“For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes (Matthew 5). But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course, that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere. ‘Blessed are the merciful’ in a courtroom? ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’ in the Pentagon? Give me a break!”

Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country

In the last book published before his death, Kurt Vonnegut makes a bold statement full of reckoning truth.

Over 70% of Americans identify themselves as Christian (according to Pew Research Foundation). As Vonnegut points out, the most vocal among the group lead the fight to post the 10 Commandments in public places – schools, in courts, in government buildings. 

Yet the ten commandments were part of the Old Testament, God’s law that was set before Jesus came to change things. 

With Jesus came a new era – he came to die for all the sins we weren’t good enough to avoid and couldn’t sacrifice enough to be forgiven for.

And from Jesus’ mouth came The Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ most famous sermon, given at the very beginning of his ministry. He announces a series of blessings, before going on to speak about the law and its fulfillment (through him), and also gives specific instructions on how to pray (the Our Father). 

The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ first utterance to the general public. He opens this first sermon, what he wants the world to hear, with The Beatitudes

What does Beatitude mean? Supreme blessedness, exalted happiness

It is in this Jesus proclaims first that you will be blessed or gain the favor of God not by following the law, but rather the gospel – being faithful, empathetic, humble,  striving to do what is good and just, being merciful, honest, and brave.

The Beatitudes

Blessed are the poor in spirit,

  for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn,

  for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,

  for they will inherit the land.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

  for they will be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful,

  for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the clean in heart,

  for they will see God. 

Blessed are the peacemakers,

for they will be called children of God. 

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of

righteousness,for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

Matthew 5: 1-10

Jesus shows his first crowd that God cares about our hearts, not just the rules and regulations we follow. Jesus’ wisdom invites us to examine our values, and move from law to whole-heartedness. To be, like Jesus – Father-trusting, kingdom-awaiting, and full of grace. 

Other Resources:

3 Things You Didn’t Know About the Sermon on the Mount by Jonathan Pennington

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