Matthew 5:1-12, Kingdom NT
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the hillside and sat down. His disciples came to him. He took a deep breath, and began his teaching:
“Blessings on the poor in spirit! The kingdom of heaven is yours.
“Blessings on the mourners! You’re going to be comforted.
“Blessings on the meek! You’re going to inherit the earth.
“Blessings on people who hunger and thirst for God’s justice! You’re going to be satisfied.
“Blessings on the merciful! You’ll receive mercy yourselves.
“Blessings on the pure in heart! You will see God.
“Blessings on the peacemakers! You’ll be called God’s children.
“Blessings on people who are persecuted because of God’s way! The kingdom of heaven belongs to you. “Blessings on you, when people slander you and persecute you, and say all kinds of wicked things about you falsely because of me! Celebrate and rejoice: there’s a great reward for you in heaven. That’s how they persecuted the prophets who went before you.”
Today, I was praying for a woman in the hospital who was unresponsive and near death, who had lived an extremely difficult life, and whose family had suffered and dealt with a multitude of problems over the years. In these circumstances, I often turn to the Beatitudes to voice my prayers. I hope it will become clear as you read this short overview of this well known text why I pray it in these settings.
I’m convinced, and have written here several times about my conviction, that the Beatitudes have been profoundly misunderstood and foisted upon people by well-meaning preachers and teachers as virtues or character qualities to be developed.
I don’t buy it in the least.
- The Beatitudes are Jesus’ announcements of grace. He has come to bless, and the recipients of his blessings will be the most unexpected people.
- The first four Beatitudes are Jesus’ announcements that he has come to bless the needy, whom the world ignores or considers “losers.”
- The second four Beatitudes are Jesus’ announcements that he has come to bless those who serve God and the needy, whom the world ignores or considers idealistic, ineffective “fools.”
Who are the needy?
- Those who are spiritually bankrupt.
- Those who are overwhelmed by sorrow.
- Those who have little or no power.
- Those who suffer injustice and long for it to be made right.
Who are those who serve God and the needy?
- Those who show mercy.
- Those who care about the condition of their own hearts.
- Those who work to make peace.
- Those who elicit opposition because they serve God and others.
The Beatitudes are Jesus’ announcement that he has come to fulfill what Mary sang about in the Magnificat.
He has brought down princes from their thrones
and exalted the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away with empty hands.
The Beatitudes are parallel to the “mission statement” — a “Jubilee” proclamation — that Jesus made when he preached in Nazareth.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.
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Photo by Nicholas Jones at Flickr. Creative Commons License