Friday, April 18, 2008

Matthew, Chapter 5 (Part 1)

Since Matthew 5 is a very large chapter with a lot of topics I have decided to break it into two sections for better study. What we see here is Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, which is one of His more famous messages. In it, He outlines much of his ministry and values. In this political season, we can think of this as essentially a grand campaign speech, or even a "State of the Union" type of address. Some of Jesus' most famous teachings are mentioned in this sermon, and today we will discuss verses 1 through 20 as the first part of it.

The first part of this chapter concerns the Beatitudes. My study Bible calls this list "the constitution for citizens of God's kingdom." That is a pretty powerful statement. At the time Jesus made it, it was flying in the face of everything the people of Israel believed. At the time, they believed that those who were wealthy and influential enjoyed God's blessing, not those who were poor, mourning, etc. The fallacy in this that the wealthy believed their blessing was based on their own accomplishments. The Beatitudes illustrate the need for reliance on God for blessing. They are high standards, but God knows we are unable to live up to them. Therefore, the message in it is that our righteousness is based only on the grace of God. Not every statement begins with a positive note, but it ends with one. The underlying message is this: if we trust in God, He can overcome our own shortcomings. The point is not to try and live up to the standards that are set here. There is no way that we as human beings can do that. The closer we do identify with them, however, the better position we can be in to receive God's blessing.

14"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. – Matthew 5:14-16

These verses remind me of the song "This little light of mine", which is probably sung in thousands of Sunday school classes across the country. As a kid, I remember singing it in my Sunday school classes growing up. Back then it was an innocent verse that I didn't really understand. As I have grown up, however, and expanded my walk with Christ I see that it is so much more. I have mentioned it countless times in this blog, but it bears repeating. The salvation that Christ offers through His death on the cross is an immeasurable gift. The best way I can describe is an injection of pure joy directly into one's heart. Here Christ is asking us to share that joy. He is imploring us to not try and do the impossible, which is hide that joy from others. We are the light of the world only because Christ lives inside our hearts. We cannot hide this light no matter what we do, so we might as well let it shine.

19Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 5:19-20

These last verses can be a little confusing, especially considering the reputation the Pharisees set up for themselves when they sentenced Christ to death. It was that sentence; however, that brings truth to these verses. Their fallacy was that they never looked inward to see the spiritual condition of their hearts. They thought they were above reproach, when in actuality they couldn't be more wrong. We become more righteous than the Pharisees when we recognize how spiritually bankrupt we are and ask Christ to forgive us.


  1. What do the Beatitudes mean to you?
  2. How do we hide our light?
  3. Why would the Pharisees be offended by such a message?

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