The Book of Matthew

The Happy Christian, Section 3


Theme: The Way to Happiness
From this week’s lessons, we see that genuine happiness is found, not where the world assumes it to be, but in imitating the Lord Jesus Christ.
Scripture: Matthew 5:1-12
1. “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”  In Luke’s version of the Beatitudes the words “in spirit” do not occur (Luke 6:20). Therefore, many have used Matthew’s version to point out that the poverty Jesus is speaking of here is not material but rather spiritual poverty. He is not praising physical privation. He is not saying that the materially poor are closer to the kingdom of God than the materially rich. What Jesus is commending is the opposite of a person’s being rich in pride.
2. “Blessed are those who mourn.”  Mourning, like most of the other virtues in this list, suggests something spiritual. True mourning in the deepest sense is mourning for sin, and the comfort promised in this beatitude is the comfort provided by the gospel. No happiness in the world compares with knowing that one’s sins are forgiven and that fellowship with God has been restored. 
But the text does not specify mourning in just this one sense, and there are two other ways the thought can be applied. First, it can be a mourning for personal loss, as is the case when one loses parents, children, a spouse, or friends for Christ’s sake. Losses of this nature may be compensated, as Jesus promises they will be (cf. Matt. 10:29, 30); but they are still losses and there is still a genuine and proper mourning for the loss. Christ promises comfort for those who mourn thus.
Second, there is mourning for the world which continues in sin. Martin Luther translated the Greek word that occurs in this beatitude by the German leidtragen, which means “sorrowbearing.” He meant by this that the Christian takes the world’s sorrow on himself and bears it, just as Jesus takes our sin and bears it. The world will not bear its own sorrow. It is unaware of its impending disaster. Only the Christian knows the world’s true state, need, and destiny. He mourns for the world. He also looks to be comforted as God uses our witness to draw many out of sin to Christ.
3. “Blessed are the meek.”  Western culture regards meekness as a despicable quality, like that of Casper Milktoast who is always getting stepped on by the world. Meekness is actually a great quality. It is possible only to one who is far along in godliness. Here is a case where Jesus was probably borrowing from the Old Testament—from Psalm 37:11, which says, “The meek will inherit the land.” This is important, because the earlier verses of the psalm delineate the character of the truly meek man. He is one who does “not fret because of evil men” (v. 1). Instead, he “trust[s] in the LORD and do[es] good” (v. 3). He “delight[s] . . . in the LORD” (v. 4). He “commit[s his] way to the LORD” (v. 5). He is “still before the LORD and wait[s] patiently for him” (v. 7). This is the Bible’s portrait of the meek man. He bows low before God and therefore is able to stand tall before mere human beings, even when he is abused and persecuted. 
There is a special promise to such people by which they may count themselves blessed: they shall “inherit the earth.” The world may think such souls fit only for the kingdom of God, like the Emperor Julian who wrote mockingly that he only confiscated the property of Christians to make them poor enough to enter heaven. But Jesus does not say that they will inherit heaven, though they will. He says that they will inherit this earth, while those who currently possess it (He implies) will lose it all. How do they possess it? They possess it as the gospel spreads through preaching and God’s kingdom comes. In the ultimate sense the meek will possess the earth when Christ returns, renews its face, and subdues all things to himself forever. In that day the saints will reign with Him.
Study Questions:

Describe in your own words what it means to be “poor in spirit.”
What kind of mourning is Jesus talking about?
What does it mean to be meek in the biblical sense?

Application: In what ways do you need to improve in one of more of these beatitudes?

Study Questions
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