The Sermon on the Mount is one of the key teachings of the Bible. Jesus preached this sermon on a mountaintop in Galilee when He challenged people who professed to be His disciples to be strategically placed between the love of God and the pain of the hurting people in the world. He challenged His disciples to partner with Him and be conduits of His love. He concluded His sermon with a call to commitment. It changed the lives of many who heard it.
Jesus begins by teaching His disciples eight attitudes called, the "beatitudes," or "blessed attitudes," because each one is introduced by the word "blessed." Jesus is promising to bless the disciple who has each of these attitudes. This word "blessed" can actually mean "happy," "spiritually prosperous," or "in a state of grace." Each attitude also includes a promise that describes the form in which this blessing will come into the life of that disciple.
Believers sometimes have the misguided opinion that their faith is weak if they show signs of mourning. This beatitude not only supports mourning it links it to a blessing. Mourning a loss is normal and there are things God wants us to learn from the loss. We must let God use our mourning to move us in three ways. First, mourning helps us ask the right questions about life. Second, it helps us to seek God's answers. Third, it also helps us to accept the blessing God has provided including our salvation.
When we are meek, seeking God's leadership, we develop a hunger for righteousness, the desire to live our lives with the goal of pleasing God. We want to know what is right and do what is right. What you do and how you act are important to God. We are called to do what is right not just what is expedient. That is what it means to hunger and thirst for righteousness.
The word "mercy" means "unconditional love." When David writes in Psalm 23:6 that mercy will follow him all the days of his life, the word he uses for "follow" actually means "pursue." God's unconditional love will pursue David all of his life. This is the kind of love for others that we must have too, if we are to be like God.
Mankind is alienated from God. That's why those who are disciples of Christ have been to the top of the mountain must come back down with a purpose. If we have been reconciled with God, made right in our relationship with Him, it makes sense that God would use us to help others be reconciled with Him. He will also help us find reconciliation in our own relationships and use us to help others find reconciliation in theirs. The seventh beatitude speaks to the mission of those who are part of God's solution.
There is a reason the beatitude about peacemakers is followed by a beatitude about persecution. Those who become ministers of reconciliation often suffer painful consequences because they have identified themselves with Jesus Christ. Being a peacemaker may put Jesus' disciples in the middle of dangerous fighting. Sometimes they even lose their lives. The disciple who has the beautiful attitudes confronts people with a model of what they should be. When people in theworld are confronted with a true disciple, they can acknowledge that this is how they should live, or they can attack the disciple who is like Jesus. Very often, they do the latter.
The Beatitudes were the essence and central part of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. With these eight attitudes, He has described a godly character that can change the world. In this next section, He provides commentary and application on His sermon.
Salt is a preservative that keeps meat from spoiling, and Christians with the attitudes of Jesus are like salt to the world. When disciples with Christ-like attitudes are "rubbed into" the people of the world as salt is rubbed into meat, their influence will keep the world from total corruption. They become a valuable commodity Jesus uses to revolutionize the culture. The second metaphor indicates that Christians are the only source of light for multitudes living in darkness. As with the first metaphor, Jesus' words literally mean that "you and you alone" are salt and light. If His disciples do not fulfill their role as salt and light, no one else is left to fulfill it. The people who have Jesus' attitudes are sent into the world as God's solution in order to shine for all to see.
Many people think Jesus was contradicting the Old Testament in these verses, but He was only confronting the teaching of the religious leaders. He was telling His disciples: "Everything I am teaching you is found in the Word of God, but what I am teaching is in direct conflict with what your religious leaders have been teaching you."