The Sermon on the Mount, Part 9

Woman hands praying with a bible in a dark over wooden table

Why does Jesus bless the pure in heart?

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Matthew 5:8

Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart…
Psalm 24:3-4

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
James 4:8

Jesus offers us the opportunity to see God, but first our heart must be pure. The sixth beatitude is both amazing and confusing. What is my heart and how does it become pure? What is purity, anyway? And what does it mean to see God? Good questions.

The heart is one of the most important concepts in the New Testament and an integral part of the Gospel. Humankind’s natural tendency is to focus on externals (how we appear to others). The Pharisees were a good example in Jesus’s day, and he had many conversations with them about the importance of aligning the inner person (the heart) with the person everyone sees.

Jesus came into conflict with the religionists because he embraced a biblical definition of the heart:

  • The heart is the seat of my emotions (Deuteronomy 28:47; Proverbs 27:11; Isaiah 35:4; Acts 14:17).
  • The heart is the seat of my intellect (Genesis 27:41; Judges 5:16; Mark 2:6).
  • The heart is the seat of my will (Proverbs 6:18; Jeremiah 3:17; 23:20; Daniel 1:8; 2 Corinthians 9:7).
  • The heart is also the internal realm where I encounter God (Psalm 27:8; Ephesians 3:17).

Jesus will teach us more about the nature of the heart later in the sermon, but for now we can say this: my heart is the center of my personality and being. All my thoughts, feelings, and actions begin in my heart.

And my heart is to be “pure.” The Greek word translated pure (katharoi) is usually translated “clean.” Most of us associate being pure with being morally upright and free from sin, but the point Jesus is making is more basic: if something is pure, it is unmixed with anything else. It is one thing.Jesus is saying, “blessed are the single-hearted.” Being pure in heart is about having undivided loyalties and not getting distracted.

The Apostle Paul gives us a good definition of “pure in heart” in Philippians 3:12-14, “Brothers and sisters, I don’t think that I have already achieved the goal, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”

Being pure in heart is not about being perfect. It’s about staying connected to God throughout our day. It’s the “praying without ceasing” Paul recommends in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. It is staying mindful of who we are and why we are here. Those who are pure in heart learn from the past, but they don’t dwell in it, and they don’t fall into the trap of becoming double-minded. They focus on the “one thing” Jesus told Martha was essential (Luke 10:38–42).

Jesus says the single-hearted “will see God.” To see God is to be with him. The promise is one of profound intimacy. Consider what Jesus has promised his apprentices in the beatitudes so far: they will possess the kingdom of heaven and inherit the earth; they will be comforted and receive mercy; they will be filled to overflowing with righteousness, and they will see God. The “blessing” of each beatitude is but one facet of the same truth: when we trust Jesus with all our being and act accordingly, we will enjoy an intimate relationship with God now, and we can look forward to a future that will be blessed beyond our comprehension (1 John 3:2).

 

Next: Blessed are the peacemakers.

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