Reflections on the New Testament: Matthew
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” Matt. 5:3, NKJV.
What is meant by the phrase, “poor in spirit,” that it should here be particularly applied to the children of God? Firstly, is not “poor in spirit” an accurate description of humanity in general? Nevertheless, only those who acknowledge this poverty and submit to God shall enter the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted,” Matt. 5:4.
Those who suffer at present shall have the greater joy in the end. Recall a similar passage in Ecclesiastes, which states: “Better to go to the house of mourning that to go the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart,” (Ecc.7:2). Mourning is a sign of humility, and is a word often used in the Old Testament to indicate the brokenness of a righteous person upon recognizing his or her sin. Feasting, on the other hand, is a Biblical term commonly associated with self-indulgence and worldly pleasure; it is perhaps most succinctly described by the phrase: “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die!” Those who “feast” view death as the ultimate end, and so comfort themselves with the temporal pleasures of this world; those who mourn face death, are humbled and terrified, and turn not to pleasure, but to evaluation of life and pursuance of purpose. The Lord Jesus promises these “shall be comforted”—for is not the Lord Jesus life, purpose, and comfort embodied?
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,” Matt.5:5.
What does it mean to be meek? The original Greek word for meek is “praus,” which was commonly used to describe a well-broken war horse. The implications of submissiveness which the English translation possesses are certainly accurate, but we must understand that, in the given context, they are not intended to be applied to our interactions with mankind, but to our relationship with Jesus Christ, the Master. While gentleness and humility in all things are certainly relevant, the superseding principle is to uphold righteousness and oppose wickedness—mildly or vehemently as the case demands.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled,” Matt.5:6.
Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are those who have received the Holy Spirit and do not quench it, but submit to it and are filled with the power of God. Blessed, indeed, are they.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy,” Matt.5:7.
Does not the Lord also teach that with whatever measure we use, it shall be measured back to us; that as we judge, so shall we be judged, and that if we refuse to forgive our brother, neither will the Lord Jesus forgive us? So the pattern continues in this verse: if we are merciful to others, we ourselves shall be rewarded with mercy—if not by man, certainly by God.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God,” Matt.5:8.
Who is pure in heart, save those who are cleansed by Christ? And those who are cleansed cross over the gulf between man and God as one in Christ. God’s glory is not hidden from them, but they see Him, and cry out, “Abba, Father!”
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God,” Matt.5:9.
How are we to be peacemakers, when we carry the sword of the Word, are clad in armor, and engage perpetually in spiritual warfare? Indeed, our Lord Himself declared: “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword,” (Matt.10:34). The fact of the matter is: those who desire peace must first obtain victory. To attempt to make peace at this point in the spiritual war would be a futile and wicked attempt to reconcile good and evil. True peace ensues when evil is conquered. Since the army of the Lord is assured this victory, those who carry His sword and banner are peacemakers, and “shall be called sons of God.”
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” Matt.5:10.Blessed are they—for to them belong salvation, eternal life, and all the majesties of the kingdom of God. In light of this, what is persecution? Merely a reminder that we are not of this world, but of the church of God.