Matthew 5:1-12; Luke 6:17-26
The Beatitudes; or, the “Blessed’s”
Today we begin our Lord’s “Sermon on the Mount,” the greatest sermon ever preached. And that sermon begins with the greatest introduction to a sermon ever preached: the “Beatitudes.” The word “beatitude” comes from the Latin, “beatus,” which is a translation of the Greek word, “makarios.” The word is rightly translated, “blessed,” in English, carrying the meaning of the joy one has from being a member of the kingdom of God (TDNT, IV:367). And the kingdom of God (or heaven) is what these “blessed’s” are all about. We must assume that these are blessed not because they gain the kingdom by manifesting these virtues in the list, but because as they are kingdom members already, they exhibit these virtues.
The list is fairly comprehensive in my opinion. The poor in spirit are the humble, the beginning of Christian virtue. It is only through humility we come to Christ, and by humility we stay there. Theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Those are blessed who mourn, assuming they mourn for the right reasons. It is possible to mourn for the riches of this world. Here, we are talking about those who have experienced loss either for the kingdom’s sake, or for injustice. Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ know this firsthand in countries where persecution is real. They shall be comforted. The meek are the gentle, the lowly, the humble. “Meek” does not mean “weak”; the strongest people in the Church are meek. Their inheritance is great. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness is just what it says: it means personal holiness and just dealings in our relations with others. They shall be filled. Mercy is at the heart of our faith: God is merciful to us; He expects the same of us (Matthew 18:21-35). The merciful receive mercy. My personal favorite (because I am so far from it) is purity of heart. To be pure means to be without any other desires or motives. It is to will one thing: the kingdom. Of course they shall see God; it is all they desire. Peacemakers are desperately needed in our time of divisiveness and partisanship. We must never relinquish our values, but we can be kind in the way we present them. Such are God’s children. Finally, blessed are those persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Our Lord was slandered and abused. Why do we feel it should be different for us (John 15:18-21)? In bearing reproach for the kingdom’s sake, we most emulate our Lord.
These virtues are completely opposite (counter-cultural) to the world. These virtues the Church must embody. To do so is to be blessed of God. Be sure your understanding of being blessed matches up with the Lord’s.