(Read Matt 5:1-12; Luke 6: 20-49).
Blessed are the Poor in spirit. For theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3). Jesus taught his disciples what the kingdom of God will look like. The Sermon on the Mount is the most in-depth teaching of Jesus Christ. This is the longest recorded sermon of Jesus Christ. This message is not for the unsaved but for the disciples. This sermon describes how Christians should live as followers of Jesus in a broken world. This sermon has application to Christians today because it includes tax collectors, hypocrites, and false prophets. The Greek word “Blessed” simply means happy. It means deep seated inner sense of well-being and contentment regardless of adverse circumstances. True and lasting happiness come from God. Worldly pleasures give only the superficial and temporary happiness.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3). They recognize that they are sinners and in desperate need of God’s forgiveness. They admit that they are spiritually destitute without God. They are not proud and know that they can’t please God in their own strength. Those who admit their spiritual poverty will inherit the kingdom of God. The heart that is humbled before God will be transformed by the gospel of grace.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted (Matt 5:4). Those who admit their sinful condition and mourn over it will be comforted by God. Our God is the Father of mercies and God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3). God helps the helpless in their needs. Those who mourn over their sin will be comforted. Only the godly sorrow will produce repentance that leads to salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10). Those who are saved will experience joy unspeakable and full of glory (1 Peter 1:8). Joy is a Christian virtue and fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5). Those who are meek shall inherit the kingdom of God. The humble people admit before God that they are spiritually lost. Meekness is not weakness but rather “power under control”. The more we humble, the more we will rely on God’s grace. They treat others with kindness. They shall inherit the earth when Christ returns and reign with Him. These three qualities are the root of Christian life. Only those who are honest with themselves and humble before God will be blessed.
Blessed are those who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness: (Matthew 5:6). Only those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied. Hungering for righteousness is the proof of their salvation. It is the by-product of regenerated life. Natural man is spiritually blind and does not seek God (Romans 3:11). Christ came to seek and save those who are spiritually dead (Luke 19:10). Only God can satisfy our spiritual hunger. He satisfies the longing soul and fills them with goodness (Psalms 107:9).
Blessed are the Merciful, for they shall receive mercy (Matthew 5:7). God is merciful and extends mercy to all those who trust in Christ (Matthew 11:29). God knows our frame and remembers that we are dust (Psalms 103:14). Jesus became the ultimate example of mercy. He prayed “Father forgive them for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). The Christians show mercy because they have received mercy. They help those who are in need of spiritual help (Luke 10:25-37). No one can earn mercy by doing good deeds. Mercy covers multitude of sins and gently instruct those who oppose the truth (1 Peter 4:8; 2 Timothy 2:25).
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Matthew 5:8). The Christian life is transformed by the grace of God. God has saved us to be holy and blameless (Ephesians 1:4; Titus 2:14). We are not yet sinless, but we sin less (2 Corinthians 5:17). “Holy” simply means different or separate. We must pursue holiness because God is holy. Without holiness we cannot see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). The believers are made holy in Christ when they get saved. This is our identity. They should follow peace with all and holiness. The blood Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7-9).
Blessed are the Peacemakers: (Matthew 5:9). Those who believe in Christ are at peace with God (Romans 5:1). Once they were at enmity with God. There is no peace for the wicked (Isaiah 48:22). God has called us to peace (1 Corinthians 7:15). He brought peace through the death of His son Jesus Christ. Now we are reconciled to God. Those who are at peace with God can only live in peace with others (Hebrews 12:14). They are the peacemakers and will be called sons of God (Matthew 5:9). Peace flows from undivided devotion toward God (James 3:17). Jesus clearly underscores that only a transformed life can experience this peace.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake (Matthew 5:10). Christians are not exempted from persecution and suffering (John 16:33). All those who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). It does not mean every Christian will suffer death and physical abuse. They must be willing to endure affliction for the cause of Christ. They should not assimilate with world system.
Blessed are you when others mocked and lie about you on Christ account (Matthew 5:11-12). Jesus warns that believers will be mocked and abused. Someone has said “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church”. Those who suffer persecution should rejoice exceedingly because their reward will be great in heaven. Our present sufferings are not worthy to be compared with the glory which will be revealed to us (Romans 8:18). Pray that God would help us to reflect these spiritual qualities.
The Temptation of Jesus:
(Read Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13).
Following the baptism, Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. It was to prove that Jesus was without sin and that he is able to resist temptation in his human nature. Jesus said that “Satan had nothing in him” (John 14:30). Sin is rebellion against God. Out in the wilderness, Satan tried to persuade Jesus to rebel against God in the areas of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life (1 John 2:15). Jesus had fasted for forty days and forty nights. His physical hunger serves as the setting for the first temptation. Satan asked him to meet his basic human need by turning the stone into bread. Jesus refused to use his divine power to do something that benefits him. Jesus replied, “It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Deuteronomy 6:3). His source of strength was the Word of God. In the second temptation Jesus was urged to throw himself down from the pinnacle of the temple. Satan quoted Psalms 91:11-12 to seduce Jesus to disobey the Father. He was tempted to commit the presumptuous sin against God. Satan tried to bring doubts even by misquoting God’s Word. Jesus silenced Satan by saying “It is written, you shall not tempt the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 6:16). The third temptation takes place on a very high mountain. Satan has shown Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. He promised to give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if He would worship him. Satan is the prince of the world, and he is a deceiver. Jesus rebuked Satan and said “Depart from me, Satan! For it is written, you shall worship the Lord God and Him only you shall serve” (Deuteronomy 6:13). Jesus successfully obeyed God in the wilderness by quoting the Word of God. When the devil left Jesus and angels came to minister him. Though Satan is the prince of the world system, God controls all things. Satan promised things he could not deliver. Here Jesus is asserting his authority over the old serpent. Where the first Adam failed, Jesus overcame the tempter by the power of the Holy Spirit. Temptation is an enticement to do evil. Christians are not immune from temptations. But Christ promised to help us in our temptations (1 Corinthians 10:13). Jesus never sinned, He knew no sin and there is no sin in Him (1 Peter 2:22; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 3:5). We are commanded to submit to God and resist the devil. Then Satan will flee from us (James 4:7: Psalms 119:11). The victory that overcomes the world is our faith in God (1 John 5:4).
Jesus Begins His Ministry:
(Read Matthew 4:4:12-25; Mark 1:14; Luke 4:14-15).
Jesus began his ministry by proclaiming the coming kingdom of God. When Jesus heard that John the Baptist got arrested, he left Judea and went to Galilee. From this point onward, Capernaum became the center of Jesus’ ministry. Matthew gives the account of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee. It was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 9:1-2. Galilee was a despised and spiritually dark region. Jesus proclaimed, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). The kingdom blessing is available to those who repent and believe in Christ. We all struggle with temptations in this life. When our minds are conformed to the will of God, temptation will have less and less hold on us. The Bible reveals the mind of God (Psalms 119:9; Proverbs 4:23). Jesus is the King and his ministry was marked by miracles. Jesus brought kingdom blessings wherever he went. The people who lived in darkness have seen the great light. Jesus was fulfilling the Old Testament prophecy. He healed the sick and brought light to the nations (Isaiah 19:16-24). The kingdom of God is spiritual in nature now (Romans 14:17). The literal kingdom blessing promised in Isaiah 35:5-6 will be fulfilled in the future. Jesus invited Peter, Andrew, James and John to follow him. They were fisher men. They immediately left everything and followed Christ. To obey means to respond immediately in an attitude of faith. Jesus went throughout Galilee proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom of God. Great multitude followed him. The 400 years of silence was broken by the proclamation of the gospel. There is no greater calling than to become a disciple of Jesus Christ. Are you a disciple of Jesus Christ? The Lord of grace is calling you to follow him.
John the Baptist the Forerunner:
(Read Matthew 3:1-12; Mark 1:1-8; Luke 3:1-20; John 1:6-8, 15-37).
John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus Christ. He was the son of Zacharias and Elisabeth. He was also the cousin of Jesus (Luke 1:36). The significance of John’s ministry cannot be overestimated. John was a child of promise. For this is he who was spoken of by the prophets Isaiah (Isaiah 40:3). Jesus said of him that there was none greater than John during the Old Testament period. He was sent to prepare the way of the Lord and preached the message of repentance (Isaiah 40:3). John is referred as the prophet sent in the spirit of Elijah (Malachi 4:5). Repentance involves a heart-change that leads to a changed life (Matthew 3:8-10). In fact, repentance is the work of the Holy Spirit resulting a change of attitude toward God, self, and sin. True repentance leads to salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10). Faith in Christ is the flip side of repentance. Those who repent understand that they are sinners and deserve God’s punishment. They come to God trusting in his mercy. John wore the garment of camel hair and a leather belt. His food was locusts and wild honey. Locust was the food of the poorest of the poor. His ministry created great spiritual enthusiasm among people. Even religious leaders came to him to be baptized. John challenged them to prove their repentance by actions. Repentance is more than an intellectual change of mind. But it produces change of heart and behavior. In Christian life the transformation happens from inside out. Fruitless repentance is not acceptable to God. Repentance alone will not save anybody. Paul preached repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21). John baptized those who repented of their sins. John’s baptism is not the Christian baptism (Matthew 28:19). Those who believe in Jesus Christ will have everlasting life. The change of heart will produce the change of behavior.
The Baptism of Jesus:
(Read Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:31-34)
John the Baptist was surprised when Jesus came to him to be baptized. Though Jesus was sinless he was willing to be baptized by John. He submitted to John’s baptism to fulfill all righteousness (Matthew 3:11). Jesus identified with sinners whom he came to save. His baptism was a picture of his crucifixion. Christ baptizes those who believe him with the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13). The baptism by the fire speaks of the coming judgment. The fire which appeared over the disciples at Pentecost is a reference to fire that burn up chaff of sin. The unquenchable fire speaks of the eternal punishment unbelievers will suffer in the lake of fire. The word baptism means to dip or immerse in water. In Christian baptism believers demonstrate their identification with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. When Jesus went up from the water, the heavens were opened, and John saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and resting on Jesus. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased”. This was God’s verbal and divine approval of Christ (Matthew 17:5; John 12:28). The coming of the Spirit upon Jesus was the fulfillment of prophecy (Isaiah 11:2; John 1:33). John understood this as a sign that Jesus is the Messiah. The dove is the symbolism for innocence and purity. The ministry of the Holy Spirit is to glorify Christ. All three persons of the Trinity are seen here. The Father speaks, the Spirit descends, and the Son is baptized. Repentance is important and is a lifelong process because we are living in flesh and in the fallen world. Ask God to give you a humble heart to repent of your sins and a desire to share the gospel with others. Christians should never be ashamed of the gospel.
The Visit of the Wise Men:
(Read Matthew 2:1-12).
Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the days of king Herod. Herod was an Edomite who became king by Roman decree. He is known as Herod the great. Bethlehem was only five miles south of Jerusalem. About that time the wise men from the east came to Jerusalem seeking the one who has been born king of the Jews. Jesus is the only born king when all other kings became kings after their birth. The wise men were astrologers or priests from the east. They were divinely guided by the star and came to worship Christ in Jerusalem. God desires all people to worship Christ in spirit and truth (John 4:23). The creator of the universe has placed eternity in their hearts to seek God who is worthy of worship (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Many people are seeking God in wrong places. When Herod heard this, he was deeply troubled and inquired where Christ had to be born. The religious leaders told him “In Bethlehem of Judea” (Micah 5:2; Isaiah 9:6). Although God chose Israel as his special people to communicate God’s mercy and forgiveness to the rest of the world, they have failed to obey (Exodus 19:6). Here Matthew is showing how the promise made to Abraham was fulfilling to all nations (Genesis 12:3). The star appeared to wise men guided them to Bethlehem. It is unlikely that this star was a natural, since it led the wise men to Jerusalem and later to Bethlehem. It was a divine manifestation used by God to guide them. Jews of that day were anticipating the coming of their Messiah. The wise men experienced great joy in finding Jesus who is worthy of their worship. They worshiped him offering gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They signify of Jesus’ kingship, priesthood, and suffering death. They recognized Christ’s deity and his sinless perfection. Only those who recognize Jesus as God and Savior can worship him (Romans 10:9, 13). The wise men acknowledged Jesus as Lord and obeyed God. Jesus Christ is the virgin-born Son of God who is worthy of our worship. The ongoing mission of the church is making worshipers of Jesus Christ from all nations. It is done through the preaching of the gospel and discipling those who are saved. Like the wise men, those who believe in Christ find Jesus’ worthy of their worship. The greatest gift giver is God himself (2 Corinthians 9:15). Are you a worshiper of true God? Do you know Jesus Christ as the only Savior and worthy of your worship (Revelation 5:12).
The Escape to Egypt:
(Read Matthew 2:13-23; Luke 39-52).
When King Herod learned that the wise men went home another way, he became very angry. They were warned of God to do so. The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and instructed him to flee to Egypt to escape the Herod’s attempt to kill Jesus. It was the fulfillment of the Prophecy of Hosea 11:1. Since this prophecy does not directly refer to Christ, the Matthew saw this prophecy as a type of Christ. Herod was a man of brutality. He ordered the decree to slew boys who were two years and under. Here, Matthew quotes Jeremiah 31:15. When king Herod died, his son Archelaus, succeeded him. When Joseph learned that Archelaus was like his father, he was afraid to return to Bethlehem. The angel of God warned Joseph in dream to go to Nazareth of Galilee to avoid the king. So, the prophecy spoken by the prophet that Jesus would be called a Nazarene was fulfilled (Isaiah 11:1; 53:3). Joseph settled his family in Nazareth which was a Galilean village with negative reputation (John 1:46). Christ’s entire life was marked with insults and rejection (Isaiah 53:3). He was despised by people (Mark 6:3-6). From the world’s standpoint, Jesus seemed unimpressive and foolish (1 Corinthians 1:22). But in Christ was hidden the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 2:7). Jesus gladly embraced humiliation to identify with us. He did not claim celebrity status of a typical king. Jesus suffered rejection for the sake of our acceptance. He did not come to save the righteous but sinners. Do you know that you are a sinner and in need of a Savior? Are you saved by believing in Jesus Christ?