We began our discussion of the life and teachings of Jesus by watching how he acted in order to learn how to live as he did. (That series will be available (within a few days) as a paper back through Createspace.com under the title Mentored by Jesus). Then we did a Good News Dictionary pointing out in alphabetic order, insights into how he lived and what he taught. Now we are starting a series on the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7). My hope is that we will continue to learn and be blessed as together we come to better understand the essential truths that Jesus taught to his followers long ago on a hill side above the Sea of Galilee.
Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount is an arrangement of a great deal of what Jesus taught, part of it on a hillside in Galilee (Note: A number of the sayings appear in the other gospels in different geographic areas). It contains the heart of Jesus’ teaching on how to live in a way that honors God the Father. It is a Kingdom message.
On this occasion when Jesus “saw the crowds” he went up a hillside and finding a suitable spot, sat down and his disciple gathered around him. It sounds as though he turned away from the crowds and went to be alone with his disciples except that at the close of the sermon the text says, “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching” (Matt. 7:28). It appears, then, that he didn’t leave the crowds in order be with his disciples but that the crowd came along and would have heard the entire discourse.
The teaching begins with what are called “The Beatitudes,” an expression that reflects the 9 opening lines, each of which begins with “Blessed are the . . . “ And Matthew places as first the truth, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” and then adds the reason, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:3). Whenever I hear “poor in spirit” the image of a sort of Caspar Milquetoast flashes in my mind. But obviously that isn’t what Jesus is saying. Linguistic authorities have discussed the meaning of the expression as well as historians and theologians. Haven’t read them all but I did pay careful attention to the beatitudes when I translated Jesus, in His Own Words. This is my translation: “How blessed are those who recognize their spiritual need, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.” The poor in spirit are those who recognize how much help they need in spiritual matters. If we have poor health we mean that it lacks a great deal to be what it should be. If we are poor when it comes to matters of spiritual concern it means that we need significant help when I comes to spiritual things. The point is that we will never posses spiritual richness until we acknowledge own deficiency. So “Blessed are those who recognize their need for spiritual insight and want help.