The Sermon on the Mount begins in Matthew 5 and extends to chapter 7. Many consider it to be the greatest sermon ever preached. In fact, this sermon has been the most often and extensively quoted section in Scripture by Christian writers from the first until the fourth centuries (Quarles, 2011, p. 2). New Testament scholar and historian, Luke T. Johnson, pointed out that “the Sermon on the Mount has been considered an epitome of the teaching of Jesus and therefore, for many, the essence of Christianity” (2000, p. 654). The apostle Matthew recorded the general reaction this sermon produced in the first century and will produce for the next two millenniums: “And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching” (7:28).
This sermon begins with what we call “The Beatitudes.” “Beatitude” means “blessedness” or “happiness.” So, in a world of despair, sorrow, and dissatisfaction, this is God’s recipe to real happiness.
Who are the blessed of God? They are not necessary the blessed of the world. They are blessed because of their personal relationship with God (vs. 11) and their reward (vs. 12), not because of their present external conditions. The “rewards” are beautifully applied to the present condition of each group.
- “The poor in spirit” have the kingdom of heaven (vs. 3). These are those who recognize their spiritual destitution, their need for spiritual riches, and their impotence to find them with their own means. They are powerless; they know it; and they humbly summit to God. They receive the kingdom of He Who humbled Himself to the lowest point (Philippians 2:5-8; cf. Matthew 18:3-4; Luke 18:9-14).
- “Those who mourn” shall be comforted (vs. 4). These are those who mourn over their own sins (2 Corinthians 7:10), the lost souls in the world (Romans 9:1-5), and the evil, pain and suffering of this life (Psalm 84:10; Romans 8:18-23). “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 21:4), and they will mourn no more.
- “The meek” shall inherit the Earth (vs. 5). Moses, the meekest man of his time (Numbers 12:3), was prohibited to enter to the Promise Land due to an angry outburst (Deuteronomy 32:48-52). But the heavenly promises and blessings of God still stand for those who learn from He Who is “gentle and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:29; cf. Psalm 37:11).
- “Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” shall be filled (vs. 6). These are those with a strong spiritual appetite, whose food is to do the will of the Father (cf. John 4:34). They “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33), and therefore, will be filled with the bread of life and the living water (John 4:14; 6:35), and will be eternally satisfy in the heavenly pastures of God (Psalm 23).
- “The merciful” shall obtain mercy (vs. 7). These are those who recognize the immeasurable mercy of God for them, and extend godly mercy to others (cf. 18:23-35). They have obliging hands, tender hearts, forgiving minds, kind words, open ears, and compassionate eyes (Genesis 50:21; Matthew 6:12; 25:34-40; Romans 12:15).
- “The pure in heart” shall see God (vs. 8). These are those “whose minds, motives, and principles are pure; who seek not only to have the external actions correct, but who desire to be holy in heart, and who are so” (Barnes, 2005, 1:45, italics in orig.). They pursue holiness, without which no one will see the holy God (Hebrews 12:14).
- “The peacemakers” shall be called sons of God (vs. 9). These are those who work to make peace between God and man (2 Corinthians 5:20), man and his neighbor (2 Corinthians 13:11), and man and his conscience (Romans 7:15-24). They are sons of the God of peace (Romans 15:33), serve the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), preach the Gospel of peace (Romans 10:15), enjoy indescribable peace (Philippians 4:7), and head for the place of eternal peace (Isaiah 57:1-2).
- “Those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake” have the kingdom of heaven (vss. 10-11). These are those who live in this world, but do not conform to this world (Romans 12:2) because they are citizens of heaven; “therefore the world hates” them (John 15:19). They receive the kingdom of He Who also faced similar hostility (Romans 8:17-18; 1 Peter 4:12-14).
The blessed of God “[r]ejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4). They cannot avoid their joy; the lost cannot understand their joy; and the world cannot stop their joy. “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven” (vs. 12).
Barnes, Albert (2005), Barnes’s Notes: The Gospels (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Johnson, Luke (2000), The Oxford Companion to Christian Thought, eds. Adrian Hastings, et.al. (New York: Oxford University).
Quarles, Charles (2011), Sermon on the Mount: Restoring God’s Message to the Modern Church (Nashville, TN: B&H).