Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 5:7–9

Matthew 5:7–9
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.”
(NET Bible)
Note: any Bible reference containing only a chapter number and verse number is understood to be in the Gospel of Matthew.

Behavior toward others is part of mercy

The strange thing about mercy is that it is never about what the other person has done; mercy is always about the heart of the person showing it or withholding it. Whether you are ready to enter the kingdom of God will be measured by your willingness to show mercy by your actions. Is that a problem?

Since anyone who recognizes their own sin needs mercy from God above all, the reward promised by 5:7 is a powerful motivator. Note that the second half of verse 7 is in passive voice. This use of passive voice is called a divine passive, meaning that God is the one who will show mercy to the merciful. Greek grammarian Daniel Wallace says, “That God is behind the scenes is self-evidently part of the worldview of the NT writers.”[1]

Turner points out, “The crucial importance of the theme of mercy for the disciple is repeatedly modeled in Jesus’ life and teaching (Matt. 6:2–4; 9:27, 36; 15:22; 17:15; 18:33; 20:30).”[2] Of course, the greatest act of mercy that Jesus performed was to die for our sins, in our place. Bible scholar Craig Blomberg goes so far as to say that Exodus 34:6 means that mercy may be God’s most fundamental attribute.[3]

The importance of showing mercy as a disciple of Jesus is demonstrated by the command to forgive your brother unendingly (Matt. 18:21–22). That command is followed immediately by the parable of the unmerciful servant (18:23–35), in which those who show no mercy are given none in the last judgment.

The idea extolled in 5:8 is not easy to capture. When I was in the Boy Scouts, we made hot cocoa one morning in camp, but the milk had about as much wind-blown dirt in it as it did cocoa. We drank the stuff, but it was not pure! That helps us get the meaning of pure in this context; the pure heart has no added false motives. Instead, the pure heart is an undivided heart that has a single-minded devotion to God and his kingdom. The person who has only externally-acceptable behavior will not see God.

Matthew 5:9 uses a rare word, translated peacemaker, to describe a person who reconciles enemies. Keener says the word was applied most often to emperors.[4] We, however, serve a Lord who is much higher than an emperor, and he wants us to be an active reconciler of people. Since many are in rebellion against God, we are also to reconcile them to God through Jesus Christ. Those who reconcile enemies and seek to live in harmony with others will be called sons of God (5:9), meaning God approves of their alignment to his ways.

Turner ably summarizes: “The chief marks of those who already live under God’s rule are humility toward God and mercy toward people.”[5]

A Final Word

Showing mercy can be costly. When I brought my newborn son Scott home from the hospital, my daughter Amy, age three, was delighted to see him. After a few minutes she quietly slipped away to her room.

Amy was the proud owner of two security blankets, her most highly treasured possessions. As far as she knew, no others existed. When Amy returned with one precious blanket, she gave it to Scott. “He doesn’t have one,” she said. In that moment, Amy was more merciful than anyone I had ever known.

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.


[1] Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995) 438.

[2] David L. Turner, Matthew, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008) 152.

[3] Craig L. Blomberg, Matthew, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1992) 100.

[4] Craig S. Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1999), 169.

[5] Turner, Matthew, 153.

 

Do you have an opinion or a different interpretation? Let me know!