“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8)
The Greek word translated in this verse for “pure” is katharós. Elsewhere in scripture, katharós is most commonly translated as the word “clean.” I suppose the word “pure” is used in this verse because it relates to the moral quality of a person’s heart, thus “pure” sounds more appropriate. But katharós is just the ordinary word for “clean.”
“Blessed are the clean in heart…”
Think of your heart as having a window. Windows do two things. First, a window allows light to come in so that we’re not living in darkness. Second, a window also enables you to look out and see what’s going on outside.
But if the window becomes dirty with accumulated grime so that it’s almost as if it’s completely painted over, you will live in darkness and you can’t see out.
The capacity to see God has something to do with the purity of your heart. And the grime that accumulates on the window of the heart that keeps us from seeing is not just any particular sin. It’s a particular kind of sin.
As you look at the four portraits painted by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the mercy of Jesus is prominent. Jesus is merciful to sinners. He’s merciful to tax collectors. He’s merciful to prostitutes. The only people to whom Jesus was not merciful were those who were unmerciful.
In my last blog entry I broke down the 4th Beatitude.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness [dikaiosuné], for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6)
As I pointed out, “righteousness” might be better translated as either the word “justice” or “right-ness.” So the verse can be understood this way: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for things to be made right, for they shall be satisfied.”
Now, let’s combine the 4th and 5th Beatitudes and look at them together.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for things to be made right, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
When you put these two Beatitudes together, you get a deliberate echo of Micah 6:8, which is the summary of the prophetic tradition:
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)
So they go together. And they have to go together. Because if you do not hold the 4th and 5th Beatitude together in tension, things go awry.
Jesus is preaching the “Sermon on the Mount” and a huge crowd is gathering. The crowd is comprised of a mixed multitude. A mishmash of all kinds of people. For example, from Jerusalem/Judea there are the very orthodox Jews with their intense interest in the Law and in the various dietary and ceremonial laws. They are strongly passionate about all things religious.
But there are also the Galileean Jews, for whom synagogue is an important part of their life, but they aren’t religiously compulsive about it. These folks are primarily fishermen, shepherds, and farmers. They have a whole lot of things to keep them busy. And so synagogue is a very formative part of their life, but they’re not obsessive about it.
Then there is the crowd who always seemed to be around Jesus. Sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes. People who had completely abandoned the religious life. They had just given up on religion. They wanted nothing more to do with it. It hadn’t worked out for them. It wasn’t cut out for them. And yet, somehow they’re attracted to Jesus too.
Interestingly, one of the places this crowd comes from (as we’re told in chapter 4) is the Decapolis. It’s an area of ten cities east of the Jordan. And it’s a Greek area settled by Alexander the Great many centuries earlier. And so the Greeks are there with their art and their philosophy and their learning. They’re in the crowd.
And then of course, there are the Roman soldiers who were ever-present as the dominating, occupying military force from the superpower of the age, the Roman Empire.
So you have the hyper-religious Jews, the moderately religious, the irreligious, the sophisticated Greeks, and the arrogant Romans with their military might. They’re all there. They represent the whole spectrum of humanity. Because the sermon that Jesus gives on the Mount is for the whole world. He is declaring the new way, the alternative way that leads to kingdom life.