Jesus ministry has been introduced by telling us:
Choosing some disciples
Teaching, Preaching, Healing
Large crowds from a wide area
Matthew now gives us the details of one of Jesus’ teachings
Interpreters’ views of this material are many but fall into two groups:
These are lofty, unattainable ethical standards that are dismissed for practical living
These are the ethical standards personal qualities the person of God should have in their life.
On one hand #1 above is true in the sense that Jesus’ words reveal our complete inadequacy to qualify for membership in the Kingdom of God. We must receive God’s grace to enter.
On the other hand, #2 above sets the standard for our character, behavior and attitude as members of the Kingdom of God. These are the ethics that manifest from the character of God’s holiness.
Also, even when we have received God’s grace and are heirs of his salvation, we can read this teaching are realize we still have room to grow and mature.
These words are a demand on men from the character of God, but they also contain the offer of grace from God who is willing to begin the process of transformation in the lives of those who desire the change.
One of the challenges concerns how interpret Jesus’ bold (and, at times, conflicting) statements. Obviously, Jesus means what he says, but yet at the same time there are circumstances he does not address that would force us to reconsider the application of his words. For example:
5:16 compared to 6:1 – let your light shine before me, but do not do your righteous acts to be seen by men? Which one does he mean? Both, are true, but they must be qualified. Jesus does not qualify them for us.
5:34 compared to 26:63-64 – do not take oaths, but Jesus does.
Jesus was a traveling preacher who would have spoke these words and used these illustrations many times. Some would say Matthew 5:1-7:29 is a collection of Jesus sayings from various times. No doubt, Jesus probably used bits and pieces of this teaching other times, but the text clearly says this was one single message. Matthew identifies the time, the location, the crowd and the response of this sermon. It is not the same situation as the similar message in Luke 6:17-7:35 which sounds like the Sermon on the Mount, but actually is introduced by Luke in Luke 6:17 by saying:
“He went DOWN with them and stood on a LEVEL PLACE. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people . . . “ (also, in this account Luke records the healing of many on this plain. These same sick and lame are not said to have climbed the mount in Matthew, for obvious reasons.)
Matthew 5:1-2 begins the message on the mount and Matthew 7:28-29 concludes the message
This account is a sample of Jesus’ teaching. Jesus would have many days with situations like this where he taught crowds like this.
This is addressed to disciples or followers of Jesus. This is teaching, not preaching. There is no call to repent, but instructions and expectations.
5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Read the Matthew’s 8 Beatitudes (some say there are 9, or even 10).
Compare these 8 with Luke’s four Beatitudes in Luke 6:20-27 and notice the four blessings are followed by four curses. Clearly not the same message.
“Blessed” is “makarios” () means “blessed, fortunate, happy” most often in reference to those who are privileged recipients of divine favor”. Jesus is saying: “O, the happiness of . . “
“The poor in spirit” -
“poor” is “ptochos” () refers to one who lives not by his own estate or work, but on charity of others. This person is a non-productive citizen who must be taken care of by others or the state. There is another word used for poor “penes” () which refers to someone who does not have the nice things and the extras in life. The word used by Jesus means these people have nothing at all.
The “poor in spirit” refers to people who realize they have nothing of spiritual value nor can they work to produce something of value in the kingdom of God. This is not referring to physically poor, or mentally poor, or socially poor, or any other natural state. It is a reference to a spiritual condition before God, the king of the kingdom.
This cannot refer to all people being blessed, even though all people are “poor in spirit.” This must refer to those who realize or recognize their spiritual poverty. This word is used again by Jesus in Rev. 3: 17 when he tells the Laodiceans that they are “poor” after they have called themselves “rich” when they say literally: “Rich I am and I have become rich and no need I have.”
Blessed are those who completely rely on God for their spiritual resources just like a person on welfare relies on the state or a homeless person relies on the mission shelter.
You can see why the Pharisees and Jesus had a conflict.
Some would say this is talking about people who do not have the good things or rich things valued by the world. They would say that the poor people are the ones who will be blessed by the kingdom of God. But, in reality that is contrary to the point and the gospel in general. If people could make themselves poor and rejected the good things of this world to attain this state of “blessed” then these people have really done something in their own efforts to receive the kingdom.
James 2:5, “Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?”
But, God has also chosen the rich. The poor do not get heaven because they are poor. Nor, are the rich excluded because they are rich.
Matthew 19:23, 24, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Jesus says “it is hard” not impossible.
Poverty is not a blessing here in time nor will poverty result in a blessed state in eternity. Poverty and powerlessness in the natural world is not a blessing, never was a blessing and does not produce blessings. Poverty and helplessness is a curse that people need to be delivered from.
Psalm 34:6 and other OT references to poor often speak of believers who have lost everything but continue to trust God. The reason for their blessedness and eventual deliverance was not the fact that they need deliverance but that they cried out to God in faith.
“theirs is the kingdom of heaven” is the consequence of their