Soon after Jesus appointed His twelve apostles, He appeared before a large crowd and delivered His first recorded sermon known as the Sermon on the Mount. Many people were aware of the miracles Jesus was performing and were eager to hear Him teach. The message Jesus delivered was centered on the understanding that righteousness was needed to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The Jewish religious leaders known as the Pharisees also taught that righteousness was needed to enter the Kingdom of Heaven; however, they believed righteousness was attained by observing rituals and traditions. Jesus came to deliver righteousness as a gift from God to those who placed their faith in Him.
“For 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 5:20 (NIV)
The Sermon on the Mount begins with a list of statements that begin with the phrase “Blessed are the,” which are commonly referred to as the Beatitudes. Jesus uses this starting point to identify the characteristics of a righteous person and the blessings that follow.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3 (NIV)
Jesus begins with the foundation from which all righteousness flows. Those who are “poor in spirit” have come to realize they have no righteousness and therefore need to depend on God to supply their need.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4 (NIV)
Unlike the Pharisees who believed they were without sin, a truly righteous person will “mourn” the presence of sin and therefore find comfort in God.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5 (NIV)
The unrighteous believe they can do everything on their own. The righteous are the “meek” that are willing to submit to the authority of God.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6 (NIV)
If you have an appetite for a deeper understanding and relationship with God, you are on your way to righteousness.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Matthew 5:7 (NIV)
The Pharisees did not believe they had a responsibility to help the less fortunate because they believed their troubles were punishment from God. Jesus taught the exact opposite. True righteousness is exemplified by genuine concern for others.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Matthew 5:8 (NIV)
Entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven requires conformity to the holiness of God, which is unattainable through human effort. God’s unchangeable, unalterable, absolute holiness can only be attained as a gift from God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Matthew 5:9 (NIV)
The first step in becoming a “peacemaker” is to find peace with God. Those who have trusted the message of Jesus are those who have found peace with God and are therefore “called children of God.”
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:10 (NIV)
Finally, Jesus made the point that following Him would mean that the unrighteous would turn against you. Jesus taught that those who were willing to stand with Him and therefore stand against unrighteousness, would find their way into the Kingdom of Heaven.
The Pharisees believed they could work their way into the Kingdom of Heaven through their own power and observance of religious rituals and traditions. Jesus came to let us know that righteousness can only be attained through the absolute, unalterable holiness of God and is delivered as a gift to those who put their faith in Him (Ephesians 2:8-9).
“Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.” Matthew 5:12 (NIV)
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