It's a word associated with beggars. These are poor people who have to live off the kindness of others—a group that would have been despised and miserable. By adding "in spirit" to this description, Jesus points out exactly where their poverty lies. These people would have none of their own spiritual resources. They would rely on the kindness of God to supply them with those riches. This would have been in stark contrast to those who were considered spiritually rich. They were thought to be rich in spirit. Jesus's words would have seemed like a slap in the face of those whose goodness was related to their ability to follow God's commands.
In a startling switch on the status quo, Jesus said that the kingdom of God belongs to those spiritual beggars and not the spiritually respected and admired. We tend to hear the word "mourn" and think about grieving for the dead. The Greek word "penthountes" is more closely related to lamenting. Paul uses a version of the same word in his first letter to the Corinthians:. And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this?
In the past when Israel was occupied by a foreign power, prophets would have called them to mourn the sins of the nation. This would cause God to hear and send a deliverer. For the Roman-occupied audience of this sermon, Jesus's call to mourn would have had the same connotation. But the promise that they would be comforted would have been a surprise. They weren't looking to be comforted; they were waiting for deliverance. Even after Jesus was resurrected, the disciples were still expecting Israel to be delivered:. Then they gathered around him and asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?
When we hear the word "meek" we tend to associate it with timidity, but the word Jesus used praeis was much closer to gentle or mild. Basically, Jesus was addressing the powerless. The connotation was similar to a stallion who had been broken to submit to a master. The gentle would inherit the earth. This was important for Jesus' listeners to grasp. The earth wouldn't be taken by force, it would be handed down.
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This means that it didn't pay to be strong and forceful. It was more important to trust in God, and wait for God to move on our behalf. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things Psalm —9.
Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost Isaiah People will live together in Judah and all its towns—farmers and those who move about with their flocks. I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint Jeremiah — Jesus's promise that those who hungered and thirst for righteousness would be filled would have made instant sense to those gathered as an extension of God's promise to His people. If you count nine Beatitudes, this one's at the center. It makes sense—mercy is at the center of Matthew's Gospel. At every opportunity, Matthew attempts to drive this truth home:.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors Matthew But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins Matthew — This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart Matthew In a culture steeped in retaliatory justice, mercy was a huge paradigm shift. In fact, Jesus addresses this later in the Sermon on the Mount:. You have heard that it was said, "Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.
If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you Matthew — In Jewish culture, purification was about following rituals.
If you wanted to be clean before God, you followed the rules.
What Are the Beatitudes? | Jesus Film Project
This wasn't necessarily God's intention. Throughout the Old Testament, we see a focus on purity of heart:. Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god Psalm —5. Over time, ritual cleanliness became purity's focus. Toward the end of Matthew's Gospel, we see Jesus challenge the Pharisees about this:.
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence Matthew This statement would have surprised this crowd, not because they were unfamiliar with purity of heart, but because it would have felt incomplete. How can we see God apart from being ritually clean? As the story of Jesus was revealed, it became clear that purity of heart would be ascribed or imputed to Jesus' followers. First-century Palestine was full of tension.
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Many in Judea were praying fervently for a deliverer, while others were embracing more desperate measures. One of the disciples was a member of the zealots, a group focused on throwing Rome out of Judea—by force if necessary. Jesus tells His listeners that the children of God will be peacemakers. Unlike peace lovers who might do whatever they can to avoid conflict, peacemakers are willing to wade through discord in order to create reconciliation. One of the reasons people make this is the last Beatitude is that it it mirrors the first one.
Both of them close with "for theirs is the kingdom of God. The Jews knew what it meant to be a persecuted people. Their whole history was a story of mistreatment at the hands of other nations. This would have sounded like an encouragement and a reminder that God recognized what it cost Israel to serve Him. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you Matthew — For those first Christians who will look back on this sermon, Jesus offers an essential message.
The Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom
They're going to suffer at the hands of Roman authorities for not worshiping Caesar and they're going to be abused by their fellow Jews for abandoning traditional Judaism. Jesus is telling them not to lose heart.
Those closest to Him—like the prophets—have always been abused for speaking the truth. Jesus opens the world's most well-known sermon with a series of shocking statements.
People didn't associate mourning or meekness with blessedness. The ancient world was full of stories where characters were blessed with riches, strength, popularity, and power. Jesus upends all that.
The kingdom that Jesus promotes is an upside-down kingdom where humanity's idea of blessings doesn't seem to apply. And with these Beatitudes, Jesus begins to reframe what it means to be blessed by God. If you're interested in learning more about Jesus's teaching, check out the post " What Is the Kingdom of God? The year was Although the year-old It's uncomfortable, isn't it? The worry. The unknown possibilities of being misunderstood or rejected. What Are the Beatitudes?