- 5 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 
You have probably never heard of Anna Mae Pennika unless you listen to sermons from famous preachers. In 1982 the Los Angeles Times printed her story and circulated it on their news service so that it was carried by major papers across the county. A 62-year-old woman blind from birth received a surgery at the UCLA Medical Center to finally give her sight. Hers was the perfect story that preachers tuck away for sermon illustrations. So, her name survives to this day in several commentaries and printed sermons as someone who was blind but received sight. 
It must be, as it was for her, a marvelous thing to be able to see for the first time in one’s life. What made her story particularly touching was that her husband had gone blind several years before her surgery. Once, he was her eyes. Then, suddenly, she became his eyes. But there is a site that surpasses even these kinds of heart-tugging stories: seeing God. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Scripture is clear that seeing God is the greatest joy humans can experience, since we were created for intimate relationship with our Creator.
THE GREATEST SIGHT
When we who trust into the person and work of the crucified, buried, resurrected, and glorified Lord Jesus Christ passes from this world, we will be enraptured at the sight of the One who knew you and loved you before he spoke one atom of the universe into existence, one who purposed to live the perfect life you could never live and to die in your place the death your sin deserves. The joy of that face-to-face meeting will eclipse the sum of all our earthly joys.
Even Mrs. Penica’s restoration of sight fails to rise to the level of surprise and joy at being finally and fully restored to a face-to-face relationship with God. This is what the sixth Beatitude is ultimately about: seeing God. This is the blessing for which we were created as humans and for which we are being re-created as a new humanity.
Our first question must be what “pure” means. Jesus’ reference to “pure in heart” very likely comes from Psalm 24, a song of David to be sung as worshippers ascended to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast days:
3 Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. 5 He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation. 6 Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.
You are all well-taught enough to know that (little “m”) messiah David was NOT singing about trying harder and doing better so people could make themselves worthy to stand “in his holy place.” In fact, only priests and Levites on duty could enter into the holy place of the temple. This was a song about the only One truly worthy to enter the holy place: (the capital “m”) Messiah Jesus. Only three human beings have been able to see God face-to-face and experience perfect fellowship with him: Adam and Eve before their sin, and The Man in Heaven, Messiah Jesus.
Yet, the Old Testament prophets looked forward to the New Covenant God was making through which people could be purified to fellowship with God, having clean hearts free from the shame, guilt, and (ultimately) the power and presence of sin. Ezekiel spoke this promise of God to exiled Israel:
25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. 28 You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. 29 And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses.
Jeremiah also sang of that New Covenant promise of God to put his “law in their minds and write it on their hearts” (Jer. 31:33). In Jesus’ time, as well as in our own, the need is urgent. We all love to externalize religion like the Pharisees did. What is our politically-correct “cancel culture” but externalized, relative morality – Pharisaic public virtue-signaling? The only thing that has changed is that our modern rules of what’s considered “moral” have shifted. The intense human desire to earn righteousness by appearance has not. We’re still trying to cover over our sin with rotting fig leaves.
This is why Jesus warned the religious leaders, in Matthew 23:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. 27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. 
All of us, like the scribes and Pharisees, have that innate human religion that believes deeply, “Blessed are those who appear outwardly clean, for they shall see God.” But Jesus’ sixth Beatitude calls for a perfect internal standard: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
Additionally, the demand for purity of heart calls for a perfect internal devotion. In the Old Testament sense, “Uncleanness is not just a lack of cleanness. It is a power which positively defiles. In particular, anything associated with a foreign cult, or hostile to Yahweh, is unclean. This is the primary origin of the OT law of meats. Animals are disqualified which were once totem animals or animals dedicated to a god.” The outward uncleanness was the result of inward idolatry and rebellion. In our text, the word conveys the idea of freedom from every taint of evil.
It refers to more than mere sensuality, though it certainly includes that. It means a heart that does not possess mixed motives and divided loyalties in its relationship with God. It is a heart of pure, unmixed devotion to God.
James writes, “Purify your hearts, you double minded” (James 4:8). It is a demand for the purging of duplicity and double-mindedness and replacement with simple and pure devotion to God alone. As the little “m” messiah David sang: “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.” 
Even our best motives are always mixed with the selfishness of our own self-interests. Maybe you have experienced meeting someone at some event who, having been introduced to you, keeps on talking and smiling and listening, while at the same time searching around the room looking for other people and things that might benefit his or her interests. They’re really not interested in you. You are only an object or means to an end. Positively stated, “pure” is represented by the qualities of focus, absorption, concentration, sincerity, and singleness of mind.
“Blessed are the pure in heart” is a comprehensive and penetrating statement because focusing on God with a singleness of heart is an impossible challenge to all humanity, even for those who are called to follow Christ and so possess by trust his Spirit within them.
The depth of Jesus statement is measured by the phrase “in heart.” It means that our entire being – our thoughts, our feelings, our actions – are to be concentrated solely on God. A merely intellectual focus is not pure in heart. This blessing reflects a Kingdom power that is not only pure on the surface but pure in the center of our being and at the source of every activity. This is a radical cleanness of heart.
This, of course, brings up our great problem. It is from the human heart that all of our problems arise. Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure” (Jer. 17:9). Jesus said, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matt. 15:19). Jesus also said, “Nothing outside a man can make him unclean like going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him unclean. … For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts” (Mk. 7:15,21).
God’s testimony about our hearts is clear. But our hearts inherently know this to be true. Our sense of guilt is what turns us into Pharisees, concerned more with outward appearance than inward spiritual reality. All we need to do is take an honest look within, observing our mixed motives and distractions and divided loyalties to know that what God says is true.
This Beatitude, just like all the others, is beyond our reach. Jesus is commending perfection. In fact, at the end of the Sermon on the Mount this is precisely what he says: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). This is a serious problem for imperfect human beings so used to settling for managing our flesh to appear outwardly acceptable to others.
Not one human being born in sin perfectly exhibits poverty of spirit. None of us mourns perfectly for our sins. None of us is perfectly humble and meek. None of us truly desperately and perfectly thirst after God’s righteousness. Absolutely no one is perfectly pure in heart. So, what are we to do?
There is only one thing we can do when faced with God’s rightful demand for our perfection. We must die. Jesus came to save the last, the last, the least, the little, and the dead. We must die to ourselves – give up our quest for self-salvation and relative morality. We must throw ourselves upon the freely-offered grace and mercy of God in Christ Jesus. When we trust into his perfectly-lived life and sacrificial blood-shedding death, God’s Holy Spirit comes to live in us and begins his radical re-creation project. He applies to us the Kingdom powers described in the Beatitudes.
Using his ordinary means of grace – Word, Sacrament, fellowship with other believers, and prayer – God begins to change our affections. He works over our lifetimes, not immediately but at his own pace for your good and his glory. He enables us to freely confess all of the impure things he shows us from our hearts and gives us the desire to ask that Jesus live purely through us with his Kingdom power, even though we will never attain his perfection in this earthly life. As the Apostle John preached:
5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 
Thus, we hunger and thirst for his righteousness to be displayed more and more in our lives and in this broken world. We ask Messiah Jesus to implant and grow the character of his Kingdom in our lives. If you do not desire to see God uproot your favorite sins, you must question whether you are a citizen of his Kingdom, realizing that his Spirit may be calling you into that Kingdom into which you have not yet entered. If you say you have no impurity of heart, you are lying to yourself.
God demands a character far beyond our human ability to perform out of our own sinful flesh. But he provides the very character he demands now and a humanly impossible vision of what he will fully provide when he consummates his already-but-not-yet-finalized Kingdom into a new heaven and earth.
PROMISE OF REVELATION
The exclusive promise to those drawn into Christ’s Kingdom is that only they receive a vision of God. The word “they” is emphatic: they alone will see God. The more the Spirit purifies our hearts, the more they will see of God.
As we learn more of Jesus – who he is and what he has done – we “see” (apprehend) God. John wrote:
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. …16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. 
We also “see” God as we gather together to fellowship in his Word and his Supper:
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is the love, not that we have been loving God but that he himself loved us and sent out his Son – the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 
You who have been called into Jesus’ Kingdom can “see” God now with the eyes of your heart. Of course we cannot now see him in the totality of his being, that would be more than our sinful flesh could take. But we can see him now in many ways. We can see and celebrate him in his creation as David often did in his Psalms (Ps. 29:3-4, 7). We are given the sight to see and celebrate his handywork in nature.
Those who have been called into Christ’s Kingdom also see him in the events of life – even in the difficult times. This was the experience of Joseph in Egypt, of King David, the prophets, and all of the apostles. After all of his misery, even Job was able to exclaim, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you” (Job 42:5).
The more the Holy Spirit renews and purifies our hearts, the more we will see of God in this life as we learn more and more of his revelation in his Word. The more our hearts become focused upon God, freed from the distractions of circumstances, the more we will see him. And seeing him is the highest good – the very thing for which we were created. The Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 3:18:
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 
But for those drawn into Christ’s Kingdom, there is an ultimate sight of God. Those whom he has purified will one day see him face to face. In that split second of recognition believers will experience more joy than the entirety of accumulated earthly joys they have ever known. They will see the dazzling glory of his being that has been, and always will be, the fascination of angels and the church triumphant.
To those whom he has called into his Kingdom he supplies the vision of Job who said, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes – I and not another. Tell my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27).
John preached, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”
How do WE purify ourselves? After all, Jesus is listing the powers of his Kingdom – not our personal innate powers. John answered that question earlier in his great sermon when he wrote:
7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 
Do you recognize that revelation? John is telling that our lives in the Kingdom, empowered by presence of Christ in us, is what we call “The Christian Two-Step” – repent and trust Jesus. See more of him who called you into his marvelous light. The more you see, the more you will trust into him whom to know is life eternal. This was Paul’s prayer for the congregation of Ephesus:
I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. 
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 5:1–12.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ps 24:3–6.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Eze 36:25–29.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 23:25–28.
 Friedrich Hauck and Rudolf Meyer, “Καθαρός, Καθαρίζω, Καθαίρω, Καθαρότης, Ἀκάθαρτος, Ἀκαθαρσία, Καθαρισμός, Ἐκκαθαίρω, Περικάθαρμα,” ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 416.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ps 86:11.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Jn 1:5–10.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jn 1:14–18.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Jn 4:7–12. Verse 11 trans. mine.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 2 Co 3:18.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Jn 3:1–3.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Jn 1:5–9.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Eph 1:16–23. Emphasis added.