By Associate Bonnie Chester

Do you have a comfortable chair, one that you can kind of nestle into? One that you can settle into for a time of prayer, maybe for watching your favorite TV show, even a chair in a choice spot, or right in front of a teacher in your favorite class? Take a seat and get comfortable, for the Great Teacher has a few choice words for you! Listen to the words of Jesus, who tells us, according to the words in Matthew’s gospel, how to draw closer to God, His Father. Get comfortable and listen to what Jesus has to say.

Matthew devotes three chapters (Matt 5, 6 and 7) to Jesus’ instructions about life that apply today, as well as yesterday. “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.” (Matt 7:24)

Chapter 5 begins with the famous Sermon on the Mount and the declaration of the Eight Beatitudes. The mount, now known as the Mount of Beatitudes, traditionally was described as having a “smiling landscape, with grassy slopes, extending a hearty welcome to all and spreading delight by means of all its flowering plants.” Now that sounds like a place to get comfortable for sure—just like your chair.

These Beatitudes, or precious sayings, have imparted comfort and encouragement to the distressed for centuries, each beginning with the word Blessed and ending with the blessing that the future holds. As the distressed listened, the light of their future began to engulf them. Jesus says, “You are the light of the world…Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” If you continue reading Chapter 5, Jesus repeats, “you have heard what was said…but I will tell you” many times. You might feel overloaded with dos and don’ts. You will hear about anger, lust, oaths and divorce. But take a seat and listen carefully to His message, and your life will reflect His teachings. Feeling your light shine to the world?

Matthew begins Chapter 6 with Jesus telling us about the importance of giving to the poor, of prayer and fasting, of how important they are to our spiritual life and our strong faith. But wait, am I supposed to do these things privately? Maybe I would like my fellow Christians to know how generous I was. Maybe I don’t want to go to the back of church and pray alone. “When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others…When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret…And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” Jesus is getting right to the point.

Jesus then goes on, “This is how you should pray: Our Father…” Our most treasured prayer is then recounted by Matthew in Jesus’ own words! This prayer is said by millions of people around the world each day. It is truly the summary of the whole gospel and used by most Christian churches in their worship of the Lord, God.

In Chapter 7, Matthew continues with Jesus’ instructions for a life that leads to heaven. He covers a multitude of good choices for us: do not pass judgment on others, ask and you shall receive, enter the narrow gate…for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and beware of false prophets. Lastly, Jesus emphatically tells us, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” Listen and practice!

So, take a seat. Spend some time in that comfortable chair. Nestle in with Matthew and read what Jesus has to say about life. Lord, teach me how to live and how to strengthen my faith through Your word. Show me the way to eternity with You, the Triune God. Amen.

The Beatitudes

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me.

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.  Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matt 5:3–12