30 October 2011

Matthew 5:1-12

"Blessed are you when people revile and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (vv. 11-12)


These words of Jesus, which he shared with his disciples, have become known as 'the Beatitudes'. The word 'beatitude' comes from the Latin word 'beatus', meaning blessed. They come at the beginning of a selection of teachings of Jesus, known as 'The Sermon on the Mount'. This event could have taken place on the hills around Galilee as the disciples sat with Jesus, but some people believe that Matthew has gathered together, as a literary device, the teachings of Jesus that occurred throughout his life into the next few chapters. Here we find a code of ethics and guidance for all aspects of life for the followers of Jesus, with stories and teaching on everything from fasting to adultery, from prayer to the use of possessions, as well as living as light in the world.

But we begin with a reminder of the values of the kingdom of God, of the people who find themselves blessed by God, and of God's purposes. At the start of his ministry Jesus had to ensure that the disciples were aware that his ministry and work were not about building a human kingdom, or overthrowing the Roman rule by force, but about living as people who were seeking to live in God's kingdom: a kingdom where meekness, purity, mercy, forgiveness, peace and goodness would be found. These were the attributes in people's lives that God would be able to bless, even when circumstances were difficult.

As well as the affirmation of God's blessing, in the final verses there is a warning for the disciples about the future. Even though they will try to live lives that will be blessed by God they will be misunderstood and persecuted. Yet even then they can rejoice and be glad, secure in the knowledge that they are walking God's way.

To Ponder

Like the disciples we are called to follow a path of peacemaking, mercy, rejoicing and purity of heart. Which of God's blessings speak to the circumstances of your life today?

If you have experienced being challenged by others 'on Jesus' account', what helps you reach that state of being able to 'rejoice and be glad'?

Bible notes author

Susan Johnson

Susan has recently moved house from the north east coast in Durham to the west coast in Cumbria. After completing eight years as the Darlington Methodist District mission and development enabler she is taking time out to explore what next, but hopes to get involved with the local foodbanks in the area.