And when He saw the multitudes, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. And opening His mouth He began to teach them (Matt. 5:1-2).
It seems as if Jesus purposely reduced the size of His audience by walking away from the “multitudes” and up a mountain. We are told that “His disciples came to Him,” as if to indicate that only those who were hungry to hear Him were willing to huff and puff up the mountain to where He finally rested. Apparently there were quite a few; they are called “the crowds” in 7:28.
Jesus then began His sermon, speaking to His disciples, and from the start we get a hint of what His overriding theme will be. He tells them that they are blessed if they possess certain traits, because those traits belong to the heaven-bound. That will be His overall them for this sermon—Only the holy will inherit God’s kingdom. The Beatitudes, as they are called, ring with this theme.
Jesus enumerated a number of different traits that characterize the blessed people, and He promised a number of specific blessings to them. Casual readers often study the Beatitudes like people who are superstitious scan horoscopes, thinking that each person should find himself in one, and only one, Beatitude. Careful readers, however, realize that Jesus was not listing different kinds of people who will receive varied blessings, but one kind of person who will receive one all-encompassing future blessing: inheriting the kingdom of heaven. There is no other intelligent way to interpret His words.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matt. 5:1-12).