We have two chapters left in Daniel and once again I’ll be breaking away from the Book for a few weeks with the “Easter Weekend” in sight. For a few days before getting in the reality of Bloody Friday and Resurrection Sunday I would like to do a few Daily Notes on the Beatitudes in Matthew. The Beatitudes are part of the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5-7. The Sermon on the Mount is an exposition on what Jesus calls the two Greatest Commandments, which he will deal with as we near the end of Matthew’s Gospel.
Mt 22:37 “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
In turn, these two Commandments summarize the Ten Commandments found in Exodus 20 and repeated before Israel entered the Promised Land in Deuteronomy 5. Our Lord was the Master of exposition. As he ends this Sermon on the Mount, Matthew tells us
Mt 7:28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.
He took the Old Testament and made it a Living Word and the people acknowledged the huge difference between Him opening the Scriptures and the Teachers of the Law. Because the full Revelation of God has been given to us, it does not surprise us that Jesus could do this because after all, He is the Second Person of the Triune God. He is the Word of God … and God is the author of Scripture.
(1) Interpreting the Bible properly. It is very easy to thumb suck and superimpose onto the written Word what you want it to mean. However, even if you do this, you cannot change what the Word says. It always remains the same Truth. All one does by superimposing is, you lead your hearers astray and into confusion. As we open the Beatitudes you will see exactly what I mean by this statement.
(2) Interpreting the Bible properly requires studying certain key words in their original language and culture. Not that words evolve … meanings of words change and during a “two thousand year” period, the Greek used then, which was a form of Koine Greek (Hellenistic Greek) which was the common language of the Eastern Mediterranean region. The Holy Spirit used this as an evangelistic vehicle to reach the largest audience of that period. But that Greek is not used any more. So for accuracy we need to do “word studies” of important or key words and phrases if we want to be as accurate as possible in our interpretation.
(3) Observe a few helpful insights before digging into the Beatitudes.
1) Jesus’ ministry was God appointed and approved. Although we read of Jesus’ baptism, we need to understand that Jesus’ baptism was different to the baptism John was conducting. John the Baptist had a high view of the Lord Jesus because being Jesus’ cousin through Mary’s relationship to Elizabeth, John’s mother would have explained what had happened when Mary visited her. Read Luke 1:39-45 … especially
Lk 1:43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
The word “Lord” here means Messiah in a post resurrection manner … that is the accomplishment of Calvary. He gained ownership of the elect and enjoys partnership with the Father and the Holy Spirit in Kingdom administration. Elizabeth was convinced of His Lordship before His birth. She would have explained all this to her son John. Jesus was the Godman, sinless and totally holy and blameless. John knew this and that is the reason for his initial refusal to baptize Jesus. John’s baptism symbolized the washing away of sin. Jesus had no sin! Although Mt 3:15 is difficult to understand …
Mt 3:15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.
… it seems as though Jesus was saying, “You are right, but for right now I need to reaffirm my resolution to be the Savior of the World, taking sin away permanently.” In verses 16-17 we have what might be labelled as Jesus’ public ordination, even though the people present, apart from the disciples (in part), did not understood what was happening.
Mt 3:16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
We do not know whether Jesus stood feet deep in water and John poured or sprinkled water over His head or whether he went knee deep or totally under the water. The original language does not give us a fool proof statement to say it was one way or the other … but what is certain is that the heavens were opened, the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus “like” a dove and lighting. Apart from everything else that this might signify and symbolize, here the Father, supported by the Spirit, lays His hand of approval upon the Son (Godman – Jesus), commissioning Him for service and ministry to be the Savior (Messiah).
2) Jesus’ ministry was despised and rejected by satan. When you read Matthew 4:1-11, you might feel the enemy of God was being gentle and gracious with Jesus. On the contrary, he was being malicious, cruel and hateful. He wanted to stop Jesus’ ministry. He wanted to prevent the Cross. He wanted to keep all people in his cruel captivity. He wanted all people to suffer in eternal hell with him. If He succeeded in tempting Jesus he would have achieved what he achieve with Adam in the Garden. But this was Jesus, sent to save the elect from satan.
3) Jesus ministry was pointed and provocative. It started with confrontation.
Mt 4:17 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”
On the one hand Jesus identified with the fiery Baptist’s preaching yet on the other hand Jesus was saying, “The kingdom you have been looking for is here! I am the King of the Kingdom and entrance and citizenship is through holiness … repent!”
4) Jesus ministry started with calling disciples to be His witnesses. We see this in Mt 4v18-22. As Jesus’ ministered in Galilee news of what He was doing spread all over Syria. People flocked to Him from Galilee, Syria and the Decapolis because His ministry was stamped with the miraculous. This Jesus, the Godman, the Messiah, approved by God, ordained publically for ministry is set for an amazing teaching ministry.
Our Father as we study the Beatitudes, confront us with penetrating Truth … Amen.