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Matthew 5:7-12

Lesson Focus

In the Beatitudes, we are first given God’s grace amid our brokenness. Then we are called to respond to the grace we have been given by sharing it with others. If we are faithful, we will be persecuted.

Lesson Outcomes

Through this lesson, students should:

  1. Understand that God gives us grace while we are broken.

  2. Understand that we are called to respond to the grace we have received by giving it to others.

  3. Faithfulness to God’s kingdom will bring about persecution.

Catch up on the Story

Last week we began our study of the Beatitudes. We said at the very beginning that before Jesus gets around to giving any commands, he offers words of grace. Indeed, that’s what a beatitude is, a blessing, a gift of grace.

We also said that the language of these Beatitudes is in the present tense, the present continuous tense, meaning the action is happening in the current moment with continuing effects in the future. God has promised to be with us and to work for us for all time.

Through each beatitude, we notice that this grace comes to us, not when we’ve got everything figured out, but in our poverty, devastated brokenheartedness, insignificance, and relational brokenness with God and others.

God has not made it hard for us to enter his kingdom; he promises to give us what we need to participate fully in that kingdom.

We called those first beatitudes the Beatitudes of Grace. This week, we’ll look at the rest of the beatitudes, which we can split up into two sections. The first we’ll call the Beatitudes of Response, and the second, the Beatitudes of Pushback. That’ll make sense in a moment.

Matthew 5:1-12

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

3 “Blessings on the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 “Blessings on those who are devastatingly brokenhearted (mourn), for they will be comforted.

5 “Blessings on the the insignificant little people (meek), for they will inherit the earth.

6 “Blessings on those who are hungering and thirsting for righteousness, for they will be filled.

7 “Blessings on those who are steadfastly loyal and loving (merciful = hesed)), for they will receive steadfast loyalty and love (mercy).

8 “Blessings on those who watch and ponder what God says and replace their own ideas with the ways of God (pure in heart), for they will see God.

9 “Blessings on those who seek shalom –peace, well-being and wholeness for the whole world (peacemakers), for they will be called children of God.

10 “Blessings on those who are subject to ill treatment, banishment, or rejection (persecuted) for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessings on you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. *Author’s paraphrased version.

The Beatitudes of Response

"Blessings on those who are steadfastly loyal and loving (merciful = hesed), for they will receive steadfast loyalty and love (mercy).”

In the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, the word used to describe God’s steadfast love and faithfulness toward us, his hesed, is often translated as “mercy.” For us, mercy amounts to “steadfastly loyal and loving.” It is the idea that love and faithfulness will be the word of the day regardless of circumstances.

We have received God’s grace because of our poverty, our mourning, our meekness, and our hungering after righteousness.

Now, the tables have turned, and the grace we have and will continue to receive, we must give to others. As we are steadfastly loyal and loving, so will God be steadfastly loyal and loving to us. The more we give steadfast love, the more God gives it back to us.

This Beatitude is cyclical. The only way we stop receiving God’s steadfast love and faithfulness is if we fail to pass it on to others. Grace and the things we receive from God because of his grace are never meant to be stored up. They are always meant to be passed on to others.

“Blessings on those who watch and ponder what God says and replace their own ideas with the ways of God (pure in heart), for they will see God.

Nailing down what “pure in heart” means is a bit difficult. It might help if we imagine the heart as being the metaphorical center of our being. It is the center from which we do and will do one thing or another. From it spring our desires (love) for ourselves and for others.

To be impure then is to will and do that which is contrary to the will and way of God. The way we have rendered “pure in heart” as “those who watch and ponder what God says and replace their own ideas with the ways of God” comes from some of Martin Luther’s thoughts on the Beatitudes (Bruner, 176).

I find this image of pondering what God says and, consequently, what God has done, to be rather helpful. When we sit down and seek to allow God to reveal himself and his ways to us, he will. But knowing God’s will and ways and doing them is one thing. The second part of our translation comes into play at this point: we must replace our ideas about how things should be with God’s ideas.

This Beatitude is cyclical as well. The more we seek to truly see God and his will, the more God shows it to us, and the better prepared we are to do that will.

God’s blessing is with and for us, enabling us to have a pure heart so that we can see and do God’s will to an ever-deeper degree. What we seek—knowing God and God’s will—is what we then receive—seeing God.

Here we can go back to last week’s text. Christ has brought the light. Part of what we begin to see is Jesus himself, who is the best representation of God we have. Jesus helps us replace our thoughts about who God is with Jesus’ picture of who God is.

“Blessings on those who seek shalom –peace, well-being, and wholeness for the whole world (peacemakers), for they will be called children of God.”

In the final Beatitude in this section, we are told that God is with and for those who actively work for peace.

Peace, or shalom as we find it in the Old Testament, is never only about the absence of conflict. It is always about the complete well-being and wholeness of the world.

Peace is individual, and it is universal. At times, peace may be the active entrance into the middle of warring parties for the purpose of creating reconciliation.

Because of the grace we have already received, we can now act as peacemakers and workers for well-being and wholeness.

Now, as we continue to learn what it means to be followers of Jesus, we get to pass on peace to others. We cannot be children of God if we do not give our lives over to shalom. God has given us shalom, making us children of God. Now, we must, as with the other Beatitudes in this section, respond to the peace we have received by continuing to give it. The more peace we give, the more peace we get.

The Beatitudes of Pushback

These final two Beatitudes we will call “The Beatitudes of Pushback.” The reason for the name is because if we live in the manner indicated by the Beatitudes of Response, we will receive pushback.

When we live with steadfast loyalty and love towards all of God’s creation, even our enemies, we are bound to be pushed around.

When we seek to replace our own understandings of the way the world works with the way God wants the world to work, we are going to be kicked about.

When we live in a radically counter-cultural way of seeking the well-being and wholeness of all the world, we will have evil done against us.

Why? Because the world does not value righteousness. The world operates not on steadfast love and faithfulness but by the bottom line; how much can I get for myself?

Our culture does not ask us to contemplate God’s way, and it asks us to make our own meaning out of things.