Now when He saw the crowds, He went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him, and He began to teach them, saying:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit--for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn--for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek--for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness--for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart--for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers--for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness--for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Matthew 5:1-12
The Bible is a book of beatitudes and blessings. "Blesseds" shine all over the inspired pages, like stars in the heavens. God's mercy lies everywhere. Wherever we see Jesus in the gospel story, He is giving out blessings--as the sun gives light and warmth. He was always reaching out His hand to impart good to some life that needed it. Now it was on the children's heads, now on the leper, now on the blind eyes, now on the sick, now on the dead--that He laid those gracious hands, and always He left some rich gift with his touch. One day those gentle hands were stretched out and nailed down on the cross--yet even then it was in blessing that they were extended, for it was for our sins that they were thus transfixed on the cruel wood!
Then it is a striking fact that in the very last glimpse we have of Jesus in this world, that He was in the attitude of imparting a blessing. It was on the mount of ascension. He had been talking with His disciples, and then He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them He was parted from them and received up into heaven. There could be no truer picture of Jesus taken at any point in His life, than as He appeared in that last view which this world had of Him. In heaven now He is still a blessing Savior, holding up His pierced hands before God in intercession, and reaching down His gracious hands, full of blessings for our sad, sinful earth.
It is well for us to study carefully the beatitudes that fell from our Lord's lips, while He was here. We are struck at once with their unworldliness. They are altogether different from men's beatitudes. They run directly counter to the maxims which rule in human society and give impulse to human ambitions.
"Blessed are those who mourn." Does the world pronounce any such beatitude as this, over the bowed head, the crushed heart, and the darkened life? The world looks upon sorrow as a misfortune. It writes, "Sad are those who mourn." It puts no glory, into the clouds of grief. It lights no lamps, in the darkness of trial. It gathers no fruits of righteousness, from fields of affliction. It sees no possible good, out of sorrow.
Nor has the world any beatitude for the meek. It writes meekness down among unmanly qualities. They say that the meek man is lacking in courage. The manly man, after the world's pattern, is one who will not bear insult, slight, injustice. His blood is up the instant he is wronged; his eyes flash and his hand is raised to resent the injury. As far as the East is from the West--is the spirit of the world from the spirit of Christ's beatitude upon the meek.
Or take the beatitude on peacemakers--that, too, is directly opposed to the ideals prevalent among men. Through the ages wars have stained the earth, and human strifes and conflicts have been waged between nations, clans, families, individuals. The spirit of the world encourages hatred, variance, strife, jealousy, envy, resentment; rather than love, peace, forbearance, and forgiveness. The world drives angry men to hotter anger. It claps its hands and urges on the unnecessary quarrel. It taunts the man who is disposed to seek peace. Even boys on the playground drive their fellows to demanding satisfaction by the sneer, "Coward! I would not take that from anybody!" It is only the regenerated spirit, the heaven spirit, in the heart, which seeks to make peace.
Thus all the beatitudes are unworldly, in direct opposition to the maxims and tempers of the natural man. They are so because they are the laws of the spiritual kingdom. They are the maxims of the heavenly life brought down and established in a new kingdom on the earth, a kingdom whose object it is to transform this world into a realm of blessedness, to make the desert blossom with roses, to establish among men a reign of righteousness and peace. Confessedly, the beatitudes are not in harmony with human ideas. They are teachings which are intended to be against nature--and to revolutionize nature.
In one of Goethe's tales, he tells of a magical silver lamp, which, when placed in a fisherman's hut, changed the hut and all within it to silver. Just so, the object of Christ's beatitudes, when admitted to a human heart--is to change it into moral beauty, transforming its selfishness, hardness, cruelty, and inhumanity--into love, gentleness, kindness, sweetness. Thus, while the beatitudes are not after this world's spirit--they are given with the purpose of making the world over into a condition and a character like the spirit which is in them. These words of Christ are really transcripts of heaven's laws. All life in that blessed home--is lowly, meek, merciful, hungry for more of God, pure hearted.
Hence the beatitudes set us lessons which we must learn--if we are going to attain to true spiritual character and be ready for heaven. We must get them into our heart--and allow them to work out through the crust of our life--until they have transformed us into the temper and disposition of Christ!
Thus we see the use we should make of these golden sentences. They should not only be merely pondered and admired for their spiritual beauty--but should be allowed to rule in our heart, and work their radical changes in the spirit of our life, leavening our whole being and permeating it with their own new leaven of righteousness. We should not rest content until we get each beatitude wrought into the very texture of our being, until their lovely graces shine like gems in the adornment of our character.
We can get the beatitudes into our life, only by receiving Christ Himself. We cannot reach the stars by climbing up any of earth's mountains. When the tallest peaks have been gained--we shall find ourselves only shivering amid the ice and snow--while the stars still seem as far away from us--as when we began our ascent from the grassy valley. Just so, we never can reach the beatitudes by any weary climbing up the heights of mere human excellence. When we have attained the loftiest summits of earthly possibilities, these heavenly stars will still hang infinitely outside, and utterly beyond our climbing. The only way to rise up into the heavenly life of the beatitudes, is to have heaven brought down to us, into our heart. There is no other way of reaching these celestial moral altitudes. It was to bring heaven down to those who never could have climbed up to its holy heights--that Jesus became incarnate. He stooped to earth--to raise us to the skies! By receiving Him into our heart--we enter the family of God on earth, and become heirs of eternal life and glory!