Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones commented that “the Christian gospel places all its primary emphasis upon being rather than doing. The gospel puts a greater weight upon our attitude than upon our actions.” The introductory portion of the Sermon on the Mount is really a presentation of the character qualities that should be found in the hearts of those who follow Jesus…
1 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,
It is notable that while the sermon seems initially directed to “disciples only,” by its end it has been listened to with rapt attention by “the crowds” (Matt 7:28-29). This sermon is for anyone, at all stages of spiritual interest, who decides to draw near enough to Jesus to hear what He has to say…
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
People who see themselves as spiritually destitute, and therefore completely in need of mercy and grace, are considered “blessed” by God. It doesn’t make sense to me to interpret the word “blessed” as “happy,” as some have done. Happy is a feeling, a great feeling, but still, a feeling. People who endure pain, suffering, and spiritual famine are NOT happy. But the word blessed might be better understood as commended. It is commendable to see and acknowledge your spiritual inadequacy and incompetency, but in doing so you gain God’s favor and commendation; in doing so you swing the door of your soul wide open to receive King Jesus, along with His kingdom.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
People mourn when they have lost something or someone. This commended mourning of a follower of Jesus has to do with the sense of sadness, regret, and sorrow we experience when we come to terms with our own sinful actions, thoughts, and words, and when we suffer as a result of the sin of others. It is commendable to have such a view of sin, and opens the door to a better Day, when a perfect comfort will be given.
5 “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
Gentle (also translated “meek”) people do NOT inherit the earth, or much of anything else! But in this new kingdom of God, this quality of gentleness gains a great promise of future power, possession, and influence—in and eternal kingdom! Meekness does NOT mean weakness, either! Jesus described Himself as “gentle and humble of heart” (Matt 11:29), and He demonstrated it in two ways. First, He refused to use His divine power for personal vengeance or gain, never “getting back at” those who attacked and maligned Him. Second, He unleashed His divine fury against those who mistreated the young, weak, poor, sinful, and marginalized. (i.e., Mark 10:13-14; 11:15-18, John 2:13-22; 8:1-11) Mean people really didn’t like it when Jesus came around! They still don’t today, I think.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
This quality of the heart describes a person who craves an increasingly obedient, God-pleasing life for themselves. They are sorely aware of their own failures, and feel an ache in their soul for a deeper walk with God. They are not embarrassed let everyone know that they interested in living lives of purity, godliness, chastity, holiness, submission, and the like. Also, they long to see the righteousness of God fully, and finally, made known on the earth. The day approaches when these folks will certainly be satisfied—filled to the full!
So, what does this all mean for us today? I noted as I prepared this sermon that these kingdom-heart qualities are simply descriptive of character qualities and their rewards, and not given as commands to be followed. Jesus did not provide any steps, processes, or principles on How to Develop a Kingdom Heart. He simply listed the qualities, period! I suspect the implication is that the only way to begin to develop these kingdom qualities is to stay needy for them, and to stay close to the King!