The Beatitudes

 Passage: Matthew 5:2–12

[2] 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.


Sermon Recap

Walt Disney was a genius in the way that he tapped into our deep desire as human beings for happiness. Disney’s purpose is defined this way: “We create happiness by providing the best in entertainment for people of all ages everywhere.” Another brilliant thinker named Blaise Pascal once wrote, “All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.” Disneyland claims to be the happiest place on earth. We all have some place, some relationship, some status, something that we think would make us happier.

In Matthew 5-7, Jesus has begun a roughly three year ministry in which He is declaring and demonstrating the arrival of the Kingdom of Heaven and He delivers a sermon that describes what it looks like to be a citizen of that Kingdom. And He begins that sermon by describing what it looks like to be a truly happy person. However, the happiness He describes is other-worldly. It is counter-cultural. It is not the type of happiness that the world pursues. And yet, it is these people who Jesus says are “blessed”. That is, they are supremely happy, flourishing, favored by God.

Kingdom citizenship promises everlasting happiness. It is entered by desperate dependence and promises painful persecution. And yet we see that it is better than any alternative happiness offered by the world. Kingdom citizenship promises everlasting happiness. But when you are a citizen of Heaven’s Kingdom, you are at odds with the kingdoms of the world. You cannot hold dual citizenship as it were, living for happiness in two realms.

In the Beatitudes, Jesus doesn’t lay out a buffet line of happiness. Rather, He paints a portrait of the blessed life. All of the descriptions are related to one another and even sequential in nature. Keep in mind these are NOT the “be-attitudes”, attitudes that you need to muster up. Instead, they are the “blessings” (Latin word is “beat”), ways in which God brings about blessing in us. Do we work to see them abound in our lives? Yes, but that is a surrendering work in which we yield to God at work in us. That means that though it might seem that we are “naturally” disposed toward one of these things, our natural meekness or mercy is often a masking of our own interests, not a response to the Spirit’s work in us.

Notably, Jesus begins by describing those who “get in”. Happiness is found in Kingdom citizenship and there is one thing required for that citizenship. Nothing. The poor of the world are poor because they have little or nothing of what the world values, and even what they have is taken from them. The spiritually poor have little or nothing of what God values, and even what we have is tainted by our sinful desire and ambition. Those happy ones that enter the Kingdom do so not by holding up a sign saying “Will work for righteousness”, but rather by holding up empty hands needy for the righteousness given through faith in Jesus.

The Beatitudes culminate with a promise of blessing for those that are persecuted for the sake of their righteousness in Jesus. When we associate our lives with Jesus and pursue discipleship with Him, there is a promise that we will find adversity. Jesus was persecuted and so it only makes sense for persecution to come to those whose very lives are centered on Him. And yet He can promise blessing and happiness, He can encourage rejoicing, because your citizenship in Heaven is better than a few moments of trial in this life. That is the cost of living as a citizen of another Kingdom.

Ultimately, we see that the Beatitudes are a portrait of happiness and a portrait of Jesus Himself:

  • He became poor so you could be made rich.
  • He mourned that you might be able to be comforted.
  • He was despised and rejected in His meekness so you might inherit the earth.
  • He became sin so that in Him you might become the righteousness of God.
  • He received God’s wrath so that you might receive His mercy.
  • He was singular in His focus on obeying God so that you might be able to have a new heart and see God.
  • He poured out His blood on the cross so you could have peace with God.
  • He was wrongfully persecuted as the Righteous One so that you might become a citizen.

Additional items:

  • Read through Isaiah 61:1-3 and consider how this passage (which Jesus claims is being fulfilled in Him) is reflected in the Beatitudes.
  • Read through Hebrews 11:13-14 and consider how we can conflate blessing/happiness in the world with blessing/happiness in the Kingdom.

Questions

  1. What are you hoping to get out of this study?
  2. Before this week, had you heard of the Beatitudes? What came to mind when you thought about them?
  3. Take a moment and read back through verses 2-12 and use the accompanying descriptions to consider the blessings Jesus describes. What stands out to you? Why?
  4. The sermon from Sunday put a particular focus on the first Beatitude. Why do you think Jesus lists it first? What does it say and what is its connection to entering the Kingdom of Heaven?
  5. What does it look like to be poor (or rich) in spirit? What has that looked like in your life this season?
  6. If there is blessing there, how do you become poor in spirit?
  7. Which of these blessings is hardest for you to accept? Which one do you see missing most in your life? How?
  8. Our unique personalities might make it seem like one of the Beatitudes “comes more naturally” than others. How might a “natural” bent create a faux blessing in our lives? What would it look like for the Spirit to empower an authentic blessing in this area?
  9. How might Jesus’ embodiment of these blessings impact your decisions, relationships, or circumstances this week?

Passage Commentary

[3] “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

  • The poor in spirit are those who recognize their lack of resources to earn God’s approval or right standing with God.
  • These are not the “working poor” who “will work for righteousness” so to speak. They recognize, by God’s revealing activity, that they are in a desperate state spiritually.

[4] “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

  • This mourning state is not one of bereavement (loss of a loved one) or other sadness for loss, rather it is sadness born from the brokenness they recognize in their own soul and their surrounding communities.

[5] “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

  • Meekness is a gentleness of spirit that comes when you are free from defending yourself.
  • ML Jones: Lloyd Jones “How much more difficult it is to allow other people to say things like that about me! I instinctively resent it. We all of us prefer to condemn ourselves than to allow somebody else to condemn us…meekness is essentially a true view of oneself, expressing itself in attitude and conduct with respect to others.”

[6] “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

  • To hunger and thirst for righteousness is to long to see your soul right with God and the world around you gladly submitted to Him.
  • Happiness is not just in looking back accurately on our spiritual state, but a longing for something better. Hungering and thirsting for something outside of you to nourish you.

[7] “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

  • Mercy deals with pain, misery, distress…results of sin. Extending relief to these results.
  • Is this works based mercy? I get it because I give it? No. This principle is the same as the parable Jesus tells in Matt 18: forgiven people forgive. Who extends mercy best? The one who has received it. God is a merciful God. So should His citizens be.

[8] “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

  • Purity of heart describes singularity of affections. So much misery in our lives comes from a disjointed heart.
  • James 4 says, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?…Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

[9] “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

  • Sons of God have been made at peace with God. Therefore, they can be makers of peace. Making peace isn’t “faking” peace with others or minimizing conflict. It is to broker real reconciliation rather than sowing discord.

[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.

  • Note: this is persecution for righteousness’ sake and for your association with Jesus, not because you are a jerk. We can’t claim this blessing for the fallout that comes from selfishness, greed, or even misunderstanding.
  • John 15:20. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.
  • 2 Tim 3:12. “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…”