Most people who have read the first two books of the Bible know of a famous mountain called Mount Sinai where the law of God, the Ten Commandments were spoken by God and written with His finger on tables of stone. But have you heard of what is called the Sinai of the New Testament?
In the Old Testament it is predicted concerning the Messiah that “He will magnify the law, and make it honorable.” Isaiah 42:21 KJV. To magnify means to look at it under a magnifying glass. Jesus did that very thing when He spoke the Sermon on the Mount. He expounded on the law, making it honorable. This sermon has been called the Decalogue of the New Testament, or the Mount Sinai of the New Testament, because in it we take a look at the law of God under the magnifying glass of the Lawgiver to understand in detail what really is the spirit and nature of God’s law.
In His sermon, Jesus restated and explained the law for everyday living in practical terms that children can understand. So, the thunders of Mount Sinai reecho in the beatitudes of Him who is living the law. Not only did Jesus give to His disciples a model prayer, He preached before them a model sermon, which was the greatest sermon that had ever been listened to by mortal man. It was the master sermon by the master Preacher.
In Matthew 5, 6, and 7, eternal truths were spoken by Him Who is the truth and therefore the author of all truth. It is a proclamation of the eternal realities of the kingdom of heaven. This sermon has been studied because of its matchless beauty. More important than this, however, are the basic fundamental principles that it contains. The Sermon on the Mount is an unabridged edition of the law—a summary of all truth—and has been called a miniature Bible because it is made up of quotations from the Old Testament or restatements of its truths. It seems that Jesus selected the most priceless gems out of the writings of all the prophets and set them down in a way that even children can understand.
This sermon has also been appropriately called Christ’s inaugural address because in it He enunciated the principles which are to control the administration of His eternal kingdom, the kingdom of grace, and spells out the qualifications for heavenly citizenship. The conditions by which we can expect to enter the kingdom of heaven are clearly pointed out, as well as who will be there and who will not be there. All the citizens of the heavenly kingdom will live in harmony with the eternal principles that have been set out within God’s law.
Because of the significance of this occasion, let us examine the setting of Jesus’ sermon. Jesus had spent the entire night before in prayer, and in the morning He had selected and ordained the twelve apostles, who were to constitute a cabinet to help Him administer the affairs of this spiritual kingdom. They were to be His special ministers or ambassadors. In fact, Jesus said in Matthew 19:27, 28 that the twelve apostles would later be crowned as kings. Their office was the most important to which human beings have ever been called, second only to Christ Himself.
In fact, the twelve apostles are so important that the Bible records in Revelation 21:14, that throughout eternal ages, their names will be written, emblazoned, inscribed, on the twelve foundations of the New Jerusalem, the capital city of the universe.
This Sermon on the Mount was not only the greatest of all sermons, but it was preached to a very large and interesting audience that was composed of people from Galilee, Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond Jordan. See Matthew 4:25.
The congregation that listened to Christ was made up of all classes of men, women, and children, representing every condition of life. There were proud Pharisees, poor fishermen, and rich rulers from the palace. There were poor peasants along with the wise and those who were uneducated and ignorant. There were those who were believers and those who were doubters. Many races of men and various religious creeds were represented in the audience. It was a cross section of humanity who had gathered to listen to Jesus’ words because they had feelings of great expectancy. What were they expecting? This gathering had a political aspect because Jesus’s fame had filled the people with new hopes and aspirations.
They hoped that He was the Messiah and they expected Him on this occasion to proclaim His mission as such and to make an announcement regarding the setting up of His kingdom. They were looking for the least excuse to proclaim and crown Him king. The disciples of Jesus also shared these feelings of expectancy. Their thoughts were filled with visions of future glory, and power, and wealth, when they believed that the nation of Israel would become the central power of the world and that they would be the center of a worldwide kingdom.
These were the ambitions, the expectations that had brought together this great company of people. The expectation of His audience gave Jesus the subject or the theme for His sermon, which was the kingdom of heaven. It was His purpose to correct the popular misconception concerning the nature of His kingdom that He had come to establish, for their expectations had completely unfitted them to receive Him and His teachings. The only kingdom that the Jews seemed to know anything about was an earthly temporal kingdom. The disciples were no different. They never lost this conception during the whole time Jesus was on earth until after Pentecost when they finally got their thinking partially straightened out.
There is danger today that modern Israel, the Christians of today, will make the same mistake. By becoming so thrilled over the prospects of the coming kingdom of glory that is clearly predicted in the Bible and to be established at the Second Advent of Christ, there is danger that in anticipating this, we will lose sight of the spiritual phase of His kingdom, which must be first established in the individual’s heart.
None of us will ever enter the kingdom of glory until the kingdom of grace has entered our heart. Until the first phase of the kingdom of heaven has been accomplished in our lives, we can never enter into the second phase. The first phase of God’s kingdom is the kingdom of grace that Jesus established by dying on the cross. The second phase of God’s kingdom will be the kingdom of glory that will be established when He comes again.
Jesus’ sermon is a summary of the Bible, and like the Ten Commandments or the Lord’s Prayer, it is of universal application. It appeals and applies to all races and to all ages.
One time in India, there was a large crowd which had gathered at a railway station to hear Mahatma Ghandi speak. After greeting the people, he opened a New Testament and read to them the beatitudes and then he said, “This is my message to you. Act upon it.” That was all the speech he made on that occasion, but that was enough.
The eight beatitudes constitute a ladder, an advancing road of Christian experience. They contain natural and logical steps in spiritual growth and development that take us into the kingdom of God. The word beatitude comes from a Latin word which means blessed or happy. So the beatitude ladder is a blessed ladder or happy experience. It is similar or synonymous with the words consecrated, hallowed, happy, sacred, or holy. Only a consecrated, holy people can enter the kingdom of heaven. And the journey must be made by way of the beatitude ladder. You start on the first rung, and you advance up the road. Each beatitude takes you to an advanced step. It is called the way of holiness in the Bible and it leads eventually to Zion (Isaiah 35:8). The result is that those who travel this ladder will obtain joy and gladness, they will return to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads, and sorrow and sighing will flee away (Isaiah 35:10).
This way, however, as Jesus pointed out, is a narrow way. In fact, Jesus said that there will be few people in this world who find it. The great majority of the world will go down a broad way which leads to destruction. Jesus said that the way that leads to life is a narrow way, and only a few compared to the world population will find it (Matthew 7:14).
It is a narrow way that leads to eternal life and Jesus points out exactly what that way is. He said that it is so narrow that it excludes all evil and all evildoers. It is a path, a narrow way for the righteous or the just and it has ever increasing illumination until those who walk in it reach the perfect day of spiritual light and experience.
Blessed is a word that was used by Jesus, not to refer alone to joy and happiness, but to that higher joy which is the result of divine favor. What Jesus came to give to us is infinitely greater and better than that which we had been seeking for ourselves.
One of the first things that we notice when we read the beatitudes in Matthew 5, is that true happiness is the result of a holy character rather than that of outward conditions or circumstances. Remember the word translated “blessed” could be translated “happy.” It says in Matthew 5:2, “Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ ” God has always had a special regard for the poor in this world. Notice what the mother of Jesus, the virgin Mary said in Luke 1:46–48: “ ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant.’ ”
The mother of Jesus and also his earthly father were poor people. Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Why is that? Until we recognize our need, we will never come to the Lord for help. In the same song of Mary, in Luke 1:52 and 53, she said, “He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty.”
Why has He “sent away” the rich “empty”? Because they didn’t feel a need of anything. One of the first requirements to be saved is that you need to feel your need of salvation. As long as you are proud and self-sufficient, there is not very much that God can do for you. But when you feel your need and ask for His help, the Holy Spirit will come into your life and start to recreate within you a new heart and a new spirit.
In the second beatitude Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn” (Matthew 5:4). How can you be happy if you are mourning?
Notice what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 7:8, 9: “… even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while. Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance.” Repentance occurs when you are sorry enough for your sin to turn away from it. This is misunderstood today. If you are not sorry enough for your sins to quit them, you have not really repented of them.
Paul says, “… I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing.” He continues in verse 10: “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.”
What is the difference? The people in this world are sorry when they get caught in their sins, but godly sorrow occurs when you are sorry because you have committed the sin, because you realize that you have done something against your heavenly Father and you have done something that caused Jesus Christ to go to the cross. The Bible says that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins. When you understand the consequence of sin and the price that Jesus Christ paid for them, you will never be able to enjoy sin again. You will then have godly sorrow for sin. You will not want to have anything to do with it. You will not just be sorry that you got caught.
“For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourself to be clear in this matter (verse 11).” There are many people today who have never been sorry for their sins. They have never really mourned for their sins or repented for their sins, and yet, they somehow think they are going to the kingdom of heaven.
However, this is a second step in the plan of salvation. If you are going to walk up the narrow road, not only must you feel your need, but you must also come to the place where you mourn for and repent of your sins. But that is not enough; there’s something that comes after that. In the third beatitude Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).
Now the meek do not inherit the earth as it is today. We live in a world that is controlled by force. The strongest become the richest and the most powerful. But the time is coming when the proud will not be living in the world anymore. Notice what it says in Malachi 4:1: “ ‘Behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,’ says the Lord of hosts.”
The day is coming when there will not be any proud people living in the world. The Bible says that the meek people will inherit the earth. A meek person is one who is gentle and humble. The time is coming when the only people on the face of the earth will be the meek—the gentle and humble.
Jesus does not ask of us anything that He has not demonstrated in His own life. Concerning Himself, He said in Matthew 11:28–30, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Jesus wants to deliver you from all your pride, from all your self-importance. He wants to help you become a meek person. Through His Holy Spirit He wants to recreate within you a new heart and a new spirit so that you will be gentle, meek, humble. Then you will be in a spiritual condition, where, when the world is made again, when the kingdom of glory is set up, you will be one who can inhabit the earth.
Then He says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6). Do you hunger and thirst for righteousness? The apostle John talks about how righteousness defines and demonstrates which people are really children of God and which people are children of the devil. It is not your profession that makes the determination; it’s the life you live. Notice what he says in I John 3:4–10: “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.
“Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.
“In this [or by this] the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.”
However wicked you may have been, if you would like to be righteous, and if you say, “Lord, I am hungering and thirsting for righteousness,” the Lord says, “Your desire is going to be filled. You are going to be satisfied.”
If you are hungering and thirsting for righteousness, if you realize that you are a wicked person but you do not want to be that way, you need to be recreated and born again. The Lord Jesus promises that, if you hunger and thirst for righteousness, your hunger and thirst will be satisfied.
Jesus then said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7), James says in James 2:13 that there will be no mercy for the person that does not show mercy. Are you a merciful person? That is the next step in the road that leads to heaven. These beatitudes take you up a narrow road that leads to the kingdom of heaven. Are you willing to walk that road? If you are willing to walk that narrow road, when Jesus comes back, you will wind up in the kingdom of heaven. If that is what you want, if that is what you choose, if you act accordingly, that will be your destiny.
(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church of Free Seventh-day Adventists in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.