Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jan 5 2013 - Matthew 5:1-26 – Blessed and Blessing

Matthew 5-7 records teaching Jesus gave to his disciples and to the crowds who had gathered to see his miracles. This Sermon on the Mount begins with what are commonly called the Beatitudes – a series of pronouncements of blessing upon particular kinds of people; "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven..." (5:3-10).

The Beatitudes should not be read as a new set of laws. Jesus is not saying that the way to receive God's blessing and to gain the kingdom of heaven is to be poor in spirit etc. This is obvious when you come to verse 10; we are not commanded to be persecuted to gain the kingdom! Rather, Jesus is painting a picture of the kingdom – the character of those who follow the king.

Not that Jesus is anti-law; he did not come to abolish the law but to fulfil it. He came to do what the law could never accomplish; he came to create a people who will live in obedience to the will of God and who will reflect his character – the character displayed in Christ himself.

Those described in these verses hardly seem to be the kind of people who will make much of an impact on the world: meek, not demanding their own rights or pushing themselves forward; merciful, not exacting all that is owed them from the hands of others; peacemakers, not fighting to gain personal advantage but ready to spend themselves to bring reconciliation to a world of conflict; persecuted, treated unjustly and enslaved by others without seeking revenge; mourners, people familiar with sorrow and acquainted with grief.

But there is more: here are a people who are concerned not simply with outward appearance but who yearn to be transformed from the inside out, to be clean and pure in heart. Here are a people who are concerned not simply with right conduct but also to speak only those words which will encourage and heal others (see v. 22). Here are a people who do not retreat from the messiness of a corrupt world but who long for and work for righteousness – for God's world to be filled with his presence and glory; for "justice to roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream." These are a people who are possessed by God and a people upon whom his blessing rests. More than that, though they may seem to be of little account in this world, the future is theirs; they will inherit the earth; theirs is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Their longing for a world of righteousness will be fully satisfied. God will dwell with them in a world characterised by righteousness, and they will see his face.

Nor are they ineffective now. These people of little account are the salt of the earth that heals its corruption. They are the light of the world that shines in the darkness and that cannot be extinguished. They are people whose lives touch and transform those of others; they are agents of the kingdom that grows strangely and mysteriously and that will at last supplant the kingdom of this world. They are the hope and future of the world.

"Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom." Follow the King. Live the kingdom. Be the conduit through which heaven invades our world.

Father, keep me from becoming conformed to this world which would seek to squeeze me into its own mould. Continually transform me by your Spirit and make me like Christ whose character shines through these beatitudes. May he continue his mission to bring light to the world through me. Bless me and make me a blessing.

Peter Misselbrook