A Video Supplement for
Come, Follow Me Lesson 8:
“Blessed Are Ye”
I will go through Matthew 5:1-12 a verse or a few verses at at time and comment on them.
1 And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:
2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,
Setting of the Sermon on the Mount is some sort of prominence. Matthew contextualizes the teaching in such a way that Jesus is cast as a second Moses. He delivers the law from the mountain similar to Moses delivering the law from Sinai. The invitation to come up to higher ground suggests that we are being invited to come closer to or come into the presence of God through the instruction that Jesus is given. This perspective is amplified by both the “mountain” setting of Matthew and the temple setting of the sermon instantiated in Third Nephi. A journey into the presence of God can be signified in multiple ways including by increase in altitude, or by increases in illumination, but the end goal is to gather people together so as to instruct them in order to prepare them to enter into the presence of the Lord. This process involves several subprocesses: They include increasing in light and knowledge, and complying with laws, which reframe and sacrilize our relationships with our fellow men and with God. Changing appetites from fallen nature to those the seek after God. As Jesus gives the higher law, he uses a term “blessed” repeatedly. The underlying Greek word used in the gospels, transliterated as “makarioi” (https://biblehub.com/lexicon/matthew/5-3.htm) means blessed or happy, similar to the Latin term beatus which is why the following saying of Jesus are referred to as the beatitudes. Each described those who are, or will ultimately be, fortunate, happy or blessed. So who does Jesus recommend as blessed?
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
I covered this verse fairly extensively in a previous video, so I won’t redo it here, but instead provide a link: Ideas to Improve Your Personal Scripture Study: Ask Questions as You Study. To be brief, those who recognize their own spiritual poverty and need have the opportunity to receive further light and knowledge, while those who already suppose they are full impede this process through their lack of humility. They are like the self-described whole, who “have no need of a physician” (Mark 2:17) until having skipped years of routine physicals become afflicted by something entirely preventable from which they could have been saved but for their arrogance.
4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
So who are these folks that are mourning and why is the Lord encouraging this behavior? Let’s look at a few instances of mourning in the scriptures: Ezekiel 9 describes an occasion in which a destruction is coming from the Lord which will begin at the house of the Lord. Before this destruction is unleashed, however, the Lord sends someone to mark the righteous who are to be spared. Verse 4 states, “And the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.” These upon whom the Lord had mercy are those who are mourning for the sins of the people. This seems to be a feature of the righteous. Even the three Nephite disciples who ask permission to remain in their ministry upon the earth in 3 Nephi 28:9 are told that they will not escape this particular sorrow. “And again, ye shall not have pain while ye shall dwell in the flesh, neither sorrow save it be for the sins of the world; and all this will I do because of the thing which ye have desired of me, for ye have desired that ye might bring the souls of men unto me, while the world shall stand.” Paul similarly extols the virtue of godly sorrow, saying, in 2 Corinthians 7:10, ” For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” Paul thus also makes a distinction in the character of the sorrow that is being encouraged. Misery in the abstract that is not being encouraged but sorrow for sin.
5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
This suggests that the meek receive eternal life. Related terms are teachable, humble, and possibly long-suffering. The Lord willingly suffering for our wrong-doings despite he having done nothing wrong is certainly a limiting case of meekness.
6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
The analogous 3 Nephi 12:6 has more specifically “for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost” and, indeed, this is not the last time that Jesus promises that what he brings can satisfy hunger. He makes this same observation to the Woman at the Well in John 4:7-14 and also describes himself as the bread of life in John 6:35, which can make content the most pressing appetites of the human soul.
7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Jesus will later expand this theme in Matthew 6:14-15, where he stipulates the requirement for symmetry of forgiveness: 14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
He also addresses this theme in Matthew 18:23-35 in the parable of the debtors.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
To unpack what it means to be pure in heart it helps to look at what should and shouldn’t be true of our hearts. In Mosiah 13:11 Abinadi chastises the priests of King Noah for their failure to internalize the commandments of God, “11 And now I read unto you the remainder of the commandments of God, for I perceive that they are not written in your hearts; I perceive that ye have studied and taught iniquity the most part of your lives.” Jeremiah writes of a time (Jeremiah 31:33) in which the Lord will make a new covenant with Israel, “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Paul apparently alludes to this in Romans 2:15 in describing the Gentile converts, “Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)” So, taken together, the pure in heart are those that have the principles of the Gospel written there because they have incorporated them into their very being.
This last group I will read and comment on together, because I think they partake of some common themes.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
In a world in which “it must needs be that offences come” (Matthew 18:5), ending the cycle of retaliation is critical for lasting peace. Peace through the threat of retaliation is not real peace, because it requires us to continually consider how best to smite our neighbors if they get out of line. Jesus wants something better than this for us. Real peace is peace where you don’t have to watch your back and waste time, energy and misery on honing the capability to hurt others. The way we get there is by loving and serving our neighbors until they realize that a world in which we are all still in it is better than a world in which some of us aren’t. In contrast to those who trap themselves in an eternal tit-for-tat exchange of offenses, Christ sets the ultimate example of making peace and accepting persecution by accepting all of the consequences of others sin (offenses against his laws) and death when he was both able and entitled to do otherwise. Christ’s invitation is on some level to follow him in willingly accepting injustices in the interest of establishing peace because it can’t exist when there is not a willingness to forgo retaliation to this end.