Gospel of Matthew Chapter Five Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
Blessed Are You
Verses 1-9: "When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. 2 He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying, 3 'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." The word "blessed" in these verses is a form of the Greek "makarios," which includes the meaning, "happy." The faithful in Christ are to be "poor in spirit," which is not what the world encourages us to be. Our culture is impatient with "those who mourn," inviting us instead to "get over it!" A child in school or in the streets quickly learns that to be "gentle" is dangerous. The social pressure to cheat as a way to get ahead is in opposition to "those who hunger and thirst for righteousness." The words "Get him before he gets you," are felt in the hearts of many, but God is pleased with the "merciful." And to be "pure in heart" is the opposite of what is generally taught in movies or song. Humanity is not a race of "peacemakers" and yet that is precisely what the Lord intends for us. If we were to struggle to become any or all of these things, we would fail or at least suffer continually, because these characteristics are actually the expression of God through us; not something a mere human being can do. "Christ in you" is what we need—Colossians 1:27.
Verses 10-12: "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Considering that the word "blessed" contains the idea of happiness, it's difficult to be "persecuted." It's no fun at all to be insulted, persecuted, and lied about. And yet there's something more here. We are talking about those who "hunger and thirst for righteousness," as seen in Verse 6. You're in great company, by the way, because such persecution has sadly been with us since the beginning of time, as seen in the murder of Abel by his brother, Cain. We catch a glimpse of the "prophets" who suffered through the centuries in Hebrews 11:35-38. They were mocked, flogged, chained, imprisoned, stoned, sawn in two, killed with the sword and more. The persecuted prophets needed God's help, and so do you. The only road to blessedness in such circumstances is to personally know the Lord, trust Him, and pray.
Verses 13-16: "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. 14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." The emphasis on "salt" here, is as a flavoring for food. It does have many other uses, such as scattering it on a pathway to stop the growth of weeds, or giving traction on ice, and of course, moderate salt is necessary for life. But here it's a flavoring, intended to make life better for its users. "Light" is especially interesting because Jesus said of Himself, "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12). When He said "You are the light of the world" here, He was speaking of reflected light. He IS the light of the world, and by God's grace, expressed through faith, if you are "in Christ," you are "a new creation" (2 Corinthians 5:17). What He is in you can be perceived—like proper seasoning makes food taste better and light helps us see in darkness; others will notice Him in your life and want Him, too.
Verses17-20: "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." Scribes and Pharisees were notable religious leaders of that time. A lot of people have wondered about and argued about the Law in the Old Testament. Does the Law apply to the New Testament believer in Jesus Christ? There's a lot of evidence on both sides as is typical of theological arguments, and one interesting Scripture is Romans 7:6—"we are released from the law... so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit." To trust in Jesus Christ is to receive the Holy Spirit of God, who literally enters us and changes our lives from the inside out. Without the Lord, all are condemned by the Law, but with Him, His righteousness enters us, and His Holy Spirit enables us to grow into LIFE that was previously impossible.
Verses 21-26: "You have heard that the ancients were told, 'You shall not commit murder' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.' 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. 23 Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. 25 Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent." The command, "You shall not commit murder," was on the tablets carried by Moses, as seen in Exodus 20:13 and Deuteronomy 5:17. Jesus here in no way negates the command, but instead carries it further, to the source of murderous actions—our thoughts, which become murderous words and then murder itself. Have you ever been angry?—you are guilty of murder before our holy and just God. And our mere religious acts are not enough to appease Him. We are to be sufficiently frightened by the words of these verses to at last reach out to God, and with His help, go to the person you hate or has hated you, and make peace with them—before it's too late—for both of you. And if your shattered relationship has sunk to the point where one of you has sued the other in a human criminal or civil court, then settle the case! They may end up with the money you thought was yours, but the crime of "murder" shall no longer convict you in the sight of God—as you trust in Him.
Verses 27-30: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery'; 28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell." In this chapter, Jesus was shouting out to a multitude of Jews, and each one of them was raised with knowledge of the words in Exodus 20:14 and Deuteronomy 5:18—"You shall not commit adultery." And yet, not unlike today, as they listened to His words, adulterous thoughts were flitting though many minds, and they were shocked to hear that adultery in thought is adultery in action in the sight of God. What you look at, what you think about—matters, just as though you actually did it! And those wives who feel violated when they discover their husbands looking at pornography on a computer or TV set—they feel that way because they are violated! If you are involved in such things, it's better to cut the power to your computer, or throw it and the TV set out, along with those DVD's. It's better for you to lose something that causes you to "stumble," than it is "for your whole body to go into hell." What you may be thinking and doing is far more serious than you have ever wanted to understand.
Verses 31-32: "It was said, ‘Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce’; 32 but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery." The divorce rate in many parts of the world is well over 50% of the married population. You may feel some kind of relief when that person is gone, but when they are, you have placed both them and yourself into great danger. Marriage is desirable, and one or both of you is likely to marry again, thinking, "Maybe this time it will work... I know it will..." But here is God's perspective—"He hates divorce" (Malachi 2:16). Divorce destroys friendships, our children, and sends the wrong message to the world. As Jesus said in Verse 25 of this chapter, "Make friends quickly with your opponent at law..." And that includes the one you swore you would stay with "until death do us part."
Verses 33-37: "Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, 'You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.' 34 But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil." Scripture is full of oaths by those promising to do this-or-that for God or some other person. But what is meant here is summed up by the words, "You shall not make FALSE vows," and when you make a vow, and it is legal and within God's will, you are to do it. And as in promises of all sorts, a simple "yes or no" is sufficient. God is honest and we are to reflect His simple honesty into this troubled world.
Verses 38-42: "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' 39 But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. 41 Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you." The phrase "eye for an eye... tooth for tooth," is seen in places like Leviticus 24:20, where God reveals His will that the punishment is to be appropriate for the crime. In our courts, it should follow that if someone steals your money, they must pay the money back, not so much to the Court, but to you. Here is something more though: If somebody hurts you, sues you, forces you to do something unpleasant, or takes something like money from you that they are unlikely to return—give it to them! Surrender to what they want! Now that is revolutionary, and if it makes you uncomfortable, it should, because it is the opposite of everything the world teaches. We are to become willing to give up everything, and it is obvious that we must look to God continually, in order to even THINK about living such a life.
Verses 43-47: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?" The words quoted in Verse 43 are not found in the Old Testament. Instead Jesus quoted a rabbinical misunderstanding of Leviticus 19:18, which says, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." "Hate your enemy" is a popular human choice, but God's will is to "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." He loves all of us, even our enemies, and note that your enemy likely thinks of YOU as the enemy, and it is God who decides who actually IS the problem. We are to love them because God in us—loves us.
Verse 48: "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Are you perfect? The Greek word for "perfect" here is a form of "teleios," which meant "finished" or "complete." Are you complete? Or is there more to be done? Paul the Apostle observed in Philippians 3:10-14, "Not that I have attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me." Jesus Christ was and is perfect. Our faith places us in Him and He in us, and His perfection is imputed to us as though we are perfect also. But looking at our thoughts, words and actions, we reasonably conclude that we are like one of those signs seen at many construction sites: "Work In Progress." Yes we are complete in Christ Jesus, and yes, there is more to be done. But now and forever—blessed are you.
Father, I trust in You. Thank You that I am being made complete in Christ Jesus. It is through His work I am saved, but I also "press on," in the Holy Spirit's power and majesty. I confess my shortcomings, trusting in You for forgiveness and healing. I am Yours, I am blessed. In Jesus Name. Thank You. Amen.