Just so we’re clear: Jesus’ opening words to his most famous sermon aren’t a cutesy catchphrase. Calling them the “Be-Attitudes” misses their point.
“Beatitude” means “supreme blessedness, exalted happiness,” and by using this exclamation point of a word Jesus got the crowd’s attention right at the start of his Sermon on the Mount. I wonder if they assumed something amazing was coming, like a soak in the nearest Dead Sea mineral spa. Or bellying up to the all-you-can-eat loaves-n-fishes bar. Or unlimited shopping at Tunics-R-Us.
Instead, Jesus lays out the crux of what it means to be His follower. He says that the heart of the Christian life, and the way to be supremely blessed, is to be poor and meek and persecuted.
No amount of spin makes that go down easy.
But here’s the thing. When Jesus came, He overturned everything. He tipped heaven down to touch earth. He routed darkness and rooted up all that was dead in us. He showed us that what passes for truth in our culture is upside-down from His truth. He held out seeds of truth that, if we chose to plant, would produce a harvest of righteousness.
Seeds look wizened and ugly. Kind of like the Beatitudes, at first glance. But if we have kingdom eyes, we find the promises resting just under the brown shell of these Scripture-seeds. Commentator Matthew Henry enlightens us:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit…” Self-denial, willingness to live lower, not grasping for weath or significance like our culture. Emptying ourselves se we can be filled with God.The promise is the Kingdom of Heaven, a wonderful irony because it means those who go lower here get raised higher there.
“Blessed are those who mourn…” godly sorrow over our sin. Also a sympathetic mourning over others’ afflictions. The promise is that we will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek…” Not doormat-like, but submission to God and His word. Gentle to all, quick to forgive. Henry beautifully describes meekness as “an undisturbed enjoyment of ourselves, our friends, and our God.” The meek will inherit the earth, which implies blessing for life now and to come; they have the most ability to live happy lives because they’re so unruffled and peaceful.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…” a true desire to be like Jesus, filled with Him. The wonderful clear promise here is that those who hunger WILL be filled.
“Blessed are the merciful…” loving others, bearing their burdens, caring about their souls – especially the poor. Those who show mercy will receive it, from others and from God.
“Blessed are the pure in heart…” desire to imitate Christ’s attitudes and behaviors, keep oneself from the world. Focused on what pleases God. Practice pure religion by caring for others. The promise is that only the pure in heart can see God unveiled in all His glory.
“Blessed are the peacemakers…” those who love and promote peace between people. Those who bring the gospel are peacemakers between people and God. Peace is part of God’s identity, and peacemakers are His children.
“Blessed are the persecuted…” treated badly because of one’s faith. Usually brings opportunities to practice the other virtues listed here. Accompanied by the biggest promise: to inherit the kingdom of heaven. What could be bigger than that? It means we get all the blessing of being in God’s presence forever. We get to see Him and share in His glory because we’ve shared in His suffering. We get mercy and grace and peace and everything else thrown in.
“Is everything sad going to come untrue?” asked Samwise Gamgee in JRR Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings, as he wakes surrounded by his friends, and the dark forces beaten back. Living the life of a Christ-follower means embracing the low and the meek because the hard path is the one to glory. One day we’ll wake up surrounded by all our friends, saints past and present. All the sad will be untrue. All that’s left will be glory.
Photo via Visual hunt