Category Archives: Sermon On The Mount


Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.

-Matthew 5:5 (NIV)

In English, being meek can easily be misunderstood as ‘weak’.  For example, the Merriam-Webster online dictionary gives the following definitions: 1) enduring injury with patience and without resentment, 2) deficient in spirit and courage, and 3) not violent or strong.  When we turn to different translations of the word ‘meek’ (NIV, KJV) we come away with renderings as “gentle” (NASB) or “humble” (NLT, GNT).

Meekness: Power Under Control

The original Greek word stresses strength under control.  The best  illustration of true meekness is Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane:

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” – Matthew 26:39, NIV

The truth is that there is not an English word that truly represents the Greek original.  There are English words for ‘strength’ and there are English words for ‘gentle’.  Having the strength to act at will, yet choosing to restrain and to submit approximates words such as obedient, humble, and disciplined.


Meekness is a critical part of the Beatitudes that both builds upon mourning and opens the door to righteousness.  Beginning with recognizing the disparity between God’s holiness and our brokenness (poor in spirit) we are brokenhearted to realize that our sin has been the cause of that separation (mourning).  Undone, we realize that our Higher Power knows exactly what we need and He provides the cure through His Son who bears our penalty Himself.

In meekness we accept the fact that God’s will is best and we devote ourselves to surrendering our own will and submitting to Him.  How does a person submit to God’s will?  The answer begins a life-long, impassioned quest for learning His will and applying it to our daily walk; we pray and examine His word, hungering and thirsting for righteousness.


When Jesus promises that the meek “will inherit the earth” it is true that He is speaking directly to the end times when Jesus comes again (Revelation 21).  I would suggest, however, that there is a way of understanding this promise that is present and real.  As we submit to Gods will we find that there is no location in God’s creation where He has not already gone, nor is there any place where the human heart can go that God has not already been.

For the meek there is no place on heaven or earth that is excluded to them for God’s will leads them there.  From the darkest corners of the human heart to the most horrific circumstances on the face of the earth, God is there and His presence can be reflected most brightly when His children shine the light of His presence wherever they go (Matthew 5:14-16).

The Blessing of Mourning

“Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.” 

-Jesus-Matthew 5:4 (NIV)

Closely related to the previous beatitude (“Blessed are the poor in spirit”), to mourn is to grieve over the cause of separation between the most holy God and His creation: sin.  Genesis 3:8-9 suggests that God would spend time walking with Adam and Eve in the garden “in the cool of the day.” The tragic chain of events is described in Genesis 3 which concludes with a series of curses that include banishment from the garden of Eden and the Tree of Life.

The rest of Scripture is about God’s initiatives to restore that original relationship with mankind.  Kingdom people begin with acknowledging the insurmountable gap between the holiness of God and man’s yearning to live by his own rules and chart his own course.  This gap applies to every person who has ever lived from the beginning of time.

Mourning acknowledges the cause of that insurmountable gap which is our brokenness and propensity to offend God by our self-centered thoughts and actions.  Even when we make godly choices we are vulnerable to pride in what we believe to be our own  accomplishments.  This circular reasoning measures one’s own righteousness within the limited sphere of one’s own experience rather than within the infinite sphere of God’s holiness.  A way of illustrating this is found in the danger of prosperity.


It is tempting for us to mistakenly equate God’s blessing with prosperity.  James 1:10  warns that “…the rich should take pride in their humiliation….”  Jesus warns the church in Laodicea that they precariously believe they are rich, wealthy and in need of nothing when, indeed they are “…wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17).

In Matthew 19:16-30 a rich man comes to Jesus to inquire about the key to eternal life.  Having kept the commandments all of his life he is confident in his own righteous behavior.  Nonetheless, he feels that something is still lacking.  At this point Jesus instructs him to sell all he has, give it to the poor and to follow Him (vs. 21).  Matthew tells us that the rich man went away sad because of his great wealth (vs. 22).

Jesus takes this opportunity to tell His disciples about how difficult it is for the prosperous to enter the kingdom of heaven.  The disciples are astonished and exclaim: “Who then can be saved?” (vs. 25).  Jesus states clearly: “With man this is impossible…” and I am reminded of the first two beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”  and “Blessed are those who mourn…” (Matthew 5:3-4a).


If poverty of spirit before a most holy God brings us into the kingdom, then mourning about our sin–from which it is impossible to save ourselves–brings comfort. This oxymoron can only have one answer, which Jesus provides to the disciples’ question “Who then can be saved?”

Matthew tells us that “Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.””  This is truly an astonishing statement for it is the One Whom we offend Who, Himself, extends us comfort.  

How does God do this?  Paul answers this beautifully in Colossians 2:9-15.

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh[b] was put off when you were circumcised by[c] Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you[d] alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

This is most certainly Good News to the poor in spirit kingdom people who mourn over their sin and find comfort in Christ.

Poor in Spirit

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus – Matthew 5:3 (NIV)

To be blessed by God is more than just being happy.  To be blessed by God does, indeed, make one happy.  It only makes sense that the created person would desire to please his or her Creator.  Jesus is explicit as He teaches His disciples the pathway to God’s blessing in eight elegant* principles (Matthew 5:3-12).

The first of these eight principles specifies poverty of spirit as the first step towards God’s blessing.  This principle was not a new revelation.  It has always been an essential quality of those who would receive the blessing of God.  Here are just some of the biblical characters who exhibited this quality of brokenness:

  • Abraham (Genesis 18:27)
  • Jacob (Genesis 32:10)
  • Moses (Exodus 3:11; 4:10-12)
  • King David (Psalms 51:17; 1 Chronicles 29:14)
  • King Solomon (1 Kings 3:7)
  • Job (Job 42:5-6)
  • Isaiah (Isaiah 6:5)
  • John the Baptist (John 1:27; 3:30; Luke 7:28; Mark 9:35
  • The Tax Collector (Luke 18:13-14)
  • The Roman Centurion (Luke 7:6-9)
  • Simon Peter (Luke 5:8)
  • The Apostle Paul (Romans 7:18; 2 Corinthians 4:7; 1 Corinthians 3:6-7; 1 Timothy 1:15-16)

It would be hard to imagine a person exhibiting a proud and haughty spirit when suddenly confronted by God’s immediate, visible presence.  The challenge for us is to maintain that sense of His abiding presence and our own brokenness.


The truth is that before a holy God no one can stand in His presence  because, as Paul stated, “There is no one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10).  The real contrast this first beatitude forces  is between those who acknowledge their brokenness and humble themselves accordingly and those who do not and will not.

For those who seek God’s blessing this first beatitude is fundamental to entrance into the kingdom of God.  It is where God-followers strive to live because it is where we all exist.

*  I use the word ‘elegant’ to describe these beatitudes in the sense of a beautiful cut diamond set upon a black velvet surface to enhance its beauty.


Kingdom Bookends

Bookends are used to keep books together.  They also metaphorically describe how we keep other objects together.  In the gospel of Matthew there are two important kingdom bookends that help us define the contents of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7.


The first bookend is in Matthew 5:1-2 where Jesus sees the crowds and goes up to the mountain.  Here his disciples gather around Him to listen to Jesus’ as He begins to teach them.

The second bookend is Matthew 7:28-29 where Jesus’ audience has expanded beyond His disciples to include the crowds.  They have been listening in and are amazed at Jesus’ authoritative teaching.

These bookends tell us that what Jesus has to say is very important.  We know this because just before the final bookend in Matthew 7:28-29, Jesus contrasts two groups of people.

In Matthew 7:24-25 He addresses those who listen and apply His words to their lives.  Jesus describes them as wise builders who anchor their foundation upon a rock.  Their building will stand firm in the storms of life.

In contrast, in Matthew 7:26-27 Jesus describes those who also listen but do not put His words into practice.  These people are like unwise builders who place their foundation upon sandy soil.  When the storms come their house will not survive.


At the very beginning of the first bookend Jesus launches into 8 beatitudes that fall between two other bookends.  The first tells His audience that being poor in spirit is the way to the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3).  The concluding beatitude addresses those who are “persecuted because of righteousness” for theirs is, once again, the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:10).

These bookends tell us that between them are listed the crucial qualities of people who are  citizens of the kingdom of heaven.  Those qualities include poverty of spirit, mourning over sin, meekness, righteousness, being merciful, having purity of heart, being makers of peace and suffering for the sake of righteousness.


The Sermon on the Mount is important material for followers of Jesus Christ for at least three reasons.  First, Jesus said their application would make the difference between those who survive the storms of life and those who do not.  Second, for those who are citizens of the kingdom of heaven, the sermon provides a roadmap to maturity in the kingdom.

The third reason is anchored in the next-to-the-last parable Jesus used to underline their importance.  In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus tells us that there will be people who appear at Judgement Day, thinking that they are, indeed, citizens of the kingdom of heaven.  They will come before Jesus pointing to the many things they have done to verify their eternal citizenship.  Jesus’ shocking response to them should be sobering to us all as He says, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (vs. 23).


Perhaps there could be no greater tragedy than to go through life with a false sense of confidence in one’s salvation only to find, in the end, that one had missed the entire point of kingdom citizenry: knowing Christ and being known by Him.  Herein lies the power of the Sermon on the Mount.




The word ‘demands’ is a word of strength.  It assumes that the person with demands is in a position of power and control.  Conversely, a person who is without power and control has no demands.


This contrast exactly describes God’s relationship to His creation.  Indeed, both Isaiah (29:16; 64:8) and Jeremiah (18:6) informed Paul’s metaphorical reference to the total power of the Potter and the absence of power of the clay (Romans 9:21).

In every aspect of God’s creation He is indeed on total control; His power is absolute; supreme; sovereign; unchallenged.  With a word the universe came to exist (Genesis 1).  With a word it will be brought to an end (2 Peter 3:7,10-13).  There is only one aspect of His creation that He has chosen to give the temporary  right to choose: mankind.


Demands?  They are still totally one-sided; God-sided.  The demands of God’s creation? The only ones available are those they are given by God and only for the duration of time that He wills.  He sets the boundaries and the conditions of compliance and obedience

Bottom line: what God says goes. God has every right to make demands upon His own creation, including mankind.  And those demands are clear and understandable.


So, when Jesus–Who, as God Himself, obeyed His Father’s commands (John 12:49-50)–tells us to obey His commandments out of love (John 14:15, 23) it is important to 1) search out His  commands, 2) identify them and 3) obey them.  The option of saying no and the freedom to demand independence is temporary, limited, fully under His control and doomed to fail.

This is a great paradox.  God tells us through His Son, Jesus Christ, that those who claim to have no demands are the ones who will be blessed and will inherit the kingdom of God.  To recognize Who is God and who is not God is very important to every person.  It is God who makes the demands.   To those who accept His demands, Jesus tells us they will be blessed.