nazareth Jesus gives a message Luke 4.18, 20 in Mt 11.3 Imprisoned John the Baptist sends a delegation to Jesus to ask him; « Are you the one who is to come or should we expect another? » »v.4-5«… and the good news is preached to the poor »

Jesus went to the poor, the people of bad lives, the prostitutes, the tax collectors: those who could not claim anything to God.

Glad = bless the poor

When he says: « glad » Jesus is not telling us what those concerned should feel (« to be glad »), but what God thinks of them (« they are blessed »). And the blessing is not a reward, but a gift that accompanies their condition.

Even today it is essential to recognize our spiritual poverty in order to know the kingdom of God. So the Christian is spiritually poor, who is before God like a beggar who receives everything by grace.

Those Who Weep v. 4

God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the unhappy? What misfortune can this be? It is not about those who mourn the loss of a loved one, but those who mourn the loss of their innocence, their justice, their dignity. Jesus does not refer to the sorrow caused by mourning, but to the sorrow of repentance. (1Co 5.2)

Those who mourn over their own sins will be comforted, comforted: by the free forgiveness of God. The prophet Isaiah begins the second great section of his book Ch 40.1 “Comfort, console my people says your God” why “because his bondage is ended, his iniquity is atoned”. 

When Mary and Joseph go up to the temple after the birth of Jesus, they meet Simeon who awaited the consolation of Israel, the Messiah.

The Christian is a poor person in righteousness who comes before God empty handed, and weeping over the ravages of sin in his life and in the world.

The humble (meek) v. 5

God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.

A term used to describe a trained foal, become docile, useful. The Christian is done with a rebellious attitude, he knows that God’s will is better than his. He no longer fights with the energy of the flesh, but he is humble, gentle. These will inherit the earth. It is amazing isn’t it? The world belongs to the sharks, the killers, the cunning, but the kingdom of God belongs to the humble, meek… Faith is particularly evident here.

Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness v.6

God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.

To hunger and thirst for righteousness is to want things to be as they should be according to God. It is necessarily something morally good.

Imagine that you are hungry and thirsty for justice. You are upset by human trafficking, prostitution in the neighborhood, or you are upset by the misery experienced by the homeless. If this hunger and thirst for justice is not rooted in the feeling of your own spiritual poverty, if you do not weep over your own sinful condition, if you have not yourself become docile to the will of God, you risk being condescending towards the people you want to help, you will offer ready-made solutions, you just have to, you just have to …

Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied. In the end justice triumphs! In the end all things will be as they should be, as God intended them to be.

In the last 4 beatitudes the emphasis shifts from the disciple’s attitude towards God to his attitude towards others.

Our relationship with others

The merciful v. 7

God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Quite the opposite of the ruthless Javerts, the Pharisees who drape themselves in their own righteousness, who have never known mercy. But Christians are merciful because they have obtained mercy because God gave them grace, so they are gracious. Because they have been forgiven they forgive those who have offended them.

“The merciful will be granted mercy”. It does not mean that we deserve God’s mercy because of our mercy or His forgiveness because of the forgiveness we give. We gain mercy because we repent and believe in Christ, and the sign that we have repented and believed is that we show mercy to others. As Jesus showed in the parable of the merciless servant (Mt 18.21-35) forgiving and being forgiven are two sides of the same coin.

Suppose you are trying to help a Christian friend who wants to forgive, but feels it is beyond her reach. She knows she should forgive and she admires those who do, but she was hurt deeply. The first beatitudes will help her: the understanding of her poverty, the tears over her own sins, the docility to the will of God and her thirst for justice (satisfied in Christ crucified) will direct her towards forgiveness.

Pure Hearts v.8

God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.

I guess Christ’s emphasis is on the pure heart. All the religious rites of the Pharisees of the time were about appearance, about the exterior. Jesus will treat them in his powerful indictment in Mt 23 as « whitewashed sepulchers which appear beautiful on the outside, and which on the inside are full of all kinds of impurities » (v. 27). 

A pure heart is the opposite of hypocrisy. What you see is who I am, it is related to truth, to transparency. In the world it is appearance that counts what you present what you inspire not who you are. We play a game, a comedy that never ends. We are not loved for who we are but for who we pretend to be, so we never really feel loved. But God loves us as we are, without a mask. We accept to be seen as we are by God, so God promises to be seen by us.

Suppose you are struggling with secret sin against impurity. You are haunted by images rushing through your mind, stoking your lust. You feel trapped and yearn to be released from this prison, but you do not know how.

The Beatitudes are still the answer. Happy are those who have a pure heart. What washes your heart and purifies your thoughts is not your strength of character. The hymn says:

Weak is my flesh, weak is my heart; To repel the tempter,

O my Divine Liberator! I only have my weakness.

But

Your shed blood will make me white,

Your Holy Spirit will set me free,

Your wealth will enrich me, O my heavenly Master!

The peacemakers v. 9

God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.

This is another trait of the Christian’s character. One should never seek or be responsible for conflict, neither in church nor in society. On the contrary, the Christian actively seeks peace and insofar as it depends on him, he should live in peace with all men.

Imagine being called to a couple or 2 people in conflict to help them reconcile (imagine the most common situation where the wrongs are shared). The Beatitudes will help you. Remember (first) and remind them (each other if they are Christians) how poor you and they are, devoid of merit, and how you have been accepted by God. Help them cry over their own faults, shortcomings, instead of feeling sorry for themselves. Lead them to obedience to the will of God by showing the meekness, humility, and obedience of Christ. Feed their hunger and thirst for righteousness (how it was fulfilled at the cross). Remind them of how they obtained mercy so that they, in turn, will be prepared for mercy and forgiveness. Pray that their mask of clean righteousness will fall off and that God will create in them a pure heart.

The persecuted for justice v. 10-12

God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. 

“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. 

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.

Just after speaking about the peaceful, peaceful character of the Christian, Jesus ends with this last Beatitudes of those who are « persecuted for righteousness, because of his Name ». With this last Beatitude Jesus shows that his kingdom is radically opposed to that of the world. Paul speaks of it as the kingdom of light versus darkness, of his beloved Son versus the devil, the evil one.

The world also has its version of the beatitudes, Ray Ortlund wrote the reverse beatitudes (which Joyce was kind enough to translate):

Happy are those who have the right to, for they get hold of what they want.

Blessed are the carefree, for they will be at ease.

Happy are those who insist, for they will win.

Happy are those who have a great appetite, for they will rise to the top of the food chain.

Happy are those who take revenge, for they will be feared.

Happy are those who don’t get caught, because they will look good / fair.

Happy are those who like debates, for they will have the last word.

Happy are the popular because this world is at their feet.

These are the beatitudes of this world. No wonder the beatitudes of the kingdom of Christ, the personality of the Christian conflicts with that of the evil one. 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer did not allow himself to be swayed in his Christian opposition to the Nazi regime. While other Germans by 1000 made small compromises, small concessions with the system that led to the Shoah. Bonhoeffer, he experienced imprisonment, the threat of torture, the endangerment of his own family and finally death a few days before his release: because of righteousness, because of the name of Christ.

Jesus brings a revolutionary vision of another kingdom. And we cannot belong to the 2 because they are irreconcilable. We have to choose. And we choose one over the other by faith. In eternity we will see who keeps his promises. But to help you make the right choice if you have not already. 

Ray Ortlund invites us to ask ourselves this question: Have you ever met a person who believed and lived according to the Reverse Beatitudes and who ended up being a satisfied, radiant and wise person? Even one?