The Sermon on the Mount is perhaps the best known part of the teaching of Jesus. It is also the least understood and certainly the least obeyed. Here we find Jesus giving instructions to the disciples. Many consider it the “Ordination Address” to the Twelve.
“His disciples came to Him, and He began to teach them” (Matthew 5:1-2). The Sermon on the Mount is a description of what Jesus wanted His followers to be and do. It describes an ideal that can never be reached by human strength alone.
Incorporated into the Sermon, we have what are commonly called “The Beatitudes.” If you ask the general public to name the ingredients that make for happiness, you will likely hear such things as money, fame, success or popularity. J. B. Phillips paraphrased the Beatitudes as the world would render them:
Happy are the pushers, for they get on in the world.
Happy are the hard-boiled, for they never let life hurt them.
Happy are the blase, for they never worry over their sins.
Happy are the slave-drivers, for they get results.
Happy are the knowledgeable of the world, for they know their way around.
Happy are the troublemakers, for they make people take notice of them.
How different was the response of Jesus. In the Beatitudes the word “blessed” is employed nine times. It is a translation of makarios, which refers to the bliss that belongs to the gods. It is thus an experience independent of outward circumstances. It is a joy which has its secret in itself.
The Beatitudes speak of a blessedness that exists in spite of events around us. The blessedness is completely untouchable and unassailable. In the Greek, there is no verb in the Beatitudes, thus they are not so much statements as exclamations. They are not promises of future happiness but speak of present bliss. In essence they are saying, “O the bliss of being a Christian.”
In the Beatitudes we have a description of what human life and human community look like when they come under the gracious rule of God. It has been said that “rejoice” is the standing order of the Christian.
Bramwell H. Tillsley, The War Cry