All four of the Gospel writers record this amazing event of how Jesus met the physical needs of the masses who followed Him. Matthew wrote that the evening picnic was on the heels of Jesus hearing that His cousin John had been beheaded, and Jesus was going off for some time by Himself. But as it often happened, crowds of needy people went where Jesus went, and Jesus, being who He is, had compassion. He healed and He taught and it was now past dinnertime at the remote place where they had all gathered.
Five loaves of bread, two fish and one prayer to God in Heaven was all it took for over 5000 men, not including all the women and children, to eat until they were satisfied. That was a meal no one would forget! He told the people to sit down on the grass. Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he gave the bread to the disciples, who distributed it to the people.
Sunday Soup is kind of like our family’s equivalent to fish and loaves. In our second home in China we had a freezer just big enough to hold a container for our weekly leftovers and it was in that home that we began our tradition of Sunday Soup. While baking bread before our house church met, I would simmer up the soup and by adding water and at times extra vegetables, we could feed however many joined to worship with us that day. May we follow Jesus’ example and bless our food (meaning to offer thanks to God for what He provides) and be quick to share what we have so that others may also be satisfied. Jesus fed those who followed Him with what He taught and by meeting physical needs as well.
Matthew 14:19 NLT (also in Mark 6:41; Luke 9:16; John 6:11)
Jesus described the Kingdom of Heaven and taught many lessons by telling stories and parables, and after He shared the parable of the sower with a large group, the disciples asked Jesus why He spoke to the crowds in parables. Jesus replied that Isaiah’s prophecy, which would have been familiar to those listening, is fulfilled about a people who will listen but not understand and look and yet not perceive. And then He says something so encouraging: “But your eyes are blessed because they do see, and your ears because they do hear! For I assure you: Many prophets and righteous people longed to see the things you see yet didn’t see them; to hear the things you hear yet didn’t hear them.”
All of Israel’s history was leading up to Jesus. Up until Jesus, the Israelites had leaders, some good, some not so good, but all were incomplete. God’s fullness dwelt fully in Jesus. Were his followers ready to embrace this? Dear Lord, in these days I pray that we would have blessed eyes and blessed ears to understand Your teaching, line up our lives with it, and live with wisdom and joy. Amen.
Matthew 13:16 HCSB
What are we to do when our troubles are too heavy for us to lift, when we are too weary to go on? We are not to give up, or to text our complaint to those in our address book, but instead we are blessed when we go to Jesus. “Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest (relief and ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls.”
I love the definition here of rest: relief, ease, refreshment, recreation and blessed quiet. For me, there are few places that better paint a picture of this kind of rest than time spent in nature. So with the warm sunlight shining through the trees on a late spring 2012 afternoon in North Carolina, and a calm lake a stone’s throw away, I felt at ease knowing that my Creator is in control. I relished the blessed quietness of the setting and peace seemed to wrap around me like a soft blanket.
Jesus’ invitation recorded by Matthew suggests that this kind of soul rest is available when anyone with a heavy burden brings it to Jesus and the blessed quiet will come whether we are by a lakeside or not. Although the surroundings were serene, several of my friends – ladies I had not seen for years – came to me that weekend with hearts heavy and hurting. I remain thankful for arms for hugging and for wisdom that does not come from me, but from God’s Word. Thank You Jesus; for in the midst of it all, we can come to You, learn from You, know Your love that will never leave us and in doing so, experience relief. Amen.
Matthew 11:29 AMP
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven…” This verse begins the more lengthy explanation Jesus gives to each of the teaching points He had just shared in Matthew 5:3-10. He started with the ending and then over the next few chapters Jesus filled out more of what it all means to be blessed.
Being blessed comes down to living life right, not just in actions like the law put forth in the Old Testament, but also in our innermost being where our thoughts are. Jesus is holistic; He desires all of me; all of you. Our wisdom grows as we take in and live out what Jesus teaches and He is good to spell out the plan in detail. I encourage you to take the time to read through Matthew 5-7 in one sitting and if you can, go outside with your Bible and pretend you are on a mountainside. See if you do not respond with amazement and astonishment like the crowds did when they first heard this good news message. Live blessed!
When you get to the pivotal verse of Jesus’ message (the last verse of chapter 5), you will read in most Bibles the word “perfect” to describe both God and how we are to be. Here are my two favorite translations for that verse, for they help to better communicate what Jesus taught. “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” That one is from The Message, and the next one from the Amplified Bible also gives good clarification: “You, therefore, must be perfect [growing into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity], as your heavenly Father is perfect.” For those who choose to live by Jesus’ teachings there is great reward coming.
P.S. After a very winding drive I had the pleasure to read portions of Jesus’ sermon from the top of one of Colorado’s highest mountains, Pikes Peak, September, 2014. The high elevation made the air cold so I was very content with the evening sun warming me through the windows of the rental car and Jesus’ teachings warming my heart to press on in blessedness.
Matthew 5:11-12a NIV
The last of the beatitudes taught by Jesus that day on the mountain is similar to His first one. The “blessed person” receives the Kingdom of Heaven. I love how Jesus does not sway from what He knows is needed. And what we all need is awareness of, and entrance into, the Kingdom of Heaven. Although it includes the place where the redeemed go when life on earth is over, there is more to it. The Kingdom of Heaven is wherever God, the King, is in charge and reigns.
While living in the kingdom of Thailand it is very easy to recognize who the king is. His image is everywhere: on billboards, on the currency, in the form of statues, clips about his life are shown before each movie in the theaters, and his photo is displayed as the highest picture in the homes of Thai families. Thai citizens know what it is like to live in a kingdom, yet less then 2% of the population know the King of Heaven.
One rainy morning I ran with friends through Thailand’s second largest city. Crossing a bridge with banners of the king waving in the breeze we caught a glimpse of a cross on the other side of the river marking the location of Chiang Mai’s first Christian church. As we ran through the ancient city passing temples, markets, monks and others going about their day, we prayed, and as we prayed we sang out Jesus’ teaching from the day He taught on a mountain. I started us off with, “Blessed are those who are poor in spirt” and my running companions replied, “For theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.” When we got to the eighth beatitude, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake”, I thought of the cemetery where some of the early Christian workers had been buried.
If we are persecuted, wronged, offended, ill treated, or oppressed because we are on the side of rightness, Jesus tells us to be happy. We are living in the place where God is in control. Rather than seeing His photo everywhere, we see and live in the very world He spoke into existence. Stay on His side and at His side. He loves you and is giving to you His Kingdom.“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” As God reigns here and now, we have access to Him and His Kingdom, even though we do not see Him fully. There is the present blessing of knowing this truth and there is a blessing coming that is so worth holding on to. Hold on to hope in times of persecution. God is still King.
Matthew 5:10 KJV
I wonder if a cool breeze was peacefully blowing through the grass as Jesus continued to teach the gathered ones while they listened, taking it all in. Jesus is the Prince of Peace so it only makes sense that the children of God would long to be peacemakers too, like our Brother, like our Father. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” James, the half-brother of Jesus also understood and taught on this subject of peacemaking. He says that peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.
Do we love to be involved in a good conflict? Does it excite us to put another log on the flame in an argument? If our goal is not resolution, restoration and peace then it might be best to check our motives. Jesus says that the peacemakers will be the blessed ones. It is not too late, or too early, to get good at being a peacemaker. It will help if certain things like anger and contempt are thought of as working against the goal of being a peacemaker. Some of the best peacemakers have peace with God, and out of that settled assurance they can offer peace to others.
Being a peacemaker is a worthy prize to pursue. The treasure is eternal as well as immediate. Lord, I pray that You would make us instruments of Your peace. May we be so thankful to You for the mercy that You have shown us that we would be quick to overlook an offense when it comes to our feelings being hurt, or our pride being bruised. As much as it is up to us, help us to live at peace with those around us. Amen.
Matthew 5:9 ESV
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” To be pure means to be holy, set apart, clean, not mixed. Think of 100% pure orange juice; it does not have anything else added. God says, “Be holy” because He is holy and He is whole. He is not mixed when it comes to His motives. He says from the beginning we are not to add to Him. So do not worship Him and also worship idols of any kind. When our motives and lives are pure we will see God.
The year 2002 was the second time we lived in a village in China and as part of home schooling the kiddos we studied the Beatitudes. What helped us learn all eight of these principles Jesus taught was our attempt to draw them. The sixth of these blessings, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God,” was illustrated by a pair of glasses with bright yellow and gold colors coming from them. We need to do what it takes to make the teachings of Jesus a part of our life.
Practicing purity does not stop when marriage starts nor does purity only refer to marital fidelity. Keeping a pure heart affects all of our thinking. Pollution of a variety of kinds can have significant damaging effects. But choosing to live pure, non-mixed lives is a choice that will bless us our whole life long. And what about the benefit? The pure in heart will see God.
Matthew 5:8 NIV
Mercy. What are some good mercy words? How about: compassion, kindness, forgiveness, sympathy, and empathy. We all want mercy, but do we really want to give it when others are in need of it? In God’s economy, we are blessed to receive mercy when we are filled with mercy to the point it is flowing from us to others. Interesting! “You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.”
God’s Story tells us we are more blessed to give than to receive, and here the blessing seems to work both ways. When we give mercy it opens us up so we can receive even more! God is the best at giving mercy – undeserved goodness. When we think about all He has given, all that He has forgiven, and we allow gratitude, instead of guilt, to well up within us, we are at a good starting point for being able to give mercy.
Treating others the way we would like to be treated really can work for the good of everyone, especially where mercy is concerned. We need to take compassion and put it to action! Sending a heart-felt sympathy card makes sense, but what about extending kindness in traffic, offering forgiveness instead of letting a grudge grow, and listening from the other person’s point of view? We are blessed when we care.
P.S. I Thank God for mercy during the fall 2015 retreat in Virginia with dear ladies from Antioch. Even with a three-day headache, God gave me clarity to teach and great joy by reconnecting with friends. I found myself very cared for during those rainy days away from home.
Matthew 5:7 MSG
And then there are the hungry ones. They are not hungry for Tex-Mex or a good Thai meal or even for bread and water. They are hungry and thirsty for things to be right. They want life to be honest, decent and virtuous. “Blessed and fortunate and happy and spiritually prosperous (in that state in which the born-again child of God enjoys His favor and salvation) are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (uprightness and right standing with God), for they shall be completely satisfied!”
What will it take to make us feel complete? Not lonely, not grabby, but fully satisfied and filled? By pursuing a right relationship with both God and people, we will be blessed. Here is a little caution to add: we will experience opposition on this quest to be fully satisfied with God’s character of righteousness. Our choice to abstain from things that no longer bring about real satisfaction may cause others to feel defensive. But the rewards? Ahhhhhh. Blessed.
Matthew 5:6 AMP
Those who are mild, patient, long-suffering, content, and meek are the kinds of people who are blessed to become the heirs of the earth. We are to be meek toward God and I wonder what the world would be like if each country in it were ruled by the humble? What would it be like if pride, arrogance and greediness no longer dictated the plan for the day? Picture people driving their cars with patience, workers content with their pay, co-workers, neighbors and family members actually esteeming others more highly than themselves. It makes me think of the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.”
God, give us that kind of goodness that is in Heaven while we are here on this upside-down earth. “God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.” I have heard it said that humility is shy; shine light on humility and she will look for a shadow. Then I saw it happen. On Tuesdays at noon a group of godly ladies, most closer to eighty years old than forty, meet faithfully to pray for missionaries around the world. I have learned so much from these ladies since joining them in the autumn of 2011. We studied a book together which taught us that we are to put on godly character like clothing, and the next lesson we would discuss focused on humility. Not one hand shot up quickly; no voice boldly said, “Sure, I’m great at being humble, I will tell you all about it.” These humble ladies have grown in their Christ-like maturity by spending time with Jesus. Jesus displayed patience, long-suffering, and contentment as a humble servant. Does a watching world see us wearing humility? I have a feeling it would look good on us.
Matthew 5:5 NLT
Some have renamed this particular teaching of Jesus, the “Be Happy Attitudes”, and a few modern translations use the word “happy” for “blessed”. Mourners, the meek, those who really want righteousness, the merciful ones, the pure, those who are peacemakers – all of these are blessed, are happy. Even though outwardly it may not look or feel like it, when our hearts connect to the heart of God over these things, there can be a settled assurance, a rightness, a “happy” no matter the circumstance. Don’t miss out on opportunities to be blessed.
“Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.”
It may take weeping through the night but healing joy can come in the mourning. Yes, the mourning. It could be said that the comfort, relief, and freedom from grief comes through healthy mourning. We mourn because things are not the way they are supposed to be. There is often a process of grieving we experience before we feel comfort.
To really experience the blessedness that Jesus teaches about we should also mourn our sins. Not just brush them aside, but truly mourn how we choose our selfishness over God’s goodness. When we take our sick feeling, the grieving we have because of sinful choices, to Jesus for forgiveness He changes our mourning to comfort. When His comforting comes, there is peace where once there was grief, and we know it as a blessing. Jesus is offering to His followers a new way of living life. A way that is blessed, a way that He alone can provide.
Matthew 5:4 NKJV
The cousins John and Jesus are now men; John fulfilled the prophecy to prepare the way for the Lord and Jesus began His ministry by preaching repentance for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Jesus was baptized, was tempted after a forty-day desert fast, chose his twelve apprentices and taught about living life in a way that has meaning. In each of the Gospel accounts Jesus always does what is right. He is brave, smart, compassionate and powerful. He traveled extensively, meeting the needs of people. He healed all kinds of ailments, delivered others from demons, and returned sight and hearing to people who lacked these senses. He fed the masses and modeled the way to connect with His Father.
Now the time had come for Jesus’ first formal and maybe most famous of all His teachings. With a crowd gathered around Him, He went up on a mountain, sat down and taught. And Matthew, one of Jesus’ followers, recorded the sermon so all who later would read it would have the opportunity to be blessed. “The poor in spirit are blessed, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.” Whole books can be written about the meaning of this first “blessed” alone. Jesus could have stopped right here with this first teaching point and given a lifetime to ponder it, could we really know the implications of being poor in spirit and how that is a blessing, not to mention what it means to have the Kingdom of Heaven?
We are blessed when we realize we do not yet have all we can have when it comes to living in God’s Spirit, and so we eagerly press into God. We will see the phrase, “for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” again. The first and also the final of those mountain top blessings bookend all the blessings in between. If you want to go a little deeper in your study of Jesus’ teachings of how to live the blessed life, look up the daily verse in a different translation and read Matthew 5 in its entirety each day. Time spent with Jesus is blessed time indeed.
Matthew 5:3 HCSB