The fifth chapter of the Gospel of Saint Matthew contains the Sermon on the Mount, also known as the Beatitudes.
These may be the most well-known verses of Holy Scriptures, and they may also be the most misused and most misunderstood texts of Holy Scriptures.
Many see this text as guidance for their lifestyle. And while it certainly gives good advice on how to live, the problem is that it is unattainable for us sinful humans.
Do we really ever mourn in a godly way? Are we ever really meek? Do we hunger and thirst after righteousness, are we really merciful, pure in heart, are we truly peacemakers?
If keeping these Beatitudes are the requirement for pleasing God, I am a failure.
Even the great apostle Paul states that he is a failure.
See Romans 7:23-25 where he declares himself to be wretched before God.
But he has a solution to his wretchedness, and this solution is available to us as well: “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Paul cannot save himself by doing the good works the Beatitudes require. And neither can I or you or anyone else living on this world.
But thanks be to God that Jesus Christ has kept the Beatitudes perfectly, not only for Paul but also for you and for me.
Jesus Christ died on the cross paying the penalty for all the times you and I and Paul have disobeyed the Beatitudes and also for every other sin each of us has committed. Jesus died that we may live.
The Beatitudes, and every other law, has been kept perfectly for us by Jesus Christ. The only thing God now demands of us is that we believe this and place our trust in Jesus, not in ourselves.
Now that we have been forgiven of all our sins, we are able to live the lives acceptable to God, not in order to please him and to win his favor, but purely out of gratitude for what Jesus has accomplished for us.
And we have the wonderful news that while quite often we will fail to live those lives acceptable to God, God continues to forgive our sins for Jesus’ sake as we continue to turn to him, confessing our disobedience and trusting in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins.
Each of the Beatitudes begins with the words, “Blessed are,” and we now understand that we are blessed, not because we keep the Beatitudes in a perfect manner, but because we are declared blessed as we live our lives trusting in Jesus Christ our lord and savior, and living our lives to the best of our ability in keeping the Beatitudes, receiving the continuance of forgiveness when we fail.
For all this we should daily thank and praise, serve and obey our lord and savior, God the Father and his son, Jesus Christ.
Richard H. Snyder is a retired Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod pastor.