The Character of a Committed Disciple

Reflection: Matthew 5: 1 – 12

Matthew’s Gospel was principally written for the Jews, presenting the Kingdom of God with Jesus as its Messiah and King (3:2). It therefore comes as no surprise that Matthew would promptly state its values following Jesus’ declaration of the kingdom’s arrival (4:17). His teachings here were gleaned from a rich Old Testament heritage, and addressed primarily to His followers (v.1-2: the word used here is not restricted to the twelve); on this occasion, the crowds heard them vicariously. From the grammatical context, it is implied that God is the One who will bless and reward the obedient disciple. However, verses 4 to 9 and 12 are future oriented, indicative of a possible partial fulfillment in this lifetime. (After reviewing the OT references for the meanings of the pithy quotes in this part of the Sermon on the Mount, the generally agreeable interpretations by numerous commentators are included here. The number references below denote the verses).

RELATING TO GOD: (3) The poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven: Blessed are those who are overwhelmed by their spiritual poverty as they relate to God, for He will help them, and they will enjoy the blessings He gives them. (4) Those who mourn, for they shall be comforted:Blessed are those who acknowledge and weep helplessly over their intolerable and perplexing sinful state, including those who are persecuted, for God will be their Comforter. (5) The gentle, for they shall inherit the earth: Blessed are those who wait on God, and do not fret nor right the wrongs themselves when they are powerless to do so, for God will restore and exalt them. (6) Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, they shall be satisfied: Blessed are those who deeply desire the rule of justice to prevail, and actively seek to live as God’s perfect righteousness requires of them, for God will satisfy them completely.

RELATING TO PEOPLE: (7) The merciful, for they shall receive mercy:Blessed are those who practice a generous attitude in trying to see things from another’s perspective, and will not be too quick to take offense, or gloat over other’s shortcomings, for God will also be merciful to them. (8) The pure in heart, for they shall see God: Blessed are those who endeavor to live a life of truthfulness, and continue to be devoted to God single-mindedly, for they will experience intimate fellowship with Him. (9) The peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God:Blessed are those who attempt actively to make peace and seek reconciliation for themselves, between others, and with God, even though they are powerless, for inwardly, they reflect God’s character in them, and He will call them His children. (10) Those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven:Blessed are those who continue to engage with their society irrespective of the cost of persecution arising out of their allegiance to their righteous king, for God will help them, and they will enjoy the blessings He gives them.

SUPPLEMENTARY ASSURANCES TO PERSECUTION: (11-12) When people insult, persecute, and say all kinds of evil against them because of Me, rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you: In their attitude, be joyful and glad when people verbally attack them, and harm them physically and economically, because of their faith in God, as He totally approves their faithfulness to His calling, just like the prophets of old.

These counter-culture kingdom character traits are nevertheless challenging to uphold in practice, but they do differentiate us as citizens of an eternal spiritual kingdom from the rest of civilization. What make this high calling practicable this side of heaven are the finished work of Christ on the cross and the ministry of His Holy Spirit, as He who began a good work in us will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Phil 1:6).