Most people who have read the first two books of the Bible know of a famous mountain called Mount Sinai where the ten commandments were spoken and written by the finger of God on tables of stone.
In Isaiah 42:21 KJV it is predicted concerning the Messiah, “He will magnify the law, and make it honourable.” In other words, the law would be seen as if viewed under a magnifying glass. Jesus did that very thing when He spoke the Sermon on the Mount. This sermon has been called the Decalogue of the New Testament or the Mount Sinai of the New Testament, because in this sermon delivered by Jesus we look at the law under the magnifying glass of the Lawgiver to understand in detail the true spirit and nature of the law of God.
Jesus’ sermon, found in Matthew 5, 6, and 7, is a statement of eternal truths by Him who is the truth and therefore the author of all truth. It is a proclamation of the eternal realities of the kingdom of heaven. This sermon has been studied because of its matchless beauty, but more important than the beauty of it are the basic, fundamental principles that it contains. It is an unabridged edition of the law and contains a summary of all truth and has been called a miniature Bible. It is made up of quotations and restatements of the truths of the Old Testament or restatements of its truths. It seems that Jesus selected the most priceless gems out of the writings of all the prophets and set them down in a way that even children can easily understand.
This sermon has also been appropriately called Christ’s inaugural address because in it, Jesus enunciated the principles which are to control the administration of His eternal kingdom, the kingdom of glory. In His sermon, Jesus outlines the qualifications for heavenly citizenship. He points out very clearly who will be in heaven and who will not be there, laying down the conditions by which we can expect to enter the kingdom of heaven. All the citizens of the heavenly kingdom will live in harmony with these eternal principles.
Consider the setting of this sermon and the significance of the occasion, because this was the very same day when Jesus ordained His twelve disciples as the twelve apostles (see Luke 6). Jesus had spent the entire night before in prayer, and in the morning He had selected and ordained the twelve apostles who were to constitute a cabinet to help Him administer the affairs of this spiritual kingdom. They were to be His special ministers or ambassadors.
This particular sermon was not only the greatest of all sermons, but it was preached to a very large audience, a very interesting audience that the Bible says was composed of people from Galilee, Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond Jordan (Matthew 4:25).
The congregation that listened to this sermon when it was first preached was made up of all classes of men, women, and children, representing every condition of life. There were proud Pharisees there as well as poor fishermen. There were rich rulers from the palace and poor peasants. There were the wise and there were those who were uneducated and ignorant. There were those who were believers and there were those who were doubters. There were many races of men and various religious creeds represented in the audience. So, it was a cross section of humanity listening to this sermon and all had gathered there because they had feelings of great expectancy. This gathering had a special atmosphere because the fame of Jesus had filled the people with new hopes and aspirations.
The people hoped that He was the Messiah and they expected Him on this occasion to proclaim His mission as the Messiah, to make an announcement regarding the setting up of His kingdom. In fact, they were looking for the least excuse to proclaim and crown Him king. Jesus’ disciples shared these feelings of expectancy. Their thoughts were also filled with visions of future glory, power, and wealth, because they believed that the nation of Israel would become the central power of the world and that they would be the center of a world-wide kingdom.
The expectation of His audience gave to Jesus the subject or the theme for His sermon, which was the kingdom of heaven. It was His purpose to correct the popular conception concerning the nature of His kingdom that He had come to establish, for the conception that the people had formed completely unfitted them to receive Him and His teachings. The only kingdom that the Jews seemed to know anything about was an earthly temporal kingdom. The disciples had the same conception of Christ’s mission. In fact, they never lost it during the whole time He was on earth until after Pentecost when they finally got their thinking partially straightened out.
There is danger today that modern Israel, the Christians of today, will become so thrilled over the prospects of the coming kingdom of glory to be established at the Second Advent of Christ that they will lose sight of the spiritual phase of His kingdom, which must be first established in the individual’s heart.
None of us can ever enter the kingdom of glory until the kingdom of grace has entered our heart. Until the first phase of the kingdom of heaven is accomplished in our lives, we can never enter into the second phase. The first phase of God’s kingdom is the kingdom of grace that Jesus established by dying on the cross. The second phase of God’s kingdom will be the kingdom of glory that will be established when He comes again.
The Sermon on the Mount, then, is a summary of the Bible. The beatitudes constitute a prologue to Jesus’ sermon and like the ten commandments or Lord’s prayer, they are of universal application. They appeal and apply to all races and to all ages.
One time in India, there was a large crowd who gathered at a railway station to see Mahatma Ghandi and to hear him speak. After greeting the people, he opened a New Testament and he read to them the beatitudes and then he said, “This is my message to you. Act upon it.” That was all the speech he made on that occasion, but that was enough.
The eight beatitudes constitute a ladder, an advancing road of Christian experience. They contain natural and logical steps in spiritual growth and development that take us into the kingdom of God. The word beatitude comes from a Latin word which means blessed or happy. So the beatitude ladder is a blessed ladder – a blessed or happy experience. It is similar or synonymous with the words consecrated, or hallowed, or happy, or sacred, or holy. Only a consecrated, holy people can enter the kingdom of heaven. And the journey must be made by way of the beatitude ladder. You start on the first rung, and then advance up the road. Each beatitude leads to an advanced step. It is called the way of holiness (Isaiah 35) and it leads eventually to Zion. The result is that those who travel this ladder will obtain joy and gladness. They will return to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads, and sorrow and sighing will flee away (Isaiah 35:10).
This way, however, as Jesus pointed out in His sermon, is a narrow way. In fact, Jesus said that there will be few people compared to the world population who find it. The great majority will go down a broad way which leads to destruction. (See Matthew 7:14.)
It is a narrow way that leads to eternal life and Jesus points out exactly what that way is. It excludes all evil and all evil doers. It is a path, a narrow way, for the righteous or the just and it has ever-increasing illumination until those who walk in it reach the perfect day of spiritual light and experience.
Blessed is a word that Jesus used many times in His Sermon on the Mount. This does not refer alone to joy and happiness, but to that higher joy which is the result of divine favor. What Jesus came to give us is infinitely greater than that which we had been seeking for ourselves.
One of the first things that we notice when we read the beatitudes is that true happiness is the result of a holy character rather than that of outward conditions or circumstances. Remember, the word translated blessed could be translated happy. It says in Matthew 5:2, 3, “Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ ” God has always had a special regard for the poor in this world. Notice what the mother of Jesus said in Luke 1:46, 47: “And Mary said: ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant.’ ” The mother of Jesus and His earthly father, were poor people.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Friend, until we recognize our need and acknowledge how spiritually poor we are, we will never come to the Lord for the help that we need. In verses 52 and 53 Mary said, “He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty.”
The rich went away empty because they didn’t feel need of anything. One of the first requirements to be saved is that you feel your need of salvation. As long as you are proud and self-sufficient, there’s not very much that God can do for you. But when you feel your need and ask for His help, the Holy Spirit will come into your life and start to recreate within you a new heart and a new spirit.
In the second beatitude Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn” (Matthew 5:4). We may wonder how a person can be happy if they are mourning.
But notice what Paul wrote: “Even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while. Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance” (2 Corinthians 7:8, 9, first part). Repentance is sorrow for sin and turning away from it. This concept is misunderstood today. Those who are not sorry enough to turn away from their sin have not yet really repented.
“I [Paul] rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death” (verses 9, 10).
The difference is that people in this world are sorry when they get caught in their sins, but godly sorrow is when a person is sorry because they have committed the sin and realize that they have done something against their heavenly Father and have done something that caused Jesus Christ to go to the cross. The Bible says that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. When you understand the consequence of sin and the price Jesus Christ paid for your sin, you will never be able to enjoy sin again. You will then have godly sorrow for sin and will not want to have anything to do with it. You will not just be sorry that you got caught.
“For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter” (verse 11). There are many people today who have never been sorry for their sins. They have never really mourned or repented for their sins, and yet, they somehow think they are going to the kingdom of heaven.
This is a second step in the plan of salvation. Those who walk up the narrow road must not only feel their need, but must come to the place where they mourn, repent for their sins. But they do not remain there, for there is another step. Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). Now the meek people do not inherit the earth as it is today. Today, we live in a world that is controlled by force, a world where the strongest become the richest and the most powerful. But the time is coming when there will no longer be proud people. Malachi 4:1 says, “ ‘Behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,’ says the Lord of hosts.”
The day is coming when the meek will inherit the earth. A meek person is one who is gentle and humble.
Jesus does not ask of us anything that He has not demonstrated Himself in His own life. He says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30).
Jesus wants to deliver us from all pride and from all self-importance. He wants to help us to become meek. Through His Holy Spirit He wants to recreate within us a new heart and a new spirit so that we will be gentle, meek, and humble as He is. Then we will be in a spiritual condition, where, when the world is made again and the kingdom of glory is set up, we will be able to inhabit the earth made new.
The fourth beatitude says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6). Do you hunger and thirst for righteousness? In 1st John, the apostle talks about how righteousness defines and demonstrates which people are really children of God and which people are children of the devil. It is not our profession that determines whose children we are; it’s the life we live. Notice what John says in 1 John 3:4–10, “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him is no sin. Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.
“Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.
“In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.” However wicked a person may have been, if they hunger and thirst for righteousness and desire to be recreated and born again, the Lord Jesus promises that their desire will be filled and they will be satisfied.
Jesus then said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7). James says that there will be no mercy for the person that doesn’t show mercy (James 2:13). Are you merciful? That is the next step in the road that leads to heaven.
Friend, follow these beatitudes that will take you up the narrow road that leads to the kingdom of heaven. If you are willing to walk that narrow road, when Jesus comes back your journey to the kingdom of heaven will be complete. If that is what you want, if that is what you choose, that will be your destiny.
(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: email@example.com, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.