Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Matthew 5:1–12

Matthew 5:1–12: The Beatitudes

Synopsis

This is a very famous passage; the Beatitudes. (See the Thoughts section on what “beatitudes” means.) Since I’ve been breaking up these posts along the lines of the ESV headings, I was tempted to simply post about verse 1 (ESV) , which has its own title, The Sermon on the Mount:

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. verse 1 (ESV)

But I didn’t think anyone would find it funny aside from myself, so I decided to combine the two sections of verse 1 and verses 2–12 into one post.

In the Beatitudes, Jesus lists a number of blessings for certain peoples:
  • The “poor in spirit,” because “theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (verse 3 (ESV) )
  • Those “who mourn,” because they “shall be comforted” (verse 4 (ESV) )
  • The “meek,” for they “shall inherit the earth” (verse 5 (ESV) )
  • Those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness,” because they will be “satisfied” (verse 6 (ESV) )
  • The “merciful,” because they will “receive mercy” (verse 7 (ESV) )
  • The “pure in heart,” because they will “see God” (verse 8 (ESV) )
  • The “peacemakers,” because they will “be called sons of God” (verse 9 (ESV) )
  • Those who are “persecuted for righteousness’ sake,” because “theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (verse 10 (ESV) )
Then, after pronouncing all of these blessings, Jesus tells the crowd itself that:

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. (verses 11–12 (ESV) )

Thoughts

First of all, I got good use out of the ESV Study Bible (ESB) on this one, because I never knew what the word “beatitude” meant; according to the ESB “beatitudes” comes from the Latin “beatus,” meaning “blessed” or “happy.” It goes on to say, however, that “blessed” in this case means, “[m]ore than a temporary or circumstantial feeling of happiness, [it] is a state of well-being in relationship to God that belongs to those who respond to Jesus’ ministry.”

This passage loses all meaning, unless you take it in a spiritual sense. When Jesus is talking to the “poor in spirit,” or the “meek,” who is he referring to? Here I will take a crack at describing the different people Jesus is talking about. (In this case, I was using both my own judgement and the ESB as I went, in case they could clarify my muddy thoughts; I usually type my post up first, then look at the ESB, and see if they mentioned anything I found interesting, and then go back and add to or change the post as necessary, but this time I made it more… er… collaborative.)

  • The poor in spirit: These are the people who realize that they are helpless in the face of God, and need His help. Jesus says that theirs is the kingdom of heaven; because they have realized that they need God’s help, to save themselves from their sin, they are able to accept His gift of Grace.
  • Those who mourn: These are people who are bothered by their sin; they mourn how sinful they actually are. But they will be comforted.
  • The meek: These people are “gentle;” they’re not trying to assert their own will over others, and forcefully control all of their circumstances. Instead, they are trusting God to direct events, and allowing Him to be in control. (Remember, this is in a spiritual sense, not necessarily a temporal sense—although I think a meek spirit would also apply to the way one deals with life day-to-day as well.) These people will inherit the earth; I take this to mean that these people are allowing God to rule over His earth—but because they are part of His family, they are ruling it with Him.
  • Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: This is probably the easiest to describe, because it’s obvious that this is in a spiritual sense. They shall be satisfied because they recognize that righteousness comes from God—and only from God—so they will accept His righteousness.
  • The merciful: Jesus told a number of parables about mercy. Proper mercy will always spring from the fact that God has forgiven much, in us, and any mercy we’re asked to show to others is much smaller in comparison. (See, for example, Matthew 18:21–35 (ESV) .) These people will be shown mercy; one might even argue that it’s the other way around: because these people have been shown mercy, they are merciful to others.
  • The pure in heart: Purity is emphasized a lot in the Old Testament; for example, one couldn’t become a priest unless one was physically pure. The pure in heart are those who strive to make their spiritual lives as pure as the Old Testament rules for physical purity; they want to clean all sin out of their hearts. The reward is that they will see God; as we know, those who follow Jesus will literally have all of their sins washed away, by his sacrifice—and they will become pure enough that they can see God.
  • The peacemakers: This one I’m taking word-for-word from the ESB:

    Those who promote God’s messianic peace (Hb. shalom, total well-being both personally and communally) will receive the ultimate reward of being called sons of God … as they reflect the character of their heavenly Father.
  • Those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: Another obviously spiritual one; if you are persecuted for the sake of Christ—and the New Testament promises over and over again that if you’re his child, you will be—then yours is the kingdom of heaven.
You will note, of course, that these are not different groups of people; it’s not that there are some people who are “poor in spirit,” and other people who “mourn,” etc. These are different aspects of the soul that anyone feels/exhibits, if they’ve been saved from their sins.
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