Matthew 5: 1-12: When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. 2 He opened His mouth and 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 shall be comforted. 5 “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
I am enamored by Biblical Theology. By this I mean a method of study used to determine the authorial intent. Determining the authorial intent is done through Textual criticism. This post is not about this process, but to highlight that majority of Christians today are disenfranchised by the unwillingness of their pastors to apply themselves to the study of holy writ with the view to determining what the biblical author wanted to communicate with the initial audience and how that message can be applicable to 21th century audience. In fairness to some of these pastors, majority of the members of some of these churches today are not interested in biblical theology. They are only interested in what would excite them or what would give them false hope and false sense of security. I am in no way saying that the word of God, when rightly divided will not offer these incentives, but to underscore my abhorrence for the constant bombardment of the airwaves by so called ministers with teachings that would have been condemned as heresy by the early church. I was in Nigeria recently and witnessed firsthand the exploitation of the poor members of the churches by these so called ministers of the gospel, who afford superfluous lifestyles, while members of their churches struggle to afford a meal. Where is the humility? Where is the servanthood? May God help us all.
I want to draw your attention to Gospel of Matthew 5: 1-12. This is the beginning of the famous Sermon on the Mount. Those who listened to Jesus’ teachings saw Him as great teacher. They had never seen anything like it before. He taught as one with authority, His audience once said. The truth is that Jesus would be misunderstood if we simply view Him as a great teacher. This is section of the Sermon on the Mount, which runs through chapters 5, 6, and 7 of the Gospel of Matthew and sets out the main theme of Jesus’ proclamation. We often say how wonderful the Sermon on the Mount is and if only people in the world would obey it, the world would be in a better place. But if this is how we view the Sermon on the Mount, we will miss the whole point of the sermon. These blessings that Jesus is announcing are not intended to tell His audience to try hard to live like this. Instead, Jesus is saying that those who are already like that are reaping the fruits of God’s sovereign rule. Those people should be happy and celebrate.
Jesus is not suggesting in these sayings that this indeed is the way the world is in reality. Because mourners often go uncomforted, the meek don’t always inherit earth; and those who long for justice sometimes take that longing to their grave. This world is upside down. Jesus is telling His audience that these things are about to happen through the good news of the gospel. He is telling his audience that God is at work in a fresh way, and what He has just outlined in the Sermon is what it looks like. Jesus is beginning a new era for God’s people and God’s world. There are so many people in our world today who still think the good news consist of success, wealth, long life, victory in battle. But Jesus is offering good news for the humble, the poor, the mourners, and peacemakers. This passage is not to offer a list of what sort of people that God blesses. The point is to announce God’s new Covenant.
In Deuteronomy 28, Israel came through the wilderness and arrived at the border of the Promised Land and God gave them a Covenant. He listed the blessings and curses that would come upon them if they were obedient or disobedient. Now Matthew in his gospel has shown us Jesus coming out Egypt (2:15). In Chapter 3, Matthew shows Jesus coming out the water; and in Chapter 4, he shows Him as coming out from the wilderness; and into the Promised Land (4:12-25). Here is His new Covenant, which could be understood in the context of the second Exodus. Those who understood the first Exodus, where is Israel is led out of Egypt by God’s mighty hand, would be delighted to be part of the second Exodus, where Jesus’ offers a new covenant to not only Israel, but to anyone, who is willing race notwithstanding.
The question is when do these promises come true? Some may say in heaven after death- a great reward in heaven for those who suffer for the sake of Christ. But heaven is God’s space, where full reality exist, but there is also earthly reality and both are interlocked. One day both heaven and earth would be joined together. My prayer is that everyone who reads this post would be part of this reality. Be encouraged!