The Sermon on the Mount

The Pursuit of Happiness



Dr. John Hoole    - August 9, 2015



A unanimous declaration of the thirteen United States of America was passed on July 4, 1776.  We know this document as the Declaration of Independence.


The second sentence of this document reads: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."


In preparation for this series of lessons, I have been intrigued by this phrase "the pursuit of Happiness."  For most people, this is life’s ultimate goal.


Blaise Pascal was a seventeenth century mathematical genius.  If you study math or physics at school, you will see this man’s impact.  Even if you study philosophy, you might meet him – he was also a religious thinker.  On the subject of Happiness, Pascal wrote: “All men seek happiness, this is without exception.  Whatever different means they use, all men tend towards this end.  Some go to war, others avoid it – but all have the same desire in view.”


Indeed, our entire culture seems to be taken with the idea that the pursuit of happiness is and should be the main goal of every person.  And we go at it with abandon.  But do we ever really attain it?  Looking out into the wider world today, why is it that true, lasting satisfaction is something so elusive?


Most people I have known, who have given their lives to a pursuit of happiness, have never really attained what they would call true happiness.  Perhaps it all hinges on how we define the word.  Or perhaps the things we thought would make us happy are not the things which really make people happy.


One of my purposes for bringing this up at this time is that we also see this problem in the church.  All too often we have been willing to settle for less in our spiritual lives than what God desires for us.  Perhaps it is because we live without persecution in a country where we enjoy religious freedom.


That very freedom often causes people to take for granted things which should be held as very precious.  It can cause people to take lightly their Christian commitment.  It fosters a casual Christianity, one in which we serve only at our convenience.  If we are not careful, we the Church will fall into Satan’s trap of desiring the same things as those around us, all in the hopes of gaining some measure of happiness.  I have to fight against that in my life just as much as each of you.  I like the newest toy as much as the next person.


         •  the newest computer or computer program

         •  the tools I think I can’t do without


Since its formation, the church has struggled with living in the world without being a part of the world.  I believe the church at large has had at times an identity crisis.  We have in many ways lost the distinctiveness – the qualities -- that identifies who we really are.  The result – it has become difficult to tell the difference between the Church and the rest of society.  And when that happens, we have precious little influence on the world.  Why would they want to become Christians if they don’t see in us anything worth changing for?


I want this series of lessons to stir our hearts (mine included) so that we live a life that is distinguishable from non-believers.  There should be – there must be – a difference.


Let’s read the two verses in Matthew 5 that precede the Sermon on the Mount.


Matthew 5:1-2 NKJV


1       And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him.

2       Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:


Moses went up into a mountain to receive the Law.  Jesus ascended a mountain to explain the Law.  As was the custom of Jewish rabbis, Jesus sat down to teach.


The sanctuary for the greatest sermon ever preached was the mountain.  As far as we know, this mountain – really a large hill – had no name until Jesus preached there.  Until then it had been but one of many hills that slope up gently from the Sea of Galilee.  What had been simply a mountain among many other mountains now became the mountain, sanctified and set apart by the presence of the Lord.  For many centuries, the traditional site has been called the Mount of Beatitudes.  I wonder what it would have been like to sit on these hills 2,000 years ago and listen to the Son of God explain the “Kingdom of Heaven.”


The verses that follow what we just read in Matthew 5 provide 8 statements of Christ that have become known as the Beatitudes.




         Dictionary:      Supreme Blessedness;  Exalted Happiness


The word Beatitude is not found in the text of our English Bible.  The word “beatitude” is a rough transliteration of the Latin beatus.  Some Christians call these beatitudes “macarisms.”  This is not an English word, but a rough transliteration of the Greek word MAKARIOS which is the Greek word that is translated 8 times in this Passage as “Blessed.”


A few weeks ago, at the invitation of my good friend, Dr. Duane Braddy, I spoke twice at the senior’s Bible study at the church they attend in Bothell.  When I told him that I was about to start a series on the Sermon on the Mount, he mentioned that Hebrew for the mount is translated “Mount of Happiness.”  That is taken from the Hebrew name, Asher, or Ashrei.


As I studied this, I found that the Greek word Makarios is often Asher when translated into Hebrew.  Asher was the eighth son of Jacob, and second to two sons by Zilpah, Leah’s handmaid.  The other son by Zilpah was Gad.


Genesis 30:13 NKJV


13     Then Leah said, "I am happy, for the daughters will call me blessed." So she called his name Asher.


When Jacob blessed his sons in Genesis 49, he said that Asher would have a life blessed with abundance of food and delicacies befitting a king (Gen. 49:20).  Before Moses dies, he places a blessing on Asher in Deuteronomy 33:24-25.


Deuteronomy 33:24-25 NKJV


24     And of Asher he said: "Asher is most blessed of sons; Let him be favored by his brothers, And let him dip his foot in oil.

25     Your sandals shall be iron and bronze; As your days, so shall your strength be.


                   Moses predicts prosperity for the tribe of Asher.


Only a few people in the New Testament are mentioned along with their tribe.  Anna, the prophetess is mentioned as being in the tribe of Asher (Luke 2:36)


The Greek word Makarios is often equivalent to the Hebrew Ashrei, and indicates great blessing. Take the first Psalm for instance.


Psalms 1:1 NKJV


1  Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;


The first word, blessed, is the Hebrew word Ashrei.  In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, that first word is Makarios.  And blessing is what is promised to those who are part of the kingdom of our Lord.  In the beatitudes, Jesus promises great blessing.


The next general thing we need to notice is that two of the beatitudes promise the same reward.  The first beatitude reads, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  The last one says, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”


To begin and end with the same expression is often thought to be a writer’s stylistic device called an “inclusion.”  This means that everything bracketed between the two can really be included under the one theme -- in this case, the kingdom of heaven.


But there is something else that distinguishes the first and last beatitudes from the rest.  The promises of all the others are all future tense:



The first and last beatitudes are in the present tense.  They read, “Theirs IS the kingdom of Heaven.”  Jesus is telling us that the Kingdom of Heaven is already here, but, as we will learn, it has not fully arrived.


Each of the eight beatitudes begin with the same word  - Blessed!




In this sermon the word “blessed” means “happy,” not in the world’s sense, of course, for the happiness of the world is usually superficial happiness that depends on circumstances.  The happiness spoken here does not depend upon circumstances and fills the soul with joy even in the midst of the most depressing events in life.  For this reason the Phillips paraphrase of the New Testament makes the 1st beatitude say, “How happy are the humble-minded,” And Today’s English Version reads, “Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor:  the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them.”


The word “blessed” has an interesting background in the English language.  In the days of the origin of the English language, when Anglo-Saxon was in use and a number of related dialects were competing for prominence as the common speech, there were more than thirty forms of the Old English word for “blessed.”  Among them were bloedsian, bledsian, and bletsian.  These words were based on the Old English noun BLOD – meaning “blood,” and they were altered over time to become our words “blest” and “blessed.”


At this time in the history of the English language, a thing was considered blessed when it was set apart to God by a blood ritual, and the word then referred to consecration.  In this regard the elements of the communion service were called “the blessed sacrament.”  We are using the word in this way when we speak of the prayer used before meals as “blessing.”  In doing so, we consecrate the food and ourselves to God’s service.


The word “bless” or “blessed” is also linked to another ancient English word – the word “bliss.”  As language evolved, writers began to spell the word “blessed” with an i” or a y.”  And the word “blissed” or “blyssed” was the result.  “Bliss” meant happy or joyful.  At this final stage of its development, “blessed” meant either consecration, praise, or happiness.  And “bliss” became a term for spiritual joy.


When this happened, a new word was called in to express non-religious joy – the word Blithe.”  And so, in 1746, we find a poet writing to a former friend, “I trust that we shall meet on blither terms.”


The bottom line of all this discussion is that when Jesus spoke these words He was telling His listeners how they could be deeply, spiritually, and profoundly happy and how they could maintain this happiness even in the midst of life’s disappointments and hard times.


For a few minutes, I want to investigate the Greek word, Makarios, further.  Not only is it used in the Sermon on the Mount to describe the follower of Christ, it is also a word used to describe God.  For example, we find many times in the Bible the statement, “Blessed be God.”


For instance Psalm 68:35 (NKJV) says:


35     O God, You are more awesome than Your holy places. The God of Israel is He who gives strength and power to His people. Blessed be God!


Similarly, Psalm 72:18 says, “Blessed be the Lord God.”


And Psalm 119:12 reads, “Blessed art Thou O Lord.”


Turning to the New Testament, 1 Timothy 1:11 (NKJV) states: According to the glorious gospel of the blessed [Makarios] God which was committed to my trust.  Whatever Makarios means, it is true of God  And, by the way, this word is also used of our Lord Jesus Christ.


1 Timothy 6:15 NKJV


15     …He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords,


So this blessedness is a character which is true of God and the Son of God.  Now that makes it something we need to take a step further.  If it is true of God, then the only people who will ever experience it are those who are partakers of the life of Christ.  There is no blessedness apart from that.


2 Peter 1:4 tells us that we who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, are are “partakers of the divine nature.”


The result of all this is that we can know the same bliss, the same inner state of contentment, the same happiness deep down within us that is known by the Godhead.  Makarios is fundamentally an element of the character of God.  And we will know that element insofar as he is a partaker of the divine nature.  Once a person knows God through Christ, blessedness becomes available to him or to her.


In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ is speaking of a blessing that remains regardless of the circumstances.  The Christians blessedness is completely untouchable and unassailable.  John 16:22 says:  “No one will take your joy from you.”


God wants to bless you and me.  He wants to bless us over and over and over.  Jesus lists 8 qualities, and with each who exhibit these He promises a blessing.  These are no pie in the sky blessing……but, rather, very specific blessings.


The second half of each beatitude elucidates the blessings.  They range from possessing the kingdom of Heaven to inheriting the earth.  The mourners are promised to be comforted and the hungry are satisfied.  Those having these qualities are promised to receive mercy, they shall see God and they are called the children of God.  It is proclaimed that their heavenly reward is great.


It is true that each particular blessing is tied to a specific quality.  But at the same time it is not possible to be comforted, without also being satisfied -- Nor is it possible to see God without also receiving his mercy and being called his children.


The 8 qualities together constitute each Christian’s responsibilities and the 8 promises of blessings are the privilege of each and every citizen of God’s kingdom.  And these blessings describe what the enjoyment of God’s rule really means.