When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. 2 He opened His mouth and began to teach 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 gentle, 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 have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:1-12
I’ve heard countless messages on the Beatitudes in my lifetime, from touchy-feely illiterated gloss-overs to deep-diving didactic dissections. The former weren’t remotely close to what Jesus was really getting at, and the latter left my head spinning and a little less than blessed.
These ten observations are the preamble to the so-called Sermon on the Mount, which really wasn’t delivered atop a mountain, but on a level place on a hill. And it wasn’t delivered to twelve souls but to a throng of followers. And it didn’t come way early in Jesus’ ministry, as you might think just reading Matthew, but after a trip to Jerusalem and the calling of the twelve. So right off the bat you’ve been forced to dispel false notions. But it’s wise to cut it straight. Proper exegesis is required in Bible study, like it or not.
This being said, we move on to a simple read of these popular sayings. If you come from the standpoint of truly wishing to follow Christ, having given up everything worldly to become a Kingdom dweller, now getting all sustenance from him and hanging on his every word, and suffering what he suffered, and now aspiring to what he aspired to while treading this earth, then it’s possible to walk away from the familiar freshly blessed.
You’ll be the kind of poor he’s talking about, with pockets inside out, declaring spiritual bankruptcy. You’ll be pained by your shortcomings and failures and evil errant thoughts and prideful motivations. You’ll be way too vulnerable in an unforgiving and wretched world as you counter-intuitively render care and concern for the lost, and possess a spiritually charged empathy that constantly brings you to tears. You’ll never seem to want to push away from the Lord’s table, wanting seconds and thirds always. And you’ll never quench your thirst for the springs of life. You’ll find it incredibly hard to hold anything against anybody, and you’ll wonder why you pity someone that’s despicable, but you do. You’ll quickly run away from evil like Joseph did with Potiphar’s wife, applying all the spiritual power you can muster to keep your eyes from straying to the left or right. And you’ll find yourself uncharacteristically straight-arming two who are at odds, mediating with words of reason and wisdom, staring them down with the piercing eyes of Jesus. Yes, you’ll put yourself out there for the cause of Christ, taking the same blows he did, receiving the same hateful ugly insults, turning the other cheek.
But through it all, you’ll be as happy and peaceful as Stephen was, even as the stones rained down on him. And the images of heaven that you’ll see will make you smile.