Blessed are the Peacemakers

Of all the teachings of Jesus, the “Sermon on the Mount” is probably the best-known. Matthews tells us that the crowds began following Jesus after news of his miraculous healing of “every disease and sickness” spread throughout the entire region of Galilee and Judea. When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and began to teach them.

The location of this teaching in Matthew 5-7 suggests that it occurred very early in Jesus’ public ministry. This “sermon” is only recorded in the first Gospel (Matthew), although Luke records a similar sermon, sometimes called “the Sermon on the Plain” in the third Gospel (6:17-49). While Luke’s account is considerably shorter than Matthew’s, both sermons begin with what are known as the Beatitudes, end with the parable of the two house builders, and contain much material in common.

It is quite likely that the teachings recorded in these three chapters of Matthew were not a single sermon given on one particular occasion, but rather are a collection of teachings by Jesus early in his ministry. Of all the teachings included in these chapters, the Beatitudes especially establish the radical character of Jesus’ ministry and clearly set him apart from all other teachers of his day.

In the Beatitudes, Jesus describes what his followers ought to be like. The first four Beatitudes describe the disciples’ relationship to God and the second four, the disciples’ relationship to other people.

As far as we know, this is Jesus’ first recorded teaching on peacemaking. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). The Amplified New Testament reads “Blessed are those who are makers and maintainers of peace.”

As noted in previous posts in this Blog, Jesus had already demonstrated on numerous occasions what peacemaking was all about. When he called the tax collector, Levi (Matthew), to be one of his twelve disciples, along with Simon the Zealot, this message was clear. When he met with the Samaritan woman at the well and engaged her in conversation, he taught his disciples another important lesson. When he touched lepers and a bleeding woman, thereby making himself “unclean,” he made his point. This is what Shalom-making is all about in a broken world.

First by his actions and then by his teaching, Jesus underlines the point that God is the author of peace and reconciliation, so people who want to follow him are called to this task as well. Satan is the author of discord and conflict. It is God who loves peace and who, through citizens of his Kingdom, is committed to seeing peace established on earth through his people, empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Peacemaking is a powerful testimony to the world that disciples of Jesus are in the business of bringing healing and reconciliation to a world full of conflict and hatred. This testimony points to the author of peace (God the Father), the Prince of Peace (Jesus Christ) and the enabler of peacemaking (Holy Spirit).

So What?
  • It is hard not to be discouraged when you read the Beatitudes because it seems so impossible to actually live a life that reflects these qualities. That’s why most of us try to “spiritualize” the teachings, reducing them to some abstract theological qualities. Read the Beatitudes (Matthew 5: 3-10). Are these qualities you strive for – to be meek, merciful, and pure in heart? What a powerful antidote to a culture in which cynicism and self-interest are the primary default positions!
  • Being a “maker and maintainer of peace” is an exciting calling to me. Do you agree? Rather than bringing more hurt and violence to our world, which we see every night on the evening news, we have a special mandate – to do what we can to make and maintain peace.

5 comments on “Blessed are the Peacemakers”

  1. Richard

    JB: The call to interpersonal peace making and maintenance seems clear. I would love to hear your thoughts on our role as Christ-followers and American citizens to be involved in systemic peace making an maintenance. Rich

  2. JB's Reflections

    Good question, Rich — perhaps another post needs top be written with this focus. I recently read the new biography of Bonhoeffer and his struggle with the issue of his faith and how to relate to the growing Nazi ideology that manipulated “German Christians” into becoming compliant supporters of Hitler’s anti-Semitism, for example. Obviously our first commitment is the Kingdom of God and all else, including loyalty to our country, is secondary. But this is not always an easy call! JB

  3. Don

    Struck by your recognition that cynicism is a peace killer. While living in USSR, I became aware of the cynicism there that became a hope and faith killer. The clever anecdotes that ripped bare the Soviet philosophy concealed a heart that had given up on life, but had in the end fallen prey to accepting the communist practical philosophy – material life is all that matters. Today, live today, tomorrow we die and turn to worm food.
    But of course you are right. the nasty edge of cynicism that blocks all courage to consider there might be a way to bring together hopeless haters. There is endless blood canly in the Caucasus. Automatic hatred between Israeli and Palestinian. Even blind political followers who see no contradiction to Christ’s way in someone who promises to support life at birth, but uses a beautifully scripted ad to savage their adult political opponent who also has given their life to public service. The mind goes numb, the limbs are paralyzed, just watch others howl and march. Do nothing.
    Yes, the cynic in me when exposed is a stone laid over a grave where hope, action, life once lived.
    So John, where did this wellspring of hope come from that gave Christ the courage to stand silent before his haters crying crucify him, the Roman system that placed a corrupt educated aristocrat like Pilate in a position to ask What is truth, then wash his hands of the murder of THE TRUTH? How did he see through the political loves of his day whether for Biblical law making or Jewish nation saving at all costs or Caesar faith or Samaritanism, Galileeinism? After all he was just a poor carpenter from a tiny village outside a new Roman theatre complex under construction!
    How could a youth spent listening weekly to the Torah read in synagogue and a mother at prayer on Shabat and perhaps a few early mornings alone in the hills above Nazareth make the man we love so incredibly insightful?
    “Modern man” Behold THE MAN!.

  4. John Hays

    We need to hear more. How do we follow Jesus’ call to shalom in the midst of a culture that is captivated by self-interest, rubber-necking at violence as entertainment, disrespect for life, insensitive to racism, hopeless about a sustainable future? How do we speak and live in the presence of gangs of urban teens who care not for the lives around them? How do we challenge the assumptions and attitudes that harden people groups to oppose the each other in various places around the world? And how do we do this when we are tired and have been wounded by our fellow followers of Jesus? Lord, Jesus! Help us!

  5. JB's Reflections on Shalom

    Thanks, John, for your honest response. As I thought about your comments, a quote came to mind from John Chrysostom, who made this statement to his congregation in the year 387 as the Roman Empire was collapsing: “Your resignation assumes God is dead. Do not be so certain. He who embraced death had defeated its power over us. He who went down to hell liberated every city held captive by hell’s despair. Christ is risen! Open the doors of your comfortable despair, that the great storms of hope may blow life into us again.”

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