Jesus started teaching his disciples on a mountainside with the ‘Beatitudes’. The first one was
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus specifically mentions ‘the poor in spirit’. Unless we acknowledge that we need God’s help in getting closer to Him, we will not search for Him and will think of us to be righteous. We need to understand the importance of God for us to even have a connection with Him.
Jesus then spoke about how those who mourn will be comforted. If we look up to God, in spite of our mourning, an unexplainable peace will be given to us by Him, which will comfort us.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
God expects us to be meek and humble and hates the proud. Our pride may give way to our ego and lead us to be full of ourselves, straying away from God.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Just like spiritual poverty, we need to hunger and thirst for righteousness and God will surely fill us with His Spirit. When Jesus was on the cross, He said “I thirst” and looked up to God to be filled.
The next three beatitudes, ‘blessed are the merciful’, ‘blessed are the pure in hear’ and ‘blessed are the peacemakers’, all are about how our nature should be. We should be merciful, not trying to show our power; we should be pure in heart, not having any malice; and we should be the peacemakers, not trying to create rifts or rile up anything. Our actions speak for us and by following these, we can be an example to the others and bring glory to God.
The last set of beatitudes that Jesus spoke here were about persecution because of righteousness or facing evil because of Christ. Jesus said that the reward for such is in heaven. When we try and follow God, or try to take His word forward, we will be met with barriers, we will have sorrows, troubles, persecutions, plots against us, but through all this, God will be by our side.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.Matthew 5:10-11
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
The prophets who were sent by God were also not heard and were persecuted. God’s own Son was also persecuted in this world when he came to save us. When this world did not accept Jesus, why will this world accept us if we were of Jesus.
Salt and Light
Jesus calls us to be the salt of the earth. Salt is one thing which is used in every food to enhance the taste. But if the salt itself loses its saltiness then it is of no use. Similarly, we are the salt, when we begin to know Christ, we have a lot of zeal to take His word forward, the saltiness in us is at its peak.
As and when time passes, if we do not use the salt in us to let the others know about God’s love, we lose the saltiness and become useless for the growth of the kingdom of God. What good is it, if we keep God’s love just to ourselves and not let others taste the same love which was given freely.
Jesus also calls us the light of the world. We who have seen the light of God, His love, have to show it to others who are still in darkness. There is no use of keeping a light under a bowl where it is useless, It has to be kept some place where people can see and utilize the light. Similarly, if we really have God’s love in us then we will not be able to hide it, we will want to share it with the others, like a town built on a hill cannot be hidden from anyone.
When we have seen and tasted the love of God, we should be willing to pass it on to the others so that they can also know that love and glorify the Father in heaven.
The Fulfillment of the Law
Jesus came into this world not to abolish any law but to fulfill the law and clear the misunderstandings in the way the law was used. Jesus goes on to tell that,
Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.Matthew 5:19
We should not be selective while following the laws, these were for our benefit and we should not use these as and when convenient for us. We will be hypocrites if we ask others to follow or rather burden them with following without following ourselves. Jesus further tells that unless our righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, we cannot enter heaven. Following these laws alone is not enough but the one who gave us these laws is far more important.
We are aware of the sixth commandment that God gave which says, ‘Do not Murder’. Jesus says that not abstaining from murder alone is not enough but even the inward things which can lead to this sin like anger is required. Harboring anger or calling someone ‘you fool’ in anger are all signs of getting tempted towards committing murder.
Jesus tells us that even these thoughts in our mind are equivalent to committing the act and hence, being subject to judgement. It seems quite easy to not commit the final act but Jesus emphasizes on staying away from the roots of sin.
Also, Jesus says that there is no point of offering gifts to God when you have something against someone. Jesus tells us to be reconciled with others so that we can offer ourselves completely to him and not have even the slightest part of us distracted with anger against someone.
Similarly, He also tells us to sort matters with our adversary, lest we use up all our energy in fighting against them and leave no time for God and end up losing our connection with God.
Committing the act of adultery is as serious as the act of seeing someone with lustful eyes, where our mind has already committed the sin. Jesus seems to be a little harsh here while saying cut out the body part that makes us sin. Eyes and hands are the most important parts of our body and Jesus telling us to throw these away if they cause us to sin just shows us how important it is to abstain from sin than to live a sinful life.
Permitted by Moses, people started taking divorce lightly. In the earlier days, men would often keep remarrying and leaving women divorced and the women became the victim of this act. Jesus tried to intervene by telling that apart from sexual immorality, a man should not divorce his wife as this is the one thing that defeats the purpose of being one in a marriage. Man and women were created in the image of God and together form one body. If a marriage is not able to serve God then there is no point of it altogether.
Oaths, such a familiar topic. God asks us not to swear by anything or anyone and let our words simply be ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. We have a tendency of lying or rather manipulating the truth. This often leads to trust issues that when we actually try to tell the truth, we are not believed and we end up swearing to prove that our words are true. If from the beginning itself we just keep our words plain, we wouldn’t have to face the need for swearing and as the verse says,
All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.Matthew 5:37
Eye for Eye
‘Eye for Eye’ and ‘tooth for tooth’ is so relatable to us. The moment someone wrongs us, we have an urge to do the same to them or at least want the same thing to happen to them. But this is not what God would like us to do. Jesus says, do not resist an evil person, that does not mean that we have to do the acts that the evil person is doing but we should not show the hatred or anger. We must rather portray the love of God by turning the other cheek or going an extra mile with them.
Love for Enemies
The theme of Jesus’ life is ‘Love’. Jesus tells us to love everyone, even our enemies. This seems to be such a difficult task that Jesus has given us to even love our enemies. Jesus didn’t just say this but while hanging on that cross, set an example for us where He asked the Father to forgive His wrongdoers. God is impartial, he loves everyone equally.
But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.Matthew 5:44-45
Jesus goes on to say that what is the point of loving only those whom we like and that even the pagans do that. We have seen the love of God, the unconditional love that God has shown us. We should show this love to others also.
God wants us to be perfect just as He is perfect. It is not an impossible thing to do, Jesus came into this world and showed us this. In the same way, we too as children of God, should love everyone. This might not be possible just by our own efforts, but if we ask God to help, he will surely help us be perfect just as He was.