Thoughts on the Beatitudes (1) - Evan Gear

Matthew 5:1 — Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down,
his disciples came to him.

The beatitudes form the introduction to that portion of Matthew traditionally referred to as
“The Sermon on the Mount.” It is called that because of this verse. Here we read of the
setting of the scene. This is the context of the whole of the sermon. Jesus seated upon a

There are four simple phrases which make up this verse. They are marked clearly in the
above translation by the use of commas. It is intriguing to note the movement from the
crowds to the disciples; the throng becomes a small company. And what is it that causes
this sifting or sorting of the crowd into a group called his disciples?

It is the two middle phrases. Look at them. They both refer to the actions of Christ our
Lord. He went up on the mountain. He sat down. Somehow these two things sift out from
the crowd the disciples. Thus, in this one verse you have the work of Christ in
microcosm. In this case, the focus is not incarnation, cross or resurrection but ascension
and session. As we confess every Sunday, “He ascendeth into heaven, and sitteth on
the right hand of God the Father Almighty

Why does he do it? We have the answer here. Seeing the crowds…

God, the Son, looked out over the world and saw the need. He saw that judgment and
justice filled the earth. He beheld the fallen state of men, that all did what was right in
their own eyes because there was no king in the land (see Judges 17:6; 18:1, etc.). As
Isaiah prophesied (59:15-20):

The LORD saw it, and it displeased him
    that there was no justice.
16 He saw that there was no man [no king, no leader],
    and wondered that there was no one to intercede;
then his own arm brought him salvation,
    and his righteousness upheld him.

Then as a king, he dresses himself for war:

17 He put on righteousness as a breastplate,
    and a helmet of salvation on his head;
he put on garments of vengeance for clothing,
    and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak.
18 According to their deeds, so will he repay,
    wrath to his adversaries, repayment to his enemies;
    to the coastlands he will render repayment.
19 So they shall fear the name of the LORD from the west,
    and his glory from the rising of the sun;
for he will come like a rushing stream,
    which the wind of the LORD drives.
20 “And a Redeemer will come to Zion,
    to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,” declares the LORD.

Seeing the crowds, he acts to punish his enemies and to save his people. Our
confession describes him as a king who “governs our hearts by his word and Spirit and
overcomes all our enemies by his almighty power and wisdom (WCF 10.8).” He
accomplishes this from his seat in heaven. High upon the highest mountain, he sits. The
work that he has finished is applied to the world. For many it is a crushing condemnation
against which they fight tooth and nail. For others, it is the wooing call of the bridegroom
which moves his disciples to come. It is the great sifting which marks are age and which
takes place at the footstool of the enthroned king.

So, God the Father speaks of the Son in the Psalms:

Psalm 2:6 — I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill.

Psalm 110:1 — Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.

You see, in this one act (recorded for us in Matthew 5:1) our Lord embodies this grand,
cosmic truth. Only one who is both man and God can accomplish such a feat in such a
simple act. And this is but a silent prelude to his imperial pronouncements which follow
in verses 5:3-7:27.
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