Series: Student Ministry: The Sermon on the Mount

We will begin looking at the blessings that Jesus delivered in the Sermon on the Mount. They are related to each other so putting them together will make sense especially by the time this is finished.

The Blessed Are Those Who Know They Are Spiritually Bankrupt (Matthew 5:3)

Jesus says here, “blessed are the poor in spirit”. This is a seemingly odd thing to say. One who is impoverished in any way does not seem to be being blessed at this moment. There is a sense in which these blessings are for today, and are ultimately for the age to come. So, what is it that Jesus means here?

To be poor in spirit does not mean to be weak or to lack courage. It has everything to do with understanding that you are spiritually bankrupt. We are sinners who are in need of a Savior. We have all sinned and fallen short of God’s standard (Romans 3:23). And it is those people who know that they are sinners in need of a Savior who will have a Savior. It is those people who see their fallenness and the condemnation that stands over them that will turn to Christ.

In a day and time when it was thought that the Kingdom of God was given to those who were of a certain race, position, or earned merits. And here we see that none of this was or is the case. It is those who know that they are spiritually bankrupt, who know that they are in need of saving, who cry out to Jesus and are heard.

A story that Jesus told during his ministry illustrates this very well. In Luke 18:9-14 Jesus tells a story about two men who go into the Temple to pray. One is a Pharisee and is thought by everyone around to be righteous. One is a tax collector, who everyone things is the worst of the worst sinners. The Pharisee prays and thanks God that he is better than the tax collector. The tax collector can only beat his chest and say, “God have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13b). Jesus says that it’s the tax-collector who leaves the Temple right with God. Why?

The tax-collector understood his morally bankrupt state and the Pharisee thought that he was good. The tax-collector, under the weight of his own sin, cried out to God for mercy. And God heard him.

Here we see Jesus teaching this same thing. Jesus pronounces the blessing of His salvation upon those who know and understand their own sinfulness and cry out for mercy. Only those who see their need for the Savior will receive the blessing of eternal life. To them is given the Kingdom of Heaven. They will have eternal life.

Today this is so odd to hear. We like to think of ourselves as good, and our culture pushes us in this direction. But the Scriptures here say something different. Here we find that we are morally bankrupt and we need Jesus.

Heaven must be earned, but you cannot earn it. Jesus did. You cannot. And those who are made able to see their sinfulness will flee to the Savior. We were sinners in rebellion against God. Jesus came to Earth and died paying the punishment for our rebellion. He stood in our place as our substitute. He rose from the dead three days later conquering the power of sin and death.

For the lost person today, the person who has not trusted in Christ, this blessing calls us to consider our own sinfulness. Do I know that I am spiritually bankrupt? Do I see my need for the Savior?

For the Christian this brings us to thankfulness for God’s grace and mercy. Look around and consider all the people around you. You didn’t begin better off spiritually than they are, but God has saved you. This should cause us to be people who are grateful and thankful for the grace and mercy that has been given to us.

The Blessed Are Those Who Mourn Over Sin (Matthew 5:4)

Much like being “poor in spirit”, we don’t find “mourning” to be a very blessed experience. But, when put into context we will begin to understand what Jesus is talking about here.

The people of Israel were saddened by the sinfulness of their fellow countrymen, as well as the Romans who had conquered them and patrolled among them. But there is also a sense in which they mourn their own sinfulness as they examine their lives by God’s Law.

One of the reasons that God gave the Law to His people was to show them their sinfulness (Galatians 3:24). Every time they had to slaughter an animal because of their sinfulness they were brought back to the realization of their own sinfulness. So, not only was their a corporate aspect to this and the people were saddened by the sinfulness of the people. But they were also mourning their own sinfulness. And Jesus says that this is the blessed person.

This is very related to the last beatitude. We have sinned against God, and when we understand that we mourn our own sinfulness. There is a great sorrow and sadness that overcomes us when we understand what we have done, but when we mourn our sin we turn to Christ and turn to the Savior. Our mourning gives way to comfort. Those who mourn over their sin will be comforted. Christ achieved salvation on our behalf through His perfect life, death, burial, and resurrection and now we can find our comfort in Him.

As Christians, we will always mourn sin in our lives. We will rebel against God and find ourselves to be truly reprehensible at times. But we always look to Christ, for in Him we are promised comfort. Our sins are forgiven in Christ and there we find comfort that will find its ultimate realization in the New Heavens and New Earth.

We mourn over our sin now, but we will be comforted by the gospel in this life and find ultimate comfort for our mourning in the age to come.

Concluding Thoughts

We rebelled against God, but not everyone feels sorrow for their rebellion. Not everyone is poor in spirit over their sinfulness. Those who are turn to the Savior and trust in Him. Not everyone mourns sin in their lives and the world that surrounds them. In fact, many people do quite the opposite. Those who mourn their sin and trust in the Savior will be comforted.

R. Dwain Minor