Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to 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 those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive 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 those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
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.” [Matthew 5: 1-12]
The Sermon on the Mount is one of those passages I’ve heard about, but never took the time to read for myself, despite knowing it was so important that one of my mentors had taken the time to memorize the entire thing. I finally read it for myself as I was doing devotions a couple of weeks ago with one of the staff in my fellowship. My first reaction was, “how can it possibly be good to be poor in spirit, mourning, and meek?” I also thought I was so clever in thinking the progression was our transformation from living in the context of the world, which would make us very discouraged and meek, to living into the reality of the kingdom of heaven. However, this is not the case.
Blessed are the poor in spirit…those who mourn… [and] the meek. The present tense of “are” suggests that we need to continually experience these states of being – we are always poor in spirit, mourning, and meek. Being “poor in spirit” evokes the image of someone down on their knees, humbled, laying down their pride in front of God, and unable to deny who they are – a sinner. It is recognizing that we don’t control our own lives, and that God is the ultimate authority. Our pride causes us to reject God and be unable to see ourselves as sinners, but before we come to God, we must recognize that we need Him, otherwise everything else, being merciful, pure in heart, and peacemakers, has no purpose.
Continuing with that image of complete humility, mourning evokes, for me, an image of absolute, uncontrolled, unashamed tears just flowing down the face. That is not to say that we must express our mourning in such a physical way; we all have different ways of expressing what we’re feeling. We mourn over our sin and shame – it is Godly grief. However, Jesus said that when we’re mourning, God will comfort us, and that is such an encouraging promise. He knows we’re sinners, but still sent His son to meet us where we’re at.
Meekness is bowing our heads, as we kneel. Meekness is a further demonstration of our humility as we approach God, in all of our brokenness. Meekness is recognizing even a fraction of God’s holiness, and feeling so in awe but knowing how undeserving we are to be in His presence, as wretched sinners. In our world, those who are meek typically get trampled on and taken advantage of. But Jesus says, “No, those are the people that I love. Those are the ones who will inherit my kingdom.” The Beatitudes emphasize the upside-down nature of the kingdom of heaven when compared to our earthly world.
Viewing this passage as a progression again, I now see that we must be poor in spirit, mourning, and meek before we can hunger and thirst for God, and once we hunger and thirst, we become more and more like Him in our mercy, purity of heart, and peacemaking. Going through these different stages, from lack of acknowledgement of our sin and hopelessness to complete faith, strengthens us and prepares us for the persecution ahead, which Jesus emphasizes at the end of the passage.
Within the past few weeks since coming back from retreat, I think I’m finally starting at the beginning of the Beattitudes – I’m seeing more and more each day how much of a sinner I am, the closer I draw to Him and spend more time with Him. Being blessed does not mean getting what we want, but rather, getting exactly what we need, and when we need it most.
Photo Credit: https://householdfaith.wordpress.com/page/5/