1 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him.
2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.
The purpose of Matthew to present the truth relating Jesus as the King and the message of the kingdom is the guiding principle in placing the Sermon on the Mount here so early in Matthew’s gospel. Many events recorded later in the gospel actually occurred before the Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon on the Mount is given priority because it is a comprehensive statement of the moral principles relating to the kingdom which Jesus proclaimed.
Some consider this sermon a collection of various sayings of Jesus delivered on different occasions. This opinion, although common, is mere conjecture. Preferable is the view that Jesus delivered this sermon as Matthew indicated, although probably He repeated many times the truths in the Sermon on the Mount, or delivered the same sermon more than once to different groups (cf. Luke 6:20-49). — Walvoord, page 43
The first question we must ask in considering the Sermon on the Mount is: To whom was our Lord addressing His remarks? To all men? Most assuredly not, for not only was He sent to none “but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” but He clearly instructed His apostles not to go to the Gentiles, or even to the Samaritans, but only to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24, 10:5-6). But He was not even addressing the people of Israel as such at this time, for we read that “seeing the multitudes, He went up into a mountain” and that there He addressed “His disciples” (v.1). — Stam, pages 42-43.
The sermon on the mount [Matthew 5-7] is the proclamation of the King concerning the Kingdom. That Kingdom is not the church, nor is the state of the earth in righteousness, governed and possessed by the meek, brought about by the agency of the church. It is the millennial earth and the Kingdom to come, in which Jerusalem will be the city of a great King. We read in the Old Testament that when the Kingdom comes, for which these Jewish disciples of our Lord were taught to pray, the law will go forth out of Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. While we have in the Old Testament the outward manifestations of the Kingdom of the heavens as it will be set up in the earth in a future day, we have here the inner manifestation, the principles of it. Yet this never excludes application to us who are His heavenly people, members of His body, who will share the heavenly throne in the heavenly Jerusalem with Him. Israel’s calling is earthly; theirs is an earthly kingdom, ours is is altogether heavenly. In the sermon on the mount we have, then, the principles of the Kingdom of heaven, with very plain references to the millennial earth. — Gaebelein, page 110.
Actually, this great sermon and especially its Beatitudes, is noe of the strongest evidences that the Body of Christ and this entire dispensation of grace was then still a mystery, or secret, “hid in God” as the apostle Paul so often insists (Ephesians 3:1-11; Colossians 1:24-2:2), for our Lord addressed His disciples, the remnant of believers in Israel, as if the prophesied time of tribulation were imminent and the establishment of His kingdom were soon to take place.
The Beatitudes, then, give us the characteristics of those who will be heirs of the kingdom one day to be established on this earth. They have rightly been called, along with the Sermon as a whole, the charter of the kingdom. — Stam, pages 44-45
It is quite evident that the Jews, while they wanted deliverance from the Romans and fulfillment of the material blessings promised in the millennium, were quite unprepared to accept the view that the millennial kingdom has spiritual implications. It was to be a rule of righteousness as well as a rule of peace. It demanded much of subjects as well as providing much for them. The political character of the kingdom was not seriously questioned by the Jews, who anticipated that their Messiah would bring deliverance to them. Because of their neglect of the spiritual and moral principles involved, Christ necessarily emphasized these in the Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon accordingly must be understood in this eschatological context. — Walvoord, page 45
blessed (vs. 3-6) = happy
poor (v.3) = beggar — used to describe Lazarus (in the account with the rich man) in Luke 16:19-22 — to cower or cringe — with no merit of their own
mourn (v.4) — often associated with confession of sin (Psalm 51; Daniel 9:3-5)
There are many Old Testament Scriptures (Zechariah 12:10-14; cf. Matthew 24:30; Revelation 1:7) which indicate that Israel will not be saved until she turns in repentance to her crucified and long-rejected Messiah. This will be the occasion of her “mourning.” Then, and not until then will the prophecies be fulfilled which say: “And in that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and uncleanness” (Zechariah 13:1).
“Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away. I, even I, am He that comforteth you …” (Isaiah 51:11-12).
“Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortingly to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins” (Isaiah 40:1-2).
The historical, or dispensational, order of the events discussed above is clearly brought out in one brief passage in Isaiah 61:1-3.
“… the Lord hath anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the meek … To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord … the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn.
“To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them, beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.”
From these and other Old Testament prophecies we learn the significance of our Lord’s promise in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” — Stam, pages 48-49.
Meek (v.5) — submissive (to God) — Psalm 37:11
inherit the earth (v.5) — as distinct from the heavenly blessings promised to the Body of Christ
In all these attributes (cowering, mourning, meekness, hunger for righteousness) there is a marked contrast with the attitude of the Pharisees.