the Jews, religion had come to be little more than a round of
ceremonies. As they had departed from the true worship of God, and lost
the spiritual power of His word, they had tried to supply the lack by
adding ceremonies and traditions of their own.
Only the blood of Christ can cleanse from
sin. Only His power can keep men from sinning. But the Jews depended
upon their own works and ceremonies of their religion to earn for them
salvation. Because of their zeal for these ceremonies they thought
themselves righteous, and worthy of a place in God's kingdom.
But their hopes were fixed on worldly
greatness. They longed for riches and power, and these they expected as
the reward for their pretended piety.
They looked for the Messiah to set up His
kingdom on this earth, and to rule as a mighty prince among men. Every
worldly blessing they hoped to receive at His coming.
Jesus knew that their hopes were to be
disappointed. He had come to teach them of something far better than
they had sought.
He had come to restore the true worship
of God. He was to bring in a pure heart religion, that would manifest
itself in a pure life and a holy character.
In the beautiful Sermon on the Mount He
explained what God thinks most precious, and what would give real
The Saviour's disciples had been
influenced by the teachings of the rabbis; and for these disciples,
first of all, Christ's lessons were spoken. That which He taught them is
for us also. We need to learn the same things.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit," Christ
said. Matthew 5:3. The poor in spirit are those who know their own
sinfulness and need. They know that of themselves they can do no good
thing. They desire help from God, and to them His blessing is given.
"For thus saith the high and lofty One
that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and
holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to
revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite
ones." Isaiah 57:15.
"Blessed are they that mourn." Matthew
5:4. This does not mean those who complain and murmur, and who go about
with a sour, downcast look. It means those who are truly sorry for their
sins, and who ask God for pardon.
All such He will freely forgive. He says,
"I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make
them rejoice from their sorrow." Jeremiah 31:13.
"Blessed are the meek." Matthew 5:5.
Christ says, "Learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart." Matthew
11:29. When He was wrongfully treated, He returned
good for evil. In
this He has given us an example, that we should do as He has done.
"Blessed are they which do hunger and
thirst after righteousness." Righteousness is right-doing. It is
obedience to the law of God; for in that law the principles of
righteousness are set forth. The Bible says, "All Thy commandments are
righteousness." Psalm 119:172.
That law Christ, by His example, taught
men to obey. The righteousness of the law is seen in His life. We hunger
and thirst after righteousness when we want to have all our thoughts,
our words, and our actions, like Christ's.
And we may be like Christ if we really
desire to be. We may have our lives like His life, our actions in
harmony with the law of God. The Holy Spirit will bring God's love into
our hearts, so that we shall delight to do His will.
God is more willing to give us His Spirit
than parents are to give good things to their children. His promise is,
"Ask, and it shall be given you." Luke 11:9; Matthew 7:7. All that
hunger and thirst after righteousness "shall be filled."
"Blessed are the merciful." Matthew 5:7.
To be merciful is to treat others better than they deserve. So God has
treated us. He delights to show mercy. He is kind to the unthankful and
to the evil.
So He teaches us to treat one another. He
says, "Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another,
even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." Ephesians 4:32.
"Blessed are the pure in heart." Matthew
5:8. God cares more for what we really are than for what we say we are.
He does not care how beautiful we may look, but He
wants our hearts
pure. Then all our words and actions will be right.
King David prayed, "Create in me a clean
heart, O God." "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my
heart, be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my
Redeemer." Psalm 51:10; 19:14. This should be our prayer.
"Blessed are the peacemakers." Matthew
5:9. He who has the meek and lowly spirit of Christ will be a
peacemaker. Such a spirit provokes no quarrel, gives back no angry
answer. It makes the home happy, and brings a sweet peace that blesses
"Blessed are they which are persecuted
for righteousness' sake." Matthew 5:10. Christ knew that for His sake
many of His disciples would be put in prison, and many would be killed.
But He told them not to mourn because of this.
Nothing can harm those who love and
follow Christ. He will be with them in every place. They may be put to
death, but He will give them a life that will never end, and a crown of
glory that fadeth not away.
And from them others will learn about the
dear Saviour. Christ said to His disciples:
"Ye are the light of the world." Matthew
5:14. Jesus was soon going away from the world to His heavenly home. But
the disciples were to teach the people of His love. They were to be as
lights among men.
The lamp in the lighthouse, shining out
in the darkness, guides the ship safely to the harbor; thus Christ's
followers are to shine in this dark world, to guide men to Christ and
the heavenly home.
This is what all the followers of Christ
are to do. He calls them to work with Him in saving others.
Such lessons were strange and new to
Christ's hearers, and He repeated them many times. At one time a lawyer
came to Him with the question: "Master, what shall I do to inherit
eternal life?" Jesus said unto him, "What is written in the law? how
"And he answering said, Thou shalt love
the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all
thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.
"Thou hast answered right," said Christ;
"this do and thou shalt live." The lawyer had not done this. He knew
that he had not loved others as himself. Instead of repenting, he tried
to find an excuse for his selfishness. So he asked Jesus: "Who is my
neighbor?" Luke 10:25-29.
The priests and rabbis often disputed
about this question. They did not call the poor and ignorant their
neighbors, and would show them no kindness. Christ took no part in their
disputes; He answered the question by a story about something that had
happened a short time before.
A certain man, He said, was going down
from Jerusalem to Jericho. The road was steep and rocky, and passed
through a wild, lonely region. Here the man was seized by robbers, and
stripped of all that he had. He was beaten and bruised, and left for
As he lay thus, a priest and then a
Levite from the temple at Jerusalem came that way. But instead of
helping the poor man, they passed by on the other side.
These men had been chosen to minister in
God's temple, and they ought to have been like Him, full of mercy and
kindness. But their hearts were cold and unfeeling.
After a time a Samaritan came near. The
Samaritans were despised and hated by the Jews. To one of these people a
Jew would not give so much as a drink of water or a morsel of bread. But
the Samaritan did not stop to think of this. He did not stop even to
think of the robbers who might be watching for him.
There lay the stranger, bleeding and
ready to die. The Samaritan took off his own cloak, and wrapped it about
He gave him his own wine to drink, and
poured oil on his wounds. He put him on his own beast, brought him to an
inn, and took care of him all night.
The next morning, before going away, he
paid the innkeeper to care for him till he should be strong again. So
Jesus told the story. Then turning to the lawyer, He asked:
"Which now of these three, thinkest thou,
was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves?"
The lawyer answered, "He that showed
mercy on him."
Then Jesus said, "Go, and do thou
likewise." Luke 10:35-37. So Jesus taught that every person who needs
our help is our neighbor. We are to treat him just as we ourselves would
like to be treated.
The priest and the Levite pretended to
keep God's commandments, but it was the Samaritan who really kept them.
His heart was kind and loving.
In taking care of the wounded stranger,
he was showing love to God as well as to man. For it pleases God to have
us do good to one another. We show our love for Him by being kind to
those about us.
A kind, loving heart is worth more than
all the riches in the world. Those who live to do good show that they
are children of God. They are the ones who will dwell with Christ in His