29 January 2017

Matthew 5:1-12

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (v. 8)

Psalm: Psalm 15


The Beatitudes - the sayings of Jesus recorded here in these verses - signal the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, and contain some of the most famous and challenging words of Jesus. That the Sermon was delivered up a mountain may suggest parallels with Moses (eg Exodus 19) and by sitting down Jesus was adopting a typical Jewish position for teaching. Jesus develops themes of integrity and authenticity, stressing the importance of a consistency between words and deeds, attitudes and behaviour.

In many ways the Beatitudes are a manifesto of counter-cultural dispositions which will be rewarded with God's blessing. They undermine a wisdom which often prevails that identifies divine blessing with worldly well-being and material success. So, "the poor in spirit", "those who mourn", "the meek", "the merciful" and "the pure in heart" are the far from obvious recipients of God's favour. These are all important attitudes which will set people free to live and work to God's praise and glory, and help realise the kingdom of heaven here on earth.

Maybe there is a contrast here with some of those around Jesus who were behaving in an apparently righteous manner, but whose inner dispositions were neither life-giving nor generous. It is not enough to be pious and live within the letter of the law if this breeds a mean spirit, injustice and hypocrisy. What inspires and motivates our actions will ultimately be exposed, and indeed will shape not just our deeds but our souls as well.

Apparently if one visited the famous tea clipper ship, the Cutty Sark, before she was damaged by fire in recent years, there was below deck a very noticeable aroma of tea. Years of transporting this precious commodity had ingrained the vessel with the smell. It gave her away and there was no denying what her cargo had been. She didn't just look like a tea clipper - she smelt of it! Likewise with those who are 'blessed' - they won't just have the appearance of following Jesus, their very lives will be infused with his Spirit and there'll be no denying it!

To Ponder

  • In what ways are the Beatitudes 'counter cultural' in your context?
  • Having read through the Beatitudes choose just one and spend time reflecting on it and praying with it
  • Using the analogy of the Cutty Sark, what do people 'smell' when they encounter you?   

Bible notes author

The Revd Graham Jones

Graham Jones is a Methodist presbyter serving as a member of the Discipleship and Ministries Learning Network in the Yorkshire Plus region of the Methodist Church, with particular responsibility for ministry development. Graham is committed to developing ministry in its broadest sense, enabling both lay and ordained to live out their vocations, and to share in God's mission in the most fulfilling and effective ways.