Jesus Preaching the Sermon on the Mount
Gustave Dore

“Blessed are the poor in spirit.”

The Sermon on the Mount brings to us the essence of all Jesus’ teachings. It is a deeper life sermon that gets at the motives and goes to the heart of the hearer. It becomes for the New Covenant people what Moses’ ten commandments from Mt. Sinai were to the people of the Old Covenant. The Antiocan community to which Matthew is writing this account was composed of both Jews and Greeks and therefore, he uses two phrases which further impress the authority of this passage. For the Jews he uses the phrase “when he was seated,” which refers to the symbol  of the rabbi who sat to teach, similar to our reference of the authority of a professor’s chair.  For the Greeks he uses the phrase, “He opened His mouth and taught them,” which is used of an oracle who speaks directly for the gods.

Our tendency when approaching this passage is to piece-meal it. We select one or two qualities as applicable to us. But this in its entirety is a manifesto for normal Christian life.  Christ opens to us eight avenues through which we will find the fullness of blessing. To be blessed means that we will find wholeness, joy, well-being, and a sense of inner satisfaction. It is to experience the holistic peace of shalom.

The fullness of blessing belongs to us when we come to a sole dependence upon God. Feeling poverty in the center of our being, we have no confidence in our own achievements and so we cry out to God for his affirmation and acceptance. We are blessed as we weep over spiritual failure as if we were mourning for the dead. Sorrowing, not only for our own sin but the sins and injustices of the world, we discover the deep abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. Blessings come to us as we exercise wisdom and self-control in bringing about justice.  Meek, but not weak, we walk with a humbleness that recognizes the need of Godly wisdom in the use of our talents. We move not as prophets filled with vengeful anger but as evangelists filled with compassion.  Through a deep life of prayer we are blessed as we experience a rightness in our relationship with God, with others, and with creation.  Though growing spiritually we are not arrogant and self righteous in our piety. Rather, we bestow to others the same mercy upon which we have come to depend.  Walking with integrity, unmixed in our motives, we are blessed as Jesus is kept ever in our vision. While actively working for peace, we feel God’s hand gently upon our head and hear him speak to us as if we were his favored child. Having received a seven-fold blessing we enter into the perfection of Christ.  Therefore, being like Christ in his life we are not surprised that we also share in the likeness of his suffering and death. For this we will be greatly blessed.

Fourth Sunday Zep. 2: 3, 3: 12-13; I Cor. 1: 26-31: Mt. 5: 1-12

Peace Connections: Making the connection between the Sunday Readings and issues of peace and justice. © copyright 1995, by Thomas L. Garlitz.  “Not for profit” permission to reprint granted.
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