People of the Code (Part 3)

Each of the eight beatitudes begin with the comforting words, “blessed are…” Those expecting the arrival of an earthly kingdom may have expected more than this simple comfort. They may have anticipated safety, earthly joy and financial prosperity. Jesus promised an even greater reward, namely the “kingdom of heaven” (vss. 3,10), but to receive it His citizens would have to experience poverty, mourning, hunger and even the hatred of their fellow man. Not everyone is willing to endure these hardships even for the Kingdom, but “blessed are” those who do, for “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8)

In reflecting on man’s relationship to God, David wrote, “Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood And has not sworn deceitfully.” (Psalm 24.3–4) So, we are not surprised that Jesus linked purity of heart with seeing God. But this poses a significant problem given that Jesus also said, “out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” (Matthew 15.19) All men have heart issues; they are seen in their actions. So, how can any hope to see God?

Purity of heart may be seen as the natural result of other Kingdom characteristics. Since citizens of the Kingdom recognize their spiritual poverty, mourn for their sins and hunger for righteousness, they have reached a point where what they desire most is God. This is what Jesus means by “pure in heart”, not just the absence of sin but a heart given totally to God. The pure in heart desire Him more than any earthly treasure (cf. 6.19-21,33). They recognize that a pure heart involves controlling attitudes and desires, not just external actions (cf. 5.17ff). Their hearts are given to God and this shapes every action.

John wrote, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (1John 3.2–3) God is absolutely pure; He is light and completely devoid of darkness (cf. 1John 1.5). One day disciples are going to see Him because He has made they pure through His Son and because they continue to purify themselves. Blessed indeed are the pure in heart.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

God revealed through Isaiah that the coming Messiah would be called “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9.6). Jesus is the prince of peace because in Him man finds peace with his God AND with his fellow man (Ephesians 2.13-17). So it is unsurprising that His people would be called “peacemakers”.

But how do they make peace? Certainly they do so by proclaiming the gospel to others so that they too might experience His peace. But being a peacemaker is a quality of the person, not just the message they present. A peacemaker will “become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some” (1Cor. 9.22). A peacemaker conducts himself in a way that will insure the peace is not broken with his fellow citizens in the Kingdom (Col. 3.12-15). In short, a peacemaker sacrifices personal preference and even personal rights so that others can have peace with God. In doing so they act like their Lord and God; they are “sons of God” not only in name, but in character. Blessed indeed are the peacemakers.

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10)

The final beatitude may be the most shocking of all. Jesus had just said that His people are “peacemakers”, they want to be at peace with others and, more importantly, desire others to have peace with God. And the world will respond by persecuting them! But why, what crime have they committed? Only that they forsook the ways of this world to follow in the steps of their Master. And since the world hated Him, it will hate His disciples as well (John 15.18-19).

As we consider this beatitude, note an interesting change of wording in the passage. In vs. 10 Jesus declares that those “persecuted for the sake of righteousness” are blessed. In vs. 11 He says that the blessed are those who are persecuted “because of Me.” Those are parallel thoughts, the cause of righteousness is the same as the cause of Christ. To be identified with Christ is much more involved than claiming a relationship with Him, rather it’s adopting His standard of righteousness (the major focus of the rest of Matthew 5). Those who seek His standard of righteousness are going to be hated and persecuted.

Those who are persecuted for His sake are blessed, because “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” As we’ve noted already, this reward bookends the beatitudes (see vs. 3). The Kingdom God promised through the prophets (Isaiah 2.2-4; Daniel 2.44), and that Jesus proclaimed (Matthew 4.23) is realized in His people. And His people are defined by the characteristics defined in the beatitudes; characteristics which will lead to their rejection and persecution. Blessed indeed are the persecuted.

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