MATTHEW 5:2-3b(part one)
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 5:2 “And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,. . .”
As the King of all the ages ascended a Mount to explain the nature of His kingdom, the question was, where would He start. When speaking of a kingdom, where does one begin? If rebelling against an old kingdom to start anew, we might begin as does our Declaration of Independence, “When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them to another.” If we wish to define a kingdom’s basic constituency, we might begin as does our Constitution, “We the people.” If in a Civil War seeking to preserve a kingdom, we might, with Lincoln, become nostalgic, and refer back to its inception by saying words like, “Fourscore and seven years ago.”
When Jesus began to describe His kingdom, he chose not to begin with a formal “whereas,” but rather started by touching a chord which vibrates in every human breast. With one word He immediately captured every listener’s rapt attention.
Matt. 5:3a “Blessed. . .”
On the Mount, our King began His manifesto with blessedness, with happiness, the grand quest of every human heart. Avoiding warnings and harshness, He started with a word full of sunshine. The beginning was sweet, friendly, winsome.
His shepherd’s heart looked upon the flock and saw in people’s eyes the tragedy of human sorrow. The very ones claiming to be the people of God were unfulfilled. The same is too true today. God’s own people are often sad and despondent. This is not God’s will for us. Gloom encompassed Christianity is a man made contrivance, totally unscriptural. Being miserable all the time is no mark of spirituality.
We suffer the same malady which frustrated God’s people in the first century. They fell into the trap of seeking happiness in the wrong places. They rightly expected to enjoy great happiness under Messiah’s reign, but wrongly expected to find it primarily in what He would do for them in the physical realm. They believed He would heal them, feed them, sustain them, and liberate them politically. They wanted happiness, but sought it in the wrong places, and Jesus saw the pain in their eyes.
Many of God’s people still think happiness is found in earthly pleasures such as fame, wealth, physical conditioning, and being attractive. Dear saints, because we often seek happiness where the world tries to find it, Jesus still looks into the eyes of His followers and sees frustration, depression, disappointment, and sadness.
Be not fooled by this world’s wrong thinking. We follow the Expert on life, the One who created life, who originally planned and designed it, who alone knows how life is to be lived, and how it can be enjoyed to its fullest. And when he spoke about happiness, He completely avoided physical things and pointed us elsewhere.
Our King taught us that any happiness which hinges on the outward chances and changes of life is fickle, fleeting, and thus counterfeit. Jesus offers a lasting, therefore true, happiness, one based on having one’s inner essence completely overhauled, re-created by God through a new birth. When one is born again, the very life of God is spawned in the heart, bringing with it a power strong enough to squelch sin, the cause of misery, and to promote godliness, the root of true joy.
We can know whether we are chasing false or true happiness by asking ourselves where we are seeking it. If we are trying to find it in anything outside ourselves–work, family, recreation, physical pleasures, etc.–it is false and fading.
The joy we truly want, the lasting kind which goes far deeper than any gladness this world affords, must be planted inside us by God. Happiness blooms within us. We find it there or nowhere, but once we find it there we find it everywhere.
On the Mount, our King said He wants people to be happy, which is exactly what people want for themselves. We all want to be blessed, and Jesus was sent into this world by the Father for the express purpose of blessing humanity (AC 3:26). God and man want the same thing, but Jesus had to come to correct mankind’s erroneous thinking about how to have it. He who came to pour out His abundant blessing upon us, said in essence, “I have and offer what you want, but you are going down the wrong road to find it. Follow Me. Accept my terms, and you will find what you seek.” And where does the journey begin?. . . .
Matt. 5:3b (part one) “. . .are the poor in spirit:. . .”
The pilgrimage to happiness starts in one’s attitude toward self. “Poor in spirit” is the first characteristic of God’s citizenry, the gate through which the lost must pass to be found, the path on which every step of the Christian life must be taken.
To be “poor in spirit” means to know that in the spiritual realm of our lives we are by nature weak sinners, having no merit of our own to earn God’s favor. It means having a deep, inner sense “of need, of emptiness, of dependence on God” (Maclaren). It begins at conversion and continues throughout the Christian life.
“Poor in spirit” describes the heart-wrenching scene of the publican (LK 18:10ff). The tax collector, despised by his peers and ridden with guilt, intimidated by the flaunting Pharisee, too embarrassed to come far into the temple, too ashamed to lift his eyes unto heaven, standing off in a corner, bowing his head, and pounding on his chest, groaned, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Jesus was so pleased with him that believers have ever since imitated his posture of bowing the head to pray.
Paul, before his conversion, was self-righteous, deeming himself “blameless” (PH 3:6) with regard to the law. He had once thought he was building a stairway to heaven out of his own goodness, but even years after he became a Christian, he was still “poor in spirit,” crying out, “O wretched man that I am!” (RM 7:24).
Being “poor in spirit” does not mean we see ourselves as having little value or being of zero worth. Jesus said, “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (MK 8:36). In God’s eyes, we are each worth more than the whole world. We are not to deem ourselves insignificant. “Poor in spirit” means we know that our own weakness keeps us far short of God’s standard.
The Prodigal Son (LK 15) is the classic example of one who understood both his high worth and extreme need. “He came to himself,” realizing he was meant for something better, and knowing he needed his father’s help to achieve his potential.
When “poor in spirit,” we take our rightful place before God, in the dust at His feet pleading for His power. Not because I am a nobody, but because I am a somebody, because I have worth in God’s eyes, and because He wants to bless me.