The Beatitudes Part Two – Matthew 5:7-12

In my preceding post, I presented an introduction to the Beatitudes and covered the first four, which are God-focused. If you didn’t read that, I encourage you to go back and read that first before continuing here. Now in this section, Jesus makes a switch to people-focused instructions.

Verse 7: The merciful are blessed, for they will be shown mercy. (HCSB)

Being merciful combines the characteristics of being generous, forgiving others, having compassion for those suffering, and providing healing of every kind (Blomberg). This Beatitude reflects the prophetic theme in Micah 6:8 “Mankind, He has told you what is good and what the LORD requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God.” 

  • Mercy might be God’s most fundamental attribute.
  • Mercy is a theme that runs through all of the New Testament.
  • Since we are forgiven, we are called forgive others. 
    • James 2:13, “For judgment is without mercy to the one who hasn’t shown mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
    • Think of the story of the unforgiving debtor…Matt 18:35 “So My heavenly Father will also do to you if each of you does not forgive his brother from his heart.
    • The Lord’s prayer Matt 6:12, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
  • The Hebrew word for mercy is untranslatable into our language. Nothing captures the true and full meaning. To be able to be “inside” the other person to see through their eyes, think with their mind, feel their feelings. The best we can do is close to the idea of sympathy…to try and be in their shoes and experience what they experience (Barclay). But most of us often do not make that level of connection with the person who is going through some type of trial.
  • In other people, we see a reflection of ourselves.
    • If we are detached and show no interest in them, they will be detached and show no interest in us.
    • If they see that we care, their hearts will respond in caring.
    • When we show interest in them, we display the character of God.
  • We will never truly understand what another person is going through until we attempt to get inside their minds and hearts.
    • Isn’t that what God did when Jesus came to earth as a man, but still fully God?
      • He saw things through human eyes.
      • He felt with human feelings.
      • He thought with a human mind.
      • He experienced everything that we experience.
    • God knows what our life is like because He came right inside our lives.
    • God came to us not as a remote, detached, isolated, majestic God, but as a man.
    • The ultimate example of mercy is God coming to us as Jesus.

Verse 8: The pure in heart are blessed, for they will see God.

Pure in heart:

  • This quality is a natural result of the previous five blessings and character qualities.
    • It is not manufactured by the believer but flows as a natural result of the previous five Beatitudes.
    • When the King grants purity of heart, He gives not only forgiveness of sin but also removes the impurities from our heart, empowering the believer to grow into holiness and out of the impurities.
  • The original Greek word for pure had a variety of meanings, three of which could be applied here.
    • Simply clean…dirty clothes that are washed are now clean.
    • It was used for grain that had been sifted, and all the chaff removed.
    • Milk or wine that doesn’t have water added to it or a pure, refined metal, something that is not mixed with anything else (Barclay).
    • According to Schopenhauer’s Law of Entropy, if you put a spoonful of wine in a barrel of sewage, you get sewage. If you put a spoonful of sewage into a barrel of wine, you get…sewage. A little bit of sin affects everything.
  • A simple but effective way of interpreting this is that “pure” implies the absence of impurity or filth and contains a singleness of purpose without any distraction that gives the believer an undivided heart.
  • When we do something or help someone, are we doing it from a pure heart or deep down are we looking for something in return…even if it is only words of praise?
  • If we do something special, do we bask in the notion that others see in us something heroic or sacrificial?
  • John Bunyan was once told that he preached well that day, and he answered sadly, “The devil already told me that as I was coming down the pulpit steps.”
  • This Beatitude demands self-examination. Some questions to ask ourselves:
    • Is our work done from a motive of service or of payment?
    • Is our service given by selfless motives or from motives of self-display?
    • Is the work we do in church done for Christ or our prestige?
    • Is our church attendance an attempt to meet God, or is it to keep our respectable public image intact?
  • To examine our motives is challenging and shaming because even the best of us will often fall short.
  • A Pharisee was nothing more than a religious pretender, someone who outwardly portrays faith but inwardly is far from God…there are probably more Pharisees today than in Jesus’ day.
  • Those pure in heart display a single-minded devotion to God that is a result of the internal cleansing by following Jesus. Holiness is a prerequisite for entering into the presence of an infinitely holy God  1 John 3:2-3 Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself just as He is pure.
  • Jesus likely had a dual meaning to the phrase “see God.”
    • The pure heart is unhindered in its ability to understand the heart and person of God in this life on earth…better able to see and hear God.
    • Only the pure (forgiven) heart can enter heaven to enjoy the presence of God for eternity.

Verse 9: The peacemakers are blessed, for they will be called sons of God.

Peace is first internal and spiritual (Weber). It is not primarily physical, military, or political. It flows from the peace in the hearts of individuals. Peacemakers are not power brokers but people lovers.

  • It is important to understand the meaning of “peace” in its original language…in Greek Eirene and in Hebrew shalom.
    • It never means “only the absence of trouble.”
    • It does mean “everything which makes for a person’s highest good.”
    • It doesn’t just mean the absence of evil, but the presence of all good things.
    • In the Bible, it doesn’t just mean freedom from trouble, but the enjoyment of all that is good.
  • The blessing is on the peacemakers, not the peace lovers.
    • If we love peace in the wrong way, it can actually make trouble, not peace.
      • Have you ever worked for a boss that avoided conflict at all costs or refused to address substandard performance?
      • In the end, this hurts the entire organization.
    • The peace that the Bible calls blessed does not come from the avoidance of issues; it comes from facing them, dealing with them, and overcoming them.
    • This Beatitude demands not a passive acceptance of things because we are afraid of the trouble that might come by engagement, but the active facing of things and the making of peace even when the way to peace is through a struggle.
  • Notice the wording “they will be called sons of God” and not “called peaceful people.”
    • It implies doing Godlike work.
    • Those who engage in peace are doing the very work which the God of peace is doing Heb 13:20a Now may the God of peace.
  • Among scholars, there are three views on what this Beatitude can mean.
    • First, blessed are those who make the world a better place for everyone to live.
    • Second, all of us have an inner conflict between good and evil; we are constantly pulled in two directions (Paul’s example of not doing what he should and doing what he shouldn’t). This peace is one of overcoming the internal struggle and whose hearts are wholly surrendered to God.
      • Each of us has two conflicting animals inside us, one good and one evil.
      • The one that wins is the one we feed.
    • Third, the peace on which the Jewish rabbis focused. They taught that the highest task which anyone can perform is to establish right relationships with other people. This idea is what Jesus is pointing to here. When we think of the Great Commission and evangelism, conversion usually doesn’t happen without establishing relationships with people, and discipleship certainly doesn’t happen without deep, trusting relationships (Barclay).
  • I’m sure we all know people who are the opposite of peacemakers.
    • They enjoy being the center of trouble, bitterness, and strife.
    • They are either involved in quarrels or the cause of quarrels between others.
    • They are troublemakers.
    • They are present in every niche of society and, unfortunately, in too many churches.
    • Those people are doing the work of the devil.
  • However, there are people in whose presence bitterness can’t exist.
    • They bridge the gulfs.
    • Heal the breaches.
    • Sweeten the bitterness.
    • Those that divide are doing Satan’s work, and those who unite are doing God’s work.

Verses 10-12: Those who are persecuted for righteousness are blessed, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. “You are blessed when they insult and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

All the characteristics that we’ve looked at in the previous Beatitudes are not really welcomed or accepted by the world at large.

  • Have you ever noticed that Jesus is a straight shooter when it comes to conversations with people?
  • He was crystal clear about what was waiting for His true followers. But His message was clear that He came, “not to make life easy, but to make us great…through Him.”
  • There may not be a direct correlation, but it’s probably not too far off the mark to say that the degree to which you follow the previous seven Beatitudes will be the level at which you face persecution.
  • For many of us, persecution seems distant or something we read about or see on the news, but that wasn’t the case for the first Christians.
    • Think about how being a Christian could disrupt their work.
      • A stonemason may be asked to build a temple to a pagan god.
      • A tailor could be asked to make robes for a pagan priest.
      • There were few jobs where conflicts wouldn’t exist between business and loyalty to Christ.
      • In today’s society, we see this very problem with photographers and bakers regarding same-sex weddings.
    • Think of the social life of an early Christian.
      • Most feasts were held in the temple of some little “g” god.
      • In most pagan animal sacrifices, a significant portion of the meat was returned to the worshipper, who would then share it with relatives and friends.
      • Even most ordinary meals in a home began with the pouring of a cup of wine in honor of the little “g” gods.
      • The Christians had to remove themselves from many social circles, and they had to prepare themselves for a certain level of loneliness.
    • Think of their home lives.
      • One member becomes a Christian, and the rest don’t.
      • This created a split in families, even to the point of being an outcast – we see that today in many cultures when someone becomes a Christian.
      • It often involved a choice between Christ and a dear loved one.
    • Some of the torture was horrific.
      • Christians were thrown to lions or burned at the stake…those were the lucky ones.
      • Nero wrapped Christians in pitch and set them on fire, using them as living torches to light his gardens.
      • Nero sewed them in the skins of wild animals and then set his hunting dogs on them.
      • Molten lead was poured hissing upon them.
      • Their hands and feet were burned while cold water was poured over them to lengthen the agony.
      • These were some of the dangers that Christians needed to accept if they took their stand with Christ.
      • All of this was because they placed Jesus above Caesar (Barclay).
  • As verse 10 explicitly states, the only persecution that is blessed is that which is rooted in allegiance to Jesus and living according to His standards. We should not compromise our faith to avoid persecution.
    • Remember that this life is a fraction of eternity.
    • And because of that, we can and must rejoice even in persecution.
    • When we suffer as a Christian, we don’t suffer alone, nor are we the only ones who have ever suffered. The Bible and history are filled with examples of those who have suffered for their faith.
  • Persecution by an enemy of the king you swore your allegiance to was one of the most significant marks of being a servant of that king. True servants of Jesus are an enemy to the prince of this world.
  • We live in a world that is rapidly becoming more aggressive in its hatred and persecution of Christians and our beliefs.
    • Other religions: Islam and Hinduism are openly violent in their opposition to Christianity.
    • Countries are openly hostile to Christians; North Korea, China, and India, to name a few.
    • Hostility from Western culture, with its slipping morality and ethics.
      • Same-sex marriage, which is in direct conflict with Scripture.
      • Tolerance for any definition of truth…unless it’s Christian when intolerance is ok.
  • Jesus never taught a prosperity Gospel; instead, He taught a persecution Gospel.
  • But our promise doesn’t exist in this world; we look forward to a better world, a perfect world, a new heaven and a new earth  Rev 21:1-8 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea no longer existed. I also saw the Holy City, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband.Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look! God’s dwelling is with humanity, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will no longer exist; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away.Then the One seated on the throne said, “Look! I am making everything new.” He also said, “Write, because these words are faithful and true.” And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give water as a gift to the thirsty from the spring of life. The victor will inherit these things, and I will be his God, and he will be My son. But the cowards, unbelievers, vile, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars—their share will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.
    • The world we live in values;
      • Self-centeredness.
      • Pride.
      • Personal security.
      • Survival.
    • Our hope and victory lie in understanding that God will invert our marginalized status in the eyes of the world and grant us an eternal reward…our true home is in heaven.
    • This is not a promotion of works-based righteousness since Jesus is addressing His disciples (see verse 1), but like James, the Gospel of Matthew emphasizes that a changed life is evidence of a commitment and obedience to Christ.

Application: Now that I’ve finished the Beatitudes, I challenge each of us to do a self-examination and ask ourselves some hard questions…Are we a follower of Jesus or just a fan?

  • Do we genuinely grant mercy, even to those that cause us great pain? If we’re honest, including myself, this is an extremely challenging question. It goes against our sinful, human nature to try and not retaliate or fight back against someone who we feel, rightly or wrongly, has hurt us in some way. When we, followers of Christ, feel this way when an unbeliever has hurt us, I’m reminded of something a long-time missionary in Thailand told my wife and me soon after we arrived, “When a lost person hurts us why are we surprised? We should expect it since they operate with a completely different set of values than us.” That has stuck with me to this day. But how about when a spiritual brother or sister hurts us? If we’re honest, this type of incident hurts us quite a bit. Why? Because they are members of our spiritual family, and we are called to love and support each other. Likely the most painful event is when a family relation hurts us, regardless of whether they are a fellow believer or not. In each case, it can be challenging to forgive, especially when the other person shows no sign of repentance or gives an apology; however, as a believer, that is what we are called to do. That’s what Jesus did for each of us. All of us have brought sorrow to Jesus far beyond the level of pain that human hurts have brought us. If we are to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, we are to forgive, and then never bring up again, those hurts that have been done to us.
  • Are our motives for doing things pure? If we’re honest, we all like to receive recognition for our accomplishments or when we help others. I know that I do. But there’s a difference between doing it to honestly help others and receiving thanks, to helping as a way to get a reward or recognition to puff up our ego. If we are doing things as a way to boost ourselves, our heart is in the wrong place.
  • Are we a light that shines in the darkest gloom and builds relationships that grow God’s kingdom? Are we a person that will build and grow relationships, and be an encouragement to others? Are we someone who others seek out when there are difficult times? Are we a positive influence on those around us, regardless of the circumstances? Or are we the person who tries to tear things down, gossip, and undermine others? Sometimes we do this to make ourselves look better.
  • Are we ready to suffer for the sake of the Gospel having full trust and knowledge that whatever may happen here, we have a glorious home waiting for us? Many of us never have, and likely never will experience the level of persecution that could cost us our lives. From my time in the mission field, I met one family, originally from a predominately Muslim country, that is under a death threat if they ever return home. While living in their home country, someone tore up a Koran and threw it in their yard. The authorities believed that they had done it, the local residents stormed into their property and burned their house down and most of their possessions. Fortunately, they were able to flee their country and are now waiting to receive asylum in another country. Personally, I can only imagine what that experience was like. However, each of us, as a follower of Christ, may be called upon to lose our life for the sake of the Gospel.

When we think of the Beatitudes and what they call us to do, it seems impossible. In our flesh, this is true. But outside of the questions regarding spiritual bankruptcy and sinfulness, Jesus answered yes to each of those questions. As a follower of Christ, our identity is not in ourselves, but in Christ. Let us exhibit to a lost and dying world the characteristics Jesus talks about here and make a difference by shaping the world instead of being shaped by this world.

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