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The Beatitudes

“Beatitudes” comes from the Latin word for “blessings”.  “The beatitudes” refers to eight blessings that the Gospel of Matthew says that Jesus proclaimed in the Sermon on the Mount.

And seeing the multitudes, he went up into the mountain: and when he had sat down, his disciples came unto him: and he opened his mouth and taught them, saying,
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are they that have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye when men shall reproach you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets that were before you.  (Matthew 5:1-12 ASV)

In one respect The Beatitudes are a teaching on character, the kind of character a believer wants to have. More than that, they are a listing of character traits that bring rewards. Each of the Beatitudes has a blessing attached.  So they are a teaching on the blessings attached to good character.  They are a teaching on character because the blessings are a result of choices.  The poor in spirit could have chosen different paths, i.e., to steal, and/or to pursue wealth.  Those that mourn could have chosen to be angry, or numb, or to even to join the wicked who oppressed them if that is the case.  The meek have chosen to be teachable.  You can see the same truth in each of the beatitudes.

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

It’s important to recognize that this is not saying blessed are the poor. It’s not saying that is a blessing to lack the necessities of life, there is no blessing in starving, not having a roof over your head, or not being able to get health care.

The opposite of being poor is being rich.  Jesus warns in numerous places against the dangers of riches, the mammon of unrighteousness.   But Jesus does not say that it is sinful to have riches, he says that it is sinful to serve riches, to seek wealth. The point is that it is available to have money, without having a spirit of being rich. It’s okay to have money as long as the money doesn’t rule you. That goes for anything that money can buy. It’s okay to have a nice house as long as the nice house doesn’t rule your life. It’s okay to have nice clothes, car, or furnishings as long as getting those things isn’t that what you serve.

People who don’t serve riches are blessed. That’s what this Beatitude says. And specifically, it says that the blessing is the kingdom of heaven. To live in this world means working hard to get more and nicer stuff. It means that your life is not fulfilling, enjoyable, or worthwhile if you’re not getting the nice things in life. The kingdom of heaven is the life of joy, peace, love, long-suffering, patience, goodness, and other fruits of the spirit.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Morning, grieving is a necessary part of life. To not mourn, to not be able to grieve is hard heartedness. Most people readily think of losing a loved one when they think of morning. But there are other things that are mourned. Proverbs 29:2 says that the people mourn when they are oppressed of the government or by the rich. James 4:9 says that people mourn when they are afflicted.  When someone is in mourning it means that they have suffered loss. It can be the death of a loved one, loss of freedon, loss of a relationship, or property lost. This is so wonderfully comforting that Jesus promises us that we will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Meekness to many means shyness, a fear of social encounters.  That’s not what meekness means here. Meekness means coachable, trainable. A horse that accepted training is called meek. Think about the power and majesty of the mighty horse when you think of this word “meek” because God doesn’t want us to be weak and powerless, rather he wants to train us to use our power that he has put in us for his purposes and glory. the promise, the reward for being meek is inheriting the earth. That is just incredible.

Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Righteousness means a right, just a way of life. When we don’t steal, lie, lust after the things of others, moreover when we care for others as we do ourselves we have righteousness. Obviously there are lots of areas where righteousness is lacking in the world, and because we are sinners, even in us. But the promise of this beatitude is not that those who live righteously will get something, but those that “hunger and thirst after righteousness” will be filled. I don’t know but you but I take great comfort in that promise.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

To be merciful is to withhold judgment.

But if ye had known what this meaneth, I desire mercy, and not sacrifice; ye would not have condemned the guiltless. (Matthew 12:7)

There is an expression, “there but for the grace of God go I”. That expression encapsulates the idea of the mercy of God. How many of us, at some point in our lives, have needed mercy? Perhaps it was in the school, or at a job, or even that we got into a little bit of trouble. And somebody didn’t exact just punishment for our transgressions. They showed mercy; they overlooked the fault.

The opposite of mercy is to exact judgment or revenge. People without mercy are cruel.

The Lord’s words are very encouraging. If we want to mercy, we need to show mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

It’s a very interesting study to see what this term “pure” means.  Here are a few verses that help us understand the term “pure”.

For he knew him that should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.  (John 13:11)

I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh it away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he cleanseth it, that it may bear more fruit. Already ye are clean because of the word which I have spoken unto you.  (John 15:1-3)

In the above versus the word “clean” is the same Greek word as “pure” in the beatitude.   From John 13:11 we see that the opposite of a pure person is someone that betrays.  And from John 15:1 – three we see that the Lord tells us that his word, what he teaches us,  cleanses us and makes us pure.

A pure heart has no guile, which means manipulation, trickery, artful deceit. For example you can ask somebody if they want to do something, or you can try to manipulate them into doing it.  The first response is pure, the second is manipulative.

This is an important trait or else it would’ve been included by Jesus in these blessings. Do you want to see God? Then put away the guile, the manipulation, the deception.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called sons of God.

A peacemaker is someone that does things to pursue peace, that quality of stillness and calm that refreshes us and allows us to feel love, joy, and other fruits of the spirit. God must really love this quality because Jesus says that those that have this quality shall be called God. Part of being a son of God, therefore, is doing things, that make for peace.

Blessed are they that have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye when men shall reproach you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets that were before you.

One of the sad things, one of the things that are mourned about being a believer is persecution. Persecution can come in many forms. It can be alienation from kids in grade school because you believe in Jesus and they don’t. It can come in the form of snide remarks, “oh don’t you hate those Bible thumpers”  or “she’s just another Jesus freak”. And of course, those are just the light examples. There are large sections of the world, i.e., Muslim countries, communist regimes, and so forth where standing for Jesus can mean anything from loss of social standing to torture, imprisonment, or even death.  Jesus says our reward is great when we suffer persecution, and even that we should rejoice, because our reward is so great, and we are in the company of prophets.

There in The Beatitudes, just 141 words in the ASV version we have a tremendously powerful teaching by Jesus on some of the desirable qualities of believers and the benefits of following him. Be poor in spirit, mourn, be teachable, hunger and thirst after righteousness, be merciful, be pure in heart, do the things that make for peace, and rejoice when you are persecuted because the rewards include the kingdom of heaven, comfort, inheriting the earth, being filled with righteousness, obtaining mercy, seeing God, being called a son of God, and having a great reward in heaven. Wow!

© copyright 2011 Mark W Smith, all rights reserved.

February 28th, 2011 Posted by | Jesus' Teaching and Miracles | no comments

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