LIVING OUT KINGDOM DISTINCTIVES MEANS THAT ONE WILL ENJOY BIG-TIME BLESSINGS EVEN WHEN PERSECUTED FOR THE SAKE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
Rather than refer to this discipleship discourse as it is commonly known as “The Sermon on the Mount” I have chosen to label it Kingdom Distinctives. The focus should not be on the location of this oratorical masterpiece but on the unique content as it defines the citizens of the kingdom.
William Barclay: One great scholar called the Sermon on the Mount ‘the Ordination Address to the Twelve’. Just as young ministers have their task set out before them, when they are called to take charge of their first churches, so the Twelve received from Jesus their ordination address before they went out to their task. It is for that reason that other scholars have given other titles to the Sermon on the Mount. It has been called ‘the Compendium of Christ’s Doctrine’, ‘the Magna Carta [the charter of liberties] of the Kingdom’ and ‘the Manifesto of the King’. All are agreed that in the Sermon on the Mount we have the essence of the teaching of Jesus to the inner circle of his chosen disciples. . .
True, it will find its fullness and its consummation in the presence of God; but, for all that, it is a present reality to be enjoyed here and now. The beatitudes in effect say: ‘O the bliss of being a Christian! O the joy of following Christ! O the sheer happiness of knowing Jesus Christ as Master, Saviour and Lord!’ The very form of the beatitudes is the statement of the joyous thrill and the radiant gladness of the Christian life. In the light of the beatitudes, a gloom-encompassed Christianity is unthinkable.
Leon Morris: Matthew’s method is to give some important teaching of Jesus in the form of comparatively lengthy discourses (he has five major discourses), interspersed with other aspects of his ministry, such as healing and the instruction of disciples. Now that he has introduced Jesus’ ministry with the call of disciples and with the explanation that Jesus taught, preached, and healed, Matthew comes to the first great section of teaching, usually called “The Sermon on the Mount.”
Grant Osborne: The current tendency is to see the Sermon through the lens of inaugurated eschatology, that keeping the commands should be the goal of all believers but that they will be fully observed only after Christ has returned. . . There is a distinct wisdom flavor in the sermon, but primarily it is the new laws for the kingdom age, intended as an ethical model to be followed by the new citizens of the kingdom community.
In Matthew’s gospel the Sermon immediately follows the summary of Jesus’ kingdom preaching (4:17, 23) and must be seen in that light. Therefore it establishes the ethical standards of righteousness for Jesus’ followers. Overman says, “This section of the gospel has as its primary focus the ordering of relationships and behavior within the community.” France calls this “The Discourse on Discipleship,” centering on the radically new lifestyle demanded of Jesus’ followers who will become a “Christian counter-culture.” In that sense it is the law of the new covenant, the demands of discipleship in the eschatological community brought by Christ. It is not a new messianic Torah but rather a transformation of the Torah of the OT into the Torah of the Messiah.
Craig Blomberg: Inaugurated eschatology thus seems most in keeping with Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom more generally. Inaugurated eschatology recognizes an “already/not yet” tension in which the sermon’s ethic remains the ideal or goal for all Christians in every age but which will never be fully realized until the consummation of the kingdom at Christ’s return.
J. C. Ryle: Let us learn how entirely contrary are the principles of Christ to the principles of the world. It is vain to deny it. They are almost diametrically opposed. The very characters which the Lord Jesus praises, the world despises. The very pride, thoughtlessness, high tempers, worldliness, selfishness, formality, and unlovingness which abound everywhere, the Lord Jesus condemns.
Charles Swindoll: The very first word in the Greek translation of the book of Psalms is makarios: “Blessed [makarios] is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly” (Ps. 1:1, KJV). The theme of blessing is carried on throughout the collection of songs, with the term appearing twenty-five times in the Psalms. It expresses the positive benefits of a life of faithfulness. The Greek term originally conveyed “the happy estate of the gods above earthly sufferings and labors. Later it came to mean any positive condition a person experienced.” From the Latin word beatus, a translation of makarios, we get the term “Beatitudes,” used to describe the repeated use of the adjective in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:1-12). Here the term describes transcendent happiness, the kind that neither depends upon earthly fortunes nor falters before temporal hardships. A “blessed” person possesses what we would call true joy. . .
Through these words, Jesus —with penetrating insight —exposed the brittle veneer of all self-righteousness prevalent in His day . . . and in ours. He explained the essence of true righteousness, which leads to a deep-seated joy. Weaving threads from the Old Testament throughout this garment of truth, the heir of the throne of David set forth principles that must never be ignored by subjects of His kingdom. Yet how few truly embrace Jesus’ words!
Bob Deffinbaugh: I’m with Hughes in his commentary when he says that probably the primary sense of the word “blessed” here is the sense of approval. It is saying that God has expressed His approval on these people. To be blessed is to be approved by God, and I think that probably fits my view as well.
E. Michael Green: To follow Jesus demands a totally different way of life, and is vital for the people of God. Right at the outset of his ministry Jesus lays it on the line. The new age has dawned. And the Sermon shows what human life is like after repentance and commitment to the King. In a word, life is very different. The injunction “Do not be like them” (6:8) encapsulates the tone of the whole Sermon. A sharp contrast is constantly being drawn between the standards of Jesus and those of all others. Here we meet a distinctive lifestyle, with radically different values and ambitions. Everything is at variance with life outside the kingdom.
Warren Wiersbe: The King’s Principles: True Righteousness –
I have always felt that Matthew 5:20 was the key to this important sermon: “For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” The main theme is true righteousness. The religious leaders had an artificial, external righteousness based on law. But the righteousness Jesus described is a true and vital righteousness that begins internally, in the heart. The Pharisees were concerned about the minute details of conduct, but they neglected the major matter of character. Conduct flows out of character.
Donald Hagner: The righteousness described here is to be the goal of the Christian in this life, although it will only be attained fully in the eschaton proper. It is primarily an ethics concerning the individual, but it is not without implications for social ethics. The radical nature of the sermon must not be lost in a privatization of its ethics. . .
What must be stressed here, however, is that the kingdom is presupposed as something given by God. The kingdom is declared as a reality apart from any human achievement. Thus the beatitudes are, above all, predicated upon the experience of the grace of God.
David Platt: The last thing we need to come away with is an imposing and crushing laundry list of things that we must do in order to be accepted by God. When you read the Sermon on the Mount, you should not walk away thinking, “I must turn the other cheek in order to be accepted by God. I must love my enemies and pray for those who persecute me in order to be accepted by God. I must follow the Golden Rule perfectly in order to be accepted by God.” We are not accepted by God because of anything that we do. We are accepted by God completely and totally because of a perfect Savior who has died a bloody death in our place and who has risen again in victory. Yes, we pray for our enemies, we love those who persecute us, and we follow the Golden Rule. But we do these things not in order to earn acceptance before our God, but because we have acceptance by God and we want to glorify Him in everything that we do.
R. Kent Hughes: The Sermon on the Mount is the compacted, congealed theology of Christ and as such is perhaps the most profound section of the entire New Testament and the whole Bible. Every phrase can bare exhaustive exposition and yet never be completely plumbed… . It shows us exactly where we stand in relation to the kingdom and eternal life. As we expose ourselves to the X-rays of Christ’s words, we see whether we truly are believers; and if believers, the degree of the authenticity of our lives. No other section of Scripture makes us face ourselves like the Sermon on the Mount.
(:1-2) PROLOGUE TO THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT
A. (:1a) Typology of Mountaintop Revelation
“And when He saw the multitudes, He went up on the mountain;”
Charles Swindoll: Jesus’ miracles had drawn crowds from all over the regions of Galilee, Syria, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and even beyond the Jordan (4:23-25). A group this large would have had not only diverse backgrounds and beliefs but also different life experiences, different struggles, and different levels of commitment to spiritual things. In addition to regional differences, Jesus’ audience contained people old and young, male and female, well-off and poor, religious and rebellious. With such a diverse group of people, what would Jesus preach? What lessons could He possibly teach that would minister to all of them together and each of them individually? The fundamentals of life. These essential principles would transcend language, culture, gender, age, and class.
Donald Hagner: These introductory verses indicate that Jesus addresses primarily the disciples in the sermon. The crowds prompt him to go to the mountain where he can teach his disciples in relative privacy. Yet from the way in which Matthew ends the great sermon, “the crowds” too had gathered and heard the teaching and were amazed at the authority of his teaching (7:28–29).
E. Michael Green: The main point about the mountain here is the parallel to Mount Sinai. Moses went up Mount Sinai to get the law from God to give to the people of Israel. And now Moses’ great successor ascends a mountain to receive from his Father and transmit to his disciples the law of the kingdom. We have a new law for a new people given on a new mountain by a new Moses. That is the context of the Sermon.
B. (:1b) Target Audience
“and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him.”
Grant Osborne: The disciples were those committed to following Jesus (4:18–22) and were closely involved in his ministry. They are the ones expected to live by the principles elucidated in the message that follows.
Charles Swindoll: The “disciples” (5:1) who had come to Him to hear the message included many more than just Jesus’ inner circle of Peter, James, John, Andrew, and select others. This is evidenced at the end of the sermon, where Matthew reports, “When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching” (7:28).
Donald Hagner: It was customary in Judaism for the rabbi to teach from a seated position. Thus Jesus sat down (καθίσαντος αὐτοῦ) before he began to teach (cf. 13:2; 24:3). Jesus, somewhat like a new Moses, goes up to the mount to mediate the true interpretation of the Torah. . . Jesus can teach as he does because of his unique identity as the Messiah, the Son of God. His teaching alone, and not that contained in the Pharisaic oral tradition, penetrates to the full meaning of God’s commandments. Thus Jesus majestically assumes his authority as teacher and begins in a definitive manner to expound the way of righteousness to his disciples.
William Barclay: Jesus began to teach when he had sat down. When a Jewish Rabbi was teaching officially, he sat to teach. We still speak of a professor’s chair; the pope still speaks ex cathedra, from his seat. Often a Rabbi gave instruction when he was standing or strolling about; but his really official teaching was done when he had taken his seat. So, the very intimation that Jesus sat down to teach his disciples is the indication that this teaching is central and official.
John Nolland: As radical as its demands are, this is no manual for an exclusive spiritual elite. Its concern to elucidate the will of God is based on theological and ethical considerations and is not linked to a distinctive call for an exclusive few. The double audience of disciples and crowds fits in with this: the disciples learn from within the context of a relationship of committed discipleship, but that which they learn has pertinence as well to all the others who hear.
C. (:2) Teaching Gravity
“And opening His mouth He began to teach them, saying,”
William Barclay: This phrase he opened his mouth is not simply a decoratively roundabout way of saying he said. In Greek, the phrase has a double significance.
(a) In Greek, it is used of a solemn, grave and dignified utterance. It is used, for instance, of the saying of an oracle. It is the natural preface for a most weighty saying.
(b) It is used when people really open their hearts and fully pour out their minds. It is used of intimate teaching with no barriers between.
Again, the very use of this phrase indicates that the material in the Sermon on the Mount is no chance piece of teaching. It is the grave and solemn utterance of the central things; it is the opening of Jesus’ heart and mind to those men who were to be his right-hand men in his task. . .
The Sermon on the Mount is greater even than we think. Matthew in his introduction wishes us to see that it is the official teaching of Jesus; that it is the opening of Jesus’ whole mind to his disciples; that it is the summary of the teaching which Jesus habitually gave to his inner circle. The Sermon on the Mount is nothing less than the concentrated memory of many hours of heart-to-heart communion between the disciples and their Master.
R. T. France: The focus of these chapters is not then the wider proclamation of the “good news of the kingdom,” (4:23) but the instruction of those who have already responded to that proclamation, and now need to learn what life in the “kingdom of heaven” is really about. The teaching will frequently describe them as a special group who stand over against, and indeed are persecuted by, people in general. They are those who have entered into a new relationship with “your Father in heaven,” and who in consequence are called to a radically new life-style, in conscious distinction from the norms of the rest of society. They are to be an alternative society, a “Christian counter-culture.”
It is because of this distinctive focus of chs. 5–7 that I have preferred to call this the “Discourse on Discipleship” rather than use the familiar but non-descriptive title “Sermon on the Mount,” a term which too often conveys to modern hearers the concept of a general code of ethics rather than the specific demands of the kingdom of heaven. . .
The discourse is indeed intended as a guide to life, but only for those who are committed to the kingdom of heaven, and even they will always find that its reach exceeds their grasp.
I. (:3-9) THE 7 BEATITUDES STRESSING BLESSINGS ASSOCIATED WITH RIGHTEOUS CHARACTER EXPRESSED IN RIGHTEOUS LIVING
A. (:3) Poor in Spirit
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
R. C. Ryle: He means the humble, the lowly-minded, and the self-abased. He means those who are deeply convinced of their own sinfulness in God’s sight. These are they who are not wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight. They are not rich and wealthy. They do not imagine that they need nothing. They regard themselves as wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. Blessed are all such! Humility is the very first letter in the alphabet of Christianity. We must begin low if we would build high.
Leon Morris: It is the opposite of the Pharisaic pride in one’s own virtue with which Jesus was so often confronted (and which has all too often made its appearance in later times). . .
Of these lowly people Jesus says, theirs is the kingdom of heaven. We should understand this in the sense of consequence rather than reward. In no sense do they merit the kingdom, but being what they are they possess it.
Charles Swindoll: those who realize their own utter helplessness and absence of spiritual merit. The only response to such realization is total dependence on the Lord God for spiritual riches. Pride, arrogance, and haughtiness are banished in the life of true happiness, contentment, and joy. This is the attitude expressed in the great hymn of Augustus Toplady, “Rock of Ages”:
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.
By giving up the foolish agenda of building our own kingdoms of dirt here on earth, we truly participate in Christ’s kingdom agenda. We serve under His sovereign rule, allowing Him to direct our steps while He gets the glory He deserves.
Donald Hagner: In Israel, especially in the post-exilic period, poverty and piety often went together, the poor (Luz refers to the “déclassé”) having no other recourse than their hope in God. The poor were driven to complete reliance upon God, and the righteous poor were thought especially to be the objects of God’s special concern (cf. Pss 9:18; 33:18; 40:18; Isa 57:15; Jas 2:5). The poor were particularly in view in expressions of eschatological hope. In a passage alluded to in Matt 11:5, Isaiah (61:1) writes:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good tidings to the afflicted [poor];
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.
This passage is almost certainly the basis for the present beatitude. The good news that has now come to the poor is that the kingdom is “theirs” (αὐτῶν is in an emphatic position). Thus this opening beatitude points to eschatological fulfillment (cf. the citation of Isa 61:1–2 and the beginning of Jesus’ Galilean ministry in Luke 4:18–19).
D. A. Carson: The natural conclusion is that, though the full blessedness of those described in these beatitudes awaits the consummated kingdom, they already share in the kingdom’s blessedness so far as it has been inaugurated.
B. (:4) Those Who Mourn
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
J. C. Ryle: He means those who sorrow over sin and grieve daily over their own shortcomings. These are they who trouble themselves more about sin than about anything on earth. The remembrance of it is grievous to them. The burden of it is intolerable. Blessed are all such! The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart. One day they shall weep no more. They shall be comforted.
Charles Swindoll: This doesn’t mean that God calls us to permanent depression or to hum a constant dirge. As Ecclesiastes wisely affirms, “There is an appointed time for everything. . . . A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance” (Eccl. 3:1, 4). What Jesus is saying is that when we mourn for the woes and wrongs of this world, we can take comfort in the here and now that one day the wrongs will be righted, death will be dealt a death blow itself, and God will wipe away every tear from our eyes (Rev. 21:4).
Donald Hagner: Those who mourn do so because of the seeming slowness of God’s justice. But they are now to rejoice, even in their troubled circumstances, because their salvation has found its beginning. The time draws near when they shall be comforted (cf. Rev. 7:17; 21:4), but they are already to be happy in the knowledge that the kingdom has arrived. Their salvation is at hand.
R. T. France: This verse illustrates the danger of treating the first half of a beatitude in isolation from the second half. To say simply that those who mourn are “happy” would clearly be nonsense. Their “happiness” consists in the fact that they will be comforted.
Bob Deffinbaugh: Mourning is the appropriate response to sin, and the appropriate manifestation of mourning is repentance. But there is the other side of the coin. Just as mourning is the appropriate response to sin, so worship is the appropriate response to the perfections of God. It would be wrong to experience and confront sin and not mourn, but it is just as wrong to come face to face with the perfections of God and not worship. I think it is interesting because we are considering mourning in our text but yet there is a very prominent theme today about joy and rejoicing, and you say, “Well, isn’t that sort of schizophrenic?” You know the answer? It probably is. “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep”. Those both go on at the same time, and the reality is, as I understand it, we would not rejoice and praise God as we ought apart from the mourning that comes in response to sin. As I understand it, our mourning because of the occasion of sin is what makes our joy and our rejoicing greater because our salvation takes us from its consequences.
C. (:5) The Gentle
“Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.”
Charles Swindoll: The world has some less-than-flattering descriptions for the gentle or meek person: wimp, doormat, milquetoast, spineless, weak, yellow, pushover. But the biblical term used here, praus , means “not being overly impressed by a sense of one’s self-importance, gentle, humble, considerate.” The word is used in the Greek version of the Old Testament to describe Moses (Num. 12:3) —hardly somebody we would picture in a constant state of kowtowing to those around him. Meekness doesn’t mean weakness, but strength under control. Those who keep their anger in check, who don’t flaunt their power or constantly claim their rights, who put others’ interests before their own —these are the kind who will “inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5). In the future, they will be fellow heirs with Christ, ruling with Him in the kingdom (Rom. 8:16-17; 2 Tim. 2:12). But even in the present, God may place them in positions of influence, knowing they can be trusted to handle authority with integrity and humility.
Donald Hagner: In view are not persons who are submissive, mild, and unassertive, but those who are humble in the sense of being oppressed (hence, “have been humbled”), bent over by the injustice of the ungodly, but who are soon to realize their reward. Those in such a condition have no recourse but to depend upon God.
William Barclay: The full translation of this third beatitude must read:
O the bliss of those who are always angry at the right time and never angry at the wrong time, who have every instinct, impulse and passion under control because they themselves are God-controlled, who have the humility to realize their own ignorance and their own weakness, for suchpeople can indeed rule the world!
D. (:6) Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
Charles Swindoll: In Matthew, the term “righteousness” is used to emphasize the visible manifestation of a right disposition or moral uprightness reflected in one’s attitudes and actions (5:6, 10; 6:1). Throughout this Gospel, the superficial and humanly impossible righteousness of the Pharisees is contrasted with God’s righteousness (6:33), for which we are to “hunger and thirst” (5:6).
Martin Lloyd-Jones: This Beatitude again follows logically from the previous ones; it is a statement to which all the others lead. It is the logical conclusion to which they come, and it is something for which we should all be profoundly thankful and grateful to God. I do not know of a better test that anyone can apply to himself or herself in this whole matter of the Christian profession than a verse like this. If this verse is to you one of the most blessed statements of the whole of Scripture, you can be quite certain you are a Christian. If it is not, then you had better examine the foundations again.
Bob Deffinbaugh: Why is hungering and thirsting such a good illustration? Because as water and food is to the body, so righteousness is to the spiritual life. We as humans hunger and thirst not only for food but for satisfaction in life. We search in all kinds of different areas to be filled, to be satisfied, but we always end up falling short.
John Piper states: “God has put eternity in our hearts and we have an inconsolable longing.”
Blaise Pascal said that we all have a “God-shaped void” in our lives.
All men are hungry and thirsty; the problem is that we try to fill that emptiness, that hunger, with things other than the righteousness of God. Some of you reading this message are empty; you have not been satisfied. You are trying to fill that “God-shaped void” in your life with all kinds of things, but you are left empty, unsatisfied. There is an incredible message of hope for you if you are searching for the answer.
C.S. Lewis states: We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and sex and ambition, when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea, we are far too easily pleased.
E. (:7) The Merciful
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
Donald Hagner: The fifth beatitude marks a new emphasis in the beatitudes. Whereas the first four find their focus primarily in a state of mind or an attitude (and imply conduct only secondarily), this beatitude refers to the happiness of those who act, namely, those who are merciful toward others.
J. C. Ryle: He means those who are full of compassion towards others. They pity all who are suffering either from sin or sorrow, and are tenderly desirous to make their sufferings less. They are full of good works and endeavors to do good. Blessed are all such! Both in this life and that to come they shall reap a rich reward.
Charles Swindoll: The “merciful” are those whose hearts are moved for those in need, having a desire to step in and assist in relieving their pain. This kind of mercy goes beyond merely feeling sorry for people or having pity or sympathy. It may start with such emotions, but it doesn’t end there. The merciful person empathizes with those who suffer and then actually does something to help. James 2:15-16 says, “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?” Similarly, 1 John 3:17 admonishes, “Whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?”
F. (:8) The Pure in Heart
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
William Barclay: So, the basic meaning of katharos is unmixed, unadulterated, unalloyed. That is why this beatitude is so demanding a beatitude. It could be translated:
Blessed are those whose motives are always entirely unmixed, for they shall see God.
It is very seldom indeed that we do even our finest actions from absolutely unmixed motives.
J. C. Ryle: He means those who do not aim merely at outward correctness but at inward holiness. They are not satisfied with a mere external show of religion. They strive to keep a heart and conscience void of offense and to serve God with the spirit and the inner man. Blessed are all such! The heart is the man. “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). He who is most spiritually-minded will have most communion with God.
Donald Hagner: “Pure in heart” refers to the condition of the inner core of a person, that is, to thoughts and motivation, and hence anticipates the internalizing of the commandments by Jesus in the material that follows in the sermon. It takes for granted right actions but asks for integrity in the doing of those actions, i.e., a consistency between the inner springs of one’s conduct and the conduct itself. Another way of putting this is in terms of “single-mindedness” (cf. Jas 4:8, where it is the “double-minded” who are exhorted to “purify [their] hearts”). Purity of heart and purity of conscience are closely related in the pastoral Epistles (cf. 1 Tim 1:5; 3:9; 2 Tim 1:3; 2:22; cf. 1 Pet 1:22).
Craig Blomberg: The “pure in heart” exhibit a single-minded devotion to God that stems from the internal cleansing created by following Jesus. Holiness is a prerequisite for entering God’s presence. The pure in heart pass this test, so they will see God and experience intimate fellowship with him. This Beatitude closely parallels Ps 24:3-4.
Bob Deffinbaugh: So, first, having a pure heart means living by the rule of God, living a life that is pleasing to God. Secondly, having a pure heart means living for the sole purpose of God, to have a heart that is fully devoted to God. It means single-minded devotion and commitment to God, doing anything and everything in our life for the sole purpose of glorifying God (1 Corinthians 10:31). “Pure” in this sense means unadulterated.
G. (:9) The Peacemakers
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
Charles Swindoll: Those who make peace relieve tensions and don’t feed fuel to fires of controversy. A peacemaker seeks resolutions to arguments and debates. A peacemaker works hard to keep offenses from festering into fractured relationships. A peacemaker’s words generate light but not heat. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” It is important to note, however, that being a peacemaker does not amount to being a passive person who lies down like a doormat and lets people walk all over them. The kind of peacemaking referred to here is active, not passive. Peacemakers are engaged in a ministry of reconciliation and restoration, entering troubled waters to help bring calm. In this way, they model in this life the ministry of Jesus, the Son of God, who came preaching peace and reconciliation to those willing to hear.
Donald Hagner: In the context of the beatitudes, the point would seem to be directed against the Zealots, the Jewish revolutionaries who hoped through violence to bring the kingdom of God. Such means would have been a continual temptation for the downtrodden and oppressed who longed for the kingdom. The Zealots by their militarism hoped furthermore to demonstrate that they were the loyal “sons of God.” But Jesus announces the kingdom entirely apart from human effort and indicates that the status of υἱοὶ θεοῦ, “children of God” (cf. Rom 9:26), belongs on the contrary to those who live peaceably. It is the peacemakers who will be called the “children of God.” Later in the present chapter, Jesus will teach the remarkable ethic of the love of even one’s enemies (vv 43–48). This stress on peace becomes a common motif in the NT (cf. Rom 14:19; Heb 12:14; Jas 3:18; 1 Pet 3:11).
Leon Morris: those who make peace are fulfilling what membership in the family really means, and this is something to which all the members of the family must aspire.
II. (:10-12) THE FINAL BEATITUDE STRESSING BLESSING ASSOCIATED WITH ENDURING PERSECUTION
If the citizen of the kingdom of heaven lives a life in harmony with kingdom distinctives he will inevitably suffer persecution. It is that eventuality that Jesus now addresses.
Charles Swindoll: I understand 5:11-12 as expanding on the beatitude of 5:10 regarding persecution. These statements provide a surprising conclusion to the previous seven beatitudes, and the association between persecution and joy seems counterintuitive. This is why in this case Jesus expends a few words of explanation beyond the pithy principle.
A. (:10) Persecuted for the Sake of Righteousness
“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Charles Swindoll: In 5:10 Jesus refers to those who are persecuted and harassed for living lives in keeping with God’s ethical standards and for promoting these moral truths in their teaching and preaching.
Donald Hagner: V 10 could well be the closing beatitude of the collection used by Matthew, since it rounds out the collection by an inclusio, i.e., concluding with the same ending as in the first beatitude: “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (cf. v 3). The poor and the persecuted, precisely the most unlikely candidates, are proclaimed the happy or blessed ones who receive the kingdom.
The ninth beatitude, vv 11–12, is in effect an elaboration of the preceding beatitude. Its original independence from the preceding collection of eight is indicated not only by its different form but also by the use of the second person pronoun rather than the third. Matthew probably received it in the form in which it stands and added it to the collection he had received from another source.
B. (:11-12) Further Expansion of Theme of Persecution
“Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. 12 Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Leon Morris: Persecuted believers are in good company. The plural brings all the prophets together as one godly company. The persecutions they received no doubt varied greatly, but the point is that persecution is the lot of the people of God while they walk this earth. In three consecutive verses Matthew has used the verb “persecute,” which puts emphasis on the concept. Here even the prophets, whom everyone now accepts as the servants of God par excellence, were treated badly in their own day. It is a privilege for the servants of God in later days to share in some measure in the lot of these great men of God.
R. T. France: The so-called “ninth beatitude”, vv. 11–12, is in fact a repetition and expansion of v. 10, and stands from a literary point of view outside the tightly-structured unit of eight beatitudes. It lacks the epigrammatic conciseness of vv. 3–10, nor does it repeat their regular formula “for it is they / to them….” Moreover, its change to a second-person form links it directly with the verses that follow rather than with vv. 3–10. Like vv. 13–16, vv. 11–12 speak of the sharp contrast between the disciples (whose “good life” has been spelled out in the third person in vv. 3–10) and other people around them. I therefore think it more appropriate, despite the repetition of the opening makarioi, to treat the “ninth beatitude” not as a part of the beatitudes as such but as the linking introduction to this following section which comments on the effect of living the good life on the rest of society. [treats vv. 11-16 as a unit]
D. A. Carson: These verses neither encourage seeking persecution nor permit retreating from it, sulking, or retaliation. From the perspective of both redemptive history (“the prophets”) and eternity (“reward in heaven”), these verses constitute the reasonable response of faith, one which the early Christians readily understood (cf. Ac 5:41; 2Co 4:17; 1Pe 1:6–9; cf. Da 3:24–25). “Discipleship means allegiance to the suffering Christ, and it is therefore not at all surprising that Christians should be called on to suffer. In fact it is a joy and a token of his grace” (Bonhoeffer, Cost of Discipleship, 80–81). But in reassuring his disciples that their sufferings are “neither new, nor accidental, nor absurd” (Bonnard), Jesus spoke of principles that will appear again (esp. Mt 10, 24).