“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:3-12)
The Sermon on the Mount takes place at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, following His baptism and temptation. In Matthew 4:17 Jesus proclaims “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven isl near.” He was telling the Jews that the Kingdom of God, long promised in the Old Testament was upon them. He follows this proclamation by outlining the values of the Kingdom, its distinctive characteristics of repentance and righteousness. These are so contrary to the ways of the world, that many have declared the standards of Jesus’ sermon to be unrealistic and unattainable. They are idealistic, lofty and noble but in the light of the perverse wickedness of human nature, they are not practical or feasible. Blessed are the poor in spirit? Blessed are the meek? These characteristics have always been the marks of the weak and foolish, the oppressed and the losers. Such are fit only for slaves, not worthy of citizens of any mighty and powerful kingdom or nation.
Judging from what is proclaimed in the media as well as all the campaign rhetoric we have heard these past several months, the meek and the poor in spirit don’t get anything but stepped upon. The character traits that people seek and idolize are pride, arrogance, power, strength, self-sufficiency and self-indulgence. On the other hand there are many people who do admire Jesus’ idealism and try to emulate His words. But ultimately all fail. No one, not even polticians and government can measure up to God’s standards because what is demanded are not just good deeds but inner righteousness. But to say the tenets of the Kingdom are beyond reach is to deny the power and truth of Jesus. He gave the principles of the Kingdom because He meant them to be followed. The fact that we find them unattainable only points out the sinful nature of all humanity as well as our need for a Savior. If we want to do what God commands we need His help. That great reformer Martin Luther said of the sermon:
Christ is saying nothing in this sermon about how we become Christians, only about the works and fruit that no one can do unless he already is a Christian and in a state of grace.
So this sermon does not tell us what we have to do have faith. It shows us what we will be like once place our faith in Christ and are redeemed. The principles Jesus presents in the Sermon on the Mount are attainable but only by those who have faith.
Any one who does not belong to Jesus, who is not a member of His kingdom will be unable to follow His commands in the way Jesus desires. Only the Christian can because he/she has been reborn. And even we don’t usually get it right. The good news is that Jesus took care of that for us by making us righteous. When we sin and repent we are forgiven. That does not mean, however, that we should take God’s grace for granted.