This is the famous introduction to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount recorded in the Gospel of Matthew chapters 5-7. In these 10 verses Jesus quickly flips everything that we think to be correct on its head, and beautifully offends and astonishes all readers/hearers. The Beatitudes – much like the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 – describe the entire Christian. No one of them sufficiently describes a Christian, but all of them together paint a well-rounded picture of Christianity. Jesus speaks about the narrow gate of entrance that leads to life later in the Sermon on the Mount, but in this opening passage he wonderfully describes what that gate looks like.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The poor in spirit are those that understand, by the work of the Holy Spirit, that they are spiritually bankrupt. The poor in spirit understand that no man has anything to bring to God that he may be propitiated; thereby turning away the just wrath they are due. All of mankind is found in this poverty, but the poor in spirit are not haughty like the rest. God has humbled them to see it, and they are called blessed because of it.
The spiritually poor will receive the kingdom of heaven because Jesus, who from eternity past lived in the richness of relationship with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, having no lack, the very word that spoke all that there is into being, became poor on their behalf. Christ took on their impoverished form, was homeless, had his one possession stripped from him and gambled for, died the death they deserve for the debt of their sin, and was laid in a borrowed tomb before triumphing over death on the third day. He gave up all of his riches and was blotted out of the kingdom so that those who are poor and deserve no admittance might be welcomed in.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Those who mourn are those who mourn their sin. Along with being poor in spirit, those who mourn have been enlightened to their spiritual state by the Holy Spirit. Those who mourn and are found in Christ can be called happy in any mourning state because of their status of being in Christ. No pain of this earth can compare with the surpassing worth of Christ, therefore in all circumstances, whether rich or poor, feast or famine, plenty or want, life or death, those who mourn, but are found in Christ, see that God has blessed them despite their brokenness.
Those who mourn shall be comforted because Jesus, who is the only one to have ever lived an earthly life in perfect obedience to God, who is the only one that is worthy of calling God “Father”, he – in his mourning – called out to his Father and was not comforted. God in heaven hears their pleas because when Christ cried out to him he turned away. Those who mourn are blessed because he who was happy was cursed in their place and for their sins. Christ took upon himself their mourning so that they could take upon themselves his joy and comfort.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
The meek are those that are humble, gentle, and in loving submission to God. Meek standing cannot be attained by man; only the Holy Spirit can soften a hard, violent, and imposing heart. Prior to, and apart from, the regeneration of the heart by the Holy Spirit, all mankind – having fallen with the first Adam in the Garden of Eden – are passing their days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating on another. Only because of God’s intervention is the enemy hard heart made meek and called blessed.
Those who are meek shall inherit the earth because Jesus, who has the name that is above every name, who is the very creative power of God, who is the Alpha and Omega, who is far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, was perfectly submissive to God the Father. Christ Jesus, who was not willing to even break a bruised reed, traded his perfect meekness for their disobedient flaws. On the cross, Christ took upon himself the punishment for their hard hearts that insisted upon their own way so that they could take upon themselves his gentle and meek nature, submitting to God. The meek inherit the earth because Jesus, the only deserving heir, gave it up for them.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are those that, by the Holy Spirit, have found that their attempts to assign “real” meaning to their lives have and will fail time and again. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness have found that no standing attained by themselves will be able to justify them before God on the last day. No “good works”, no education, no career, no home, family, sexuality…nothing. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are called blessed because they have been given a perfect righteousness that comes from outside of them.
Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are satisfied because Jesus, who was wholly righteous and good, who stood before the Father completely justified, who was the only one whose relationship was satisfying to him and the Father, gave it up that they may have it. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied because the righteousness found in Christ has wholly and completely satisfied the Father. Christ has a perfect and blameless record, and those who hunger and thirst for it can rest satisfied because when the Father looks on them he sees no blemish. He sees the righteousness of Jesus.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
The merciful are those that have had their eyes opened to the grace of God, in Christ, and have responded, by faith, in the only appropriate manner – showing mercy to others. The merciful have been convicted of their sin by the Holy Spirit and see that only through God’s daily new mercies are they able to do anything. Their entire lives are a merciful gift of God and they receive it as a blessing.
The merciful shall receive mercy because Jesus, the king of kings and lord of lords, the only one who exercises eternal mercy, was given their judgement. They can draw near to God’s throne with confidence and receive mercy in their time of need because Jesus was not given help in his time of need. Though they deserve an eternal judgement and punishment, mercy has triumphed for them because God chose to have mercy on them and he is just to do so because Jesus was judged instead of them. The merciful are merciful simply because they have received, and will continue to receive, mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
The pure in heart are those that God has made to be pure before him through the finished work of Christ on the cross. Jesus is the only one to have ever had a pure heart. Even our best of deeds do not fulfill God’s holy law and are seen as filthy, bloodied rags before God’s heavenly throne. The pure in heart are blessed because God has called them pure through Christ’s atoning sacrifice and given them the blessing that was due to Jesus.
The pure in heart shall see God because Jesus, who was the only one with a pure heart, who was without sin, who was blameless, took on their impurities so that they may have his purity. God, being completely pure and holy, does not allow those made impure through sin in his presence – that is why Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden. However, the pure in heart will see God, indeed they will dwell with God, and he will be the light to their feet. God, through Christ, has made them pure, and therefore able to be in his very presence. The pure in heart shall see God because only those who God has made pure will be able to.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
The peacemakers are those that God, by his Holy Spirit, has given a peace that surpasses all understanding. That is, peace with God through right standing before him. They are peacemakers because God has made peace between himself and them, in Christ. In their best efforts, and apart from Christ, they could not attain a standing before God that would have brought them peace, but because God has made peace with them they strive to cultivate peace in a world of chaos as far as it pertains to them. The peacemakers are blessed because they have been given Christ’s peace with God.
The peacemakers shall be called sons of God because Jesus, the very prince of peace, the only begotten of the Father, gave up his son-ship that they may be adopted in. God the Son [Jesus] who has lived in a perfect, loving, and peaceful relationship with the Godhead from eternity past gave it up on the cross. He bore the punishment of God’s enemies so that they could be made to be at peace with him and thereby be called sons. They are sons of God because the true son, Jesus Christ, was punished as an enemy of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake are those that the world hates because of their fidelity to God. Only those made new by the Holy Spirit rebirthing them into God’s kingdom can be persecuted for the sake of righteousness. Otherwise all persecution is brought on by them. Apart from Christ, all ambitions – however pious – are selfish by nature. Only when God’s abounding grace changes the motivations of the heart to seek him and his righteousness can they be persecuted on account of righteousness. Those persecuted for righteousness’ sake are blessed because God has called them righteous, and blessed them in Christ.
Those persecuted for righteousness’ sake will inherit the kingdom of heaven because Jesus, who is wholly righteous, who is completely morally good, who has no evil in him, and who is himself the door to the heavenly kingdom, was persecuted unto death for their sake. Those who are found in Christ will be persecuted on account of the righteousness they can’t help but live for because their lives have been changed by the gospel of grace. They will be persecuted for their stances that oppose the flow of culture and fly in the face of “human freedom”, but on the last day they will be welcomed into the kingdom of heaven because, by their God-given faith, they were willing to suffer persecution on account of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
You are blessed when others revile you persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on Jesus’ account. You are blessed when you are reviled for the light of Jesus shining out of you like a city set on a hill. You are blessed when you are persecuted for your submission to God and his word before all else. You are blessed when you have all kinds of false evil uttered against you for the sake of your risen king. You are blessed when you suffer on account of Jesus, but not when you suffer for your own wrong-doing. By faith in the only Son of God and the Holy Spirit dwelling in you, you can have great joy and gladness to suffer with Christ, that you may be raised with him on the last day.
You who are reviled, persecuted, and falsely spoken of have a great reward in heaven, and are counted with the prophets because Jesus, who came to give good news to the poor, heal the sick, open the eyes of the blind and the mouths of the mute, had all of these and more done to him. Jesus, whose very food was to do the will of the Father, came to the broken, outcast, and marginalized, and he was killed for it. Jesus, the incarnate deity, was slain for living in a perfect, humble, and sinless relationship with God. This all happened to Jesus for you. By God’s grace through faith your reward is great in heaven because Jesus gave up his heavenly reward and took on the eternal punishment you deserve that you may be found in him. But more than that, you have a great reward in heaven because Jesus is not in the grave. Jesus is in heaven and Jesus is your great reward.
You who are poor, mourning, meek, hungry and thirsty, merciful, pure, making peace, persecuted, and reviled, if you are these things it is because God in Christ, and by his Spirit at work within you, has made you so. By God’s abundant grace, and according to the counsel of his perfect will, he has called you a son or a daughter. You come empty-handed, but confidently, to the throne of grace and our Father picks up the train of his robe, smothers you with kisses, clothes you in Christ’s righteousness, places his signet ring on your finger, and throws the marriage supper of the lamb in celebration. “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found” (Luke 15:24).