Theirs Is the Kingdom of Heaven
Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:1-3)
The Sermon on the Mount is regarded as the greatest sermon preached in history, for it is a sermon preached by the Lord Jesus himself. “The Sermon” is a condensed teaching of Christ the King as he instructs his disciples about life in his kingdom. As we have preached through the Gospel of Matthew at The Trails, we condensed “the sermon” into “a” sermon, since Providence Church, our sending church, did a lengthy series on the passage just a few years ago. However, in light of the recent circumstances we face due to the Coronavirus, the elders of The Trails thought it would be beneficial to release a series of blog posts each Wednesday (Lord willing) as one of many efforts to equip our body in our mission of being and making disciples.
As Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount, the first word out of his mouth is blessed. (5:3) We will see the word ‘blessed’ used nine times before we are done with these opening eleven verses of our passage, so it calls for a brief word of explanation. The word typically translated ‘blessed’ is the Greek word makarios, which can also rightly be translated as ‘happy.’ However, the word ‘happy’ doesn’t quite carry as many contours and colors as our word blessedness. Blessedness traces its origin to the source, God himself, the author of blessedness. (1 Timothy 1:11)
Before we move on, don’t miss the connection of what Jesus says even with this one word. Here, we find Christ, the Son of David (Matt. 1:1), beginning his royal edict with the same word as King David of old. Psalm 1:1 opens with the same word: “Blessed is the man.” While Psalm 1 presents a picture of blessedness by living in the word of God, Matthew 5 complements this truth, showing the comprehensive nature of the blessedness found in Christ.
The Poor in Spirit
Blessed are the poor in spirit. The poverty spoken of here is not a financial description; neither is it a description of self-worthlessness, or low self-esteem, or false humility. The poor in spirit have come to the end of themselves and realize they have no hope of saving themselves spiritually. The poor in Spirit are all of those who have casted all of their faith and hope on Christ alone. Spurgeon said, “Spiritual poverty is both commanded and commended. It is the basis of Christian experience.” To be spiritually poor is a condition of the soul, and it is a requirement for entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven. We might say to be spiritually poor is to file bankruptcy in regard to our own righteousness and ask the Lord for his mercy toward us. Yet, this is a great reality – while we come to Christ with penniless souls, we gain an incalculable reward in being his people, rich in every spiritual blessing. (Eph. 1:7)
As followers of Christ, let me briefly remind you of the sweetness of this truth. Each of us who have come to saving faith in Jesus came to him with the same confession of sin: there is absolutely nothing we could do to maneuver, or buy, or excuse our way out of our defaulted, sinful condition. Augustus Toplady poetically describes our desperate condition when Christ found us:
Nothing in my hand I bring
Simply to the cross I cling
Naked, come to thee for dress,
Helpless, look to thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly,
Wash me Savior, or I die.
And here lies the beauty of the gospel: while we had nothing to offer, Christ chose us. We had nothing to clothe our sinfulness; Christ clothed us with his own righteousness. We were covered in sin; Christ washed us white as snow. Now in Christ – we stand wonderfully accepted, forgiven, and loved beyond our wildest dreams. It’s such good news. We are blessed.
As we find ourselves separated in the coming weeks from one another, I pray that we will live with a deep sense of the kingdom of heaven that we have been welcomed into by the work of Christ. It is in this reality that we will find blessedness that is deeper than the world can touch.
I also pray that Christ will be working through us as a church, specifically in seeking out those who are in the same condition we once were: separated from God by sin, and writing checks we could never cash. Remember the great compassion which drove Christ to the poor in spirit: the outcast (the leper, 8:1-4), the poor (the woman with the issue of blood, 9:19-22), the paralyzed (9:1-7), those calling to him for mercy (the blind men, 9:27-31), even the dead (9:23-25). As we have seen him bringing in the kingdom of God, let’s walk by faith that the Christ who met us in our spiritual poverty might meet more of our family, friends, and neighbors today.