A study of the Beatitudes - Jesus first sermon. A popular new Rabbi, he presents a yoke that is easy, and a burden that is light; He emphases heart attitudes over keeping all the laws. There are a lot of people at the end of the day, who think they're in, but they're actually out. Tzedak (Righteousness) always produces Tzedakah (Generosity, or righteousness-revealed). Jeremiah 22:16 "He took care of the poor and the afflicted, so it is well with him. Is this not what it means to know Me, declares the Lord, your God". The happiest people set their passions on meeting the needs of others.
We're going to take a journey in scripture tonight, starting in Matthew 5:6-8. This is a series of messages called the beatitudes. It's a series of statements that Jesus made. It was Jesus' first sermon. The beatitudes just started to amaze me. Part of the reason that the beatitudes amazed me is because, this is Jesus' first sermon, and yet the crowd was so big, that He had to climb a mountain to get away from them enough to talk. So in Jesus' first message, they had to climb a mountain to get far enough away, in order to talk to the people.
Now look, I've been preaching for years, and Mike's been preaching for years, and you're a fair-enough good-looking group of people, but I hardly have to climb a mountain to get away from you. So what would possess a group of people, to be so enamoured by this new rabbi, that they would flock from all over the place to see Him? You might say: yeah, but He was the Son of God. They didn't know that. As a matter of fact, because He claimed to be, they ended up killing Him anyway, so that was not the issue. What was going on here?
Here's what was going on. Jesus was the new rabbi, with something called S'mikah. So being the new rabbi with S'mikah meant He had authority. There were two rabbis with authority in Jesus' day: Rabbi Hillel; and Rabbi Shammai. They both died when Jesus was around 18 years old, and so the nation was waiting on the new rabbi with s'mikah, with authority. So everybody in Israel was either under Hillel, or under Shammai. Jewish historians called Jesus the Rabbi with the Third Way. In other words He had the authority to create another yoke; so rumour had it that this rabbi's yoke was easy, and His burden was light. His yoke was easy and His burden was light; so people would have flocked from all over the place in order to hear His new way of living.
So in the beatitudes, Jesus is identifying attributes of kingdom people. He's actually - the beatitudes are a rabbinical commentary on Isaiah 61 and 66. It's a commentary, not on how to be saved, in the sense of going to heaven one day; but how to be saved in the sense of being a kingdom person now. How do you do that? I love the beatitudes.
The first one is this: Blessed are the poor in spirit. That's the first one, and it's interesting that the literal translation is: blessed are people who are short on wind! So essentially He says: blessed are people who choose not to be long-winded. Blessed are people who don't like to hear the sound of their own voice. Blessed are people who don't have to be the centre of the party. Blessed are people who aren't secretly angry when they're not noticed. Blessed are people who do that; so all of these beatitudes are describing the same type of kingdom person.
Now in the middle of that He gives us this. In Matthew 5:6 it says: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful for they will obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they are the ones that will see God.
Now I want you to notice something about the structure here. This is written in a form of literature called a chiastic structure. It's very, very familiar in Hebrew writing okay. Basically a chiastic structure says the same thing twice, and then sandwiches the main point in the middle. So in this: blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness; and blessed are the pure in heart. They're the same people. This is the same exact person, and it's saying exactly the same thing. I want you to notice something, that to Jesus, righteousness comes from hungering and thirsting after it - never attaining it. That actually when you look at Jesus' writings, and Jesus' teachings - those who thought they had attained righteousness, were the ones who didn't.
It was actually found in a heart that said: no, no, we'll never arrive at righteousness. We're going to constantly pursue it - so blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, they'll be filled. Blessed are the pure in heart. What is the difference between someone who's hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and someone who's pure in heart? Nothing. It's essentially the same thing and this is a very common literary structure, and it's called a chiasm. So you have: blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; blessed are the pure in heart; and the main point of it is to be a person who is full of mercy.