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).
- 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.