Johan Smulders has a . B.A, B.ED and M.A in Education, Theology and Counselling. Works as an evangelist and counsellor.
The Teachings of Jesus: The Sermon on the Mount - Number 3
As Jesus continues with the “Beatitudes” he says: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6 - NIV translation – used with permission). God’s people have always been called rather than being overpowered or taken captive against their will. Abraham, Moses, Gideon, David and Samuel are just a few of the many Old Testament examples. Calling normally came with a mission to be accomplished. However in all cases, there has to be a desire to hear the voice of God and to act on the calling. When the message of the gospel (good news) went out as recorded in the book of Acts, it was those who hungered and thirsted for righteousness who embraced the message.
In a world where many have not experienced hunger and thirst, the full implication of these words are difficult to really understand. In the world of Jesus however, there was a lack of basic infrastructure, and so food and water shortages were easier to fully comprehend. It is still so in many places in the world today where many can understand what it is like to lack food and water. It is easier for these people to identify with a feeling of despair that real hunger and thirst can bring. In our world today, where many are so self-sufficient that there is no need to look for help in any area, it is perhaps more difficult.
In a spiritual sense the world today has largely lost its moral compass. It has an urgent need to be reminded that there is a better way, the way of righteousness. Many people in the world today seem to be caught up in a search for possessions and power that they believe will bring them happiness. Feeding on this need leads to greed, envy, selfishness and corruption. Only when an individual realises that there has to be a better way can the search for that way begin. Jesus came to offer that better way, with its great promises and contentment.
As Jesus moved on from the first four Beatitudes that deal with how people must be prepared to receive the message from God, he introduced three actions that believers need to put into practice. The first one is to show mercy: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7). He then completes the three actions with, having a “pure heart” and being “peacemakers” (vs. 8, 9).
Here is the essence of Christianity! Following Christ is not withdrawing into a “spiritual fellowship” where a “Christian” can enjoy the company of other likeminded individuals. Rather it is a life where individuals take mercy, love and compassion into a dying world. That is the example Jesus set in his life and what he taught his disciples as he prepared them to go out into the world and disciple others: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to do obey everything I have commanded you”(Matthew 28:18).
When people in the world look at Christians they should be amazed at how these strange people behave. They prefer mercy to hate and revenge. They prefer righteous living to greed and selfishness. They prefer peacemaking to demanding their own rights and way. It is difficult to even imagine a world where purity of heart, mercy and peace rules, or is it? This can only become a reality on a local level (the family) and then on a broader level (society at large) as the message of Christ is taken into the world by real believers.
As Jesus completes the 10 Beatitudes he warns his followers that this task that he came to challenge them with will not be an easy one. You will be insulted, persecuted and falsely accused of evil (vs.11). At the same time the reward will be worth it: “Rejoice and be glad because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (vs.12).
So the challenge is placed squarely on the shoulders of the followers of Christ. He did not water it down or glamorize it. He called it like it is. Only the message of purity of heart, mercy and peace can make a real difference in a world where greed, hatred and injustice rules, and is proclaimed in the lives of the worldly. It is the challenging message of a better way that echoes into that world. Only the followers of Jesus, who is “the way and the truth and the life”,(John 14:6) can make a real difference.
References: NIV Translation of the Bible.
Scriptures taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, Copyright 1973,1978,1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.
The "NIV" and "New International Version" trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.
Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on May 16, 2021:
Thanks for sharing this message of mercy and righteousness, and a pure heart. That's the very reason Jesus came to redeem fallen man.