Posted September 02, 2013
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Welcome to the Beatitudes. Over the next three weeks we’ll be memorizing 10 verses from Jesus’ famous “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5-7). “Beatus” is Latin for “blessed”, hence Beatitudes. These beatitudes are not to be read as conditions to enter the kingdom of heaven, but rather as a description of someone who has already entered the blessed God-life. John Stott said it this way, “These are not eight separate and distinct groups of disciples, some of whom are meek, while others are merciful and yet others are called upon to endure persecution. They are rather eight qualities of the same group who at one and the same time are meek and merciful, poor in spirit and pure in heart, mourning and hungry, peacemakers and persecuted.”
Jesus starts the Sermon on the Mount saying, “Blessed are...” How would you finish that phrase? How do you define “the good life”? Is blessedness a situational thing for you? You count yourself blessed when everything seems to be going your way? What about when things don’t go as planned? Here, Jesus flips our understanding of blessedness on its head with His list.
Blessed are the poor in spirit
Jesus’ first description of a blessed people is that they’d be marked by a poverty of spirit. The world sees the self-sufficient and “rich in spirit” as the winners, but Jesus teaches us that it’s precisely those who realize their own inability to save themselves and rely on Him instead who are those who receive the kingdom! Entrance into the kingdom on Jesus’ terms is based not on a large balance of good deeds in our spiritual bank account but rather realizing we’re all bankrupt apart from God and desperately need Him. The beautiful news for the poor in spirit? Theirs in the kingdom of heaven. In the words of Augustus Toplady:
Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to thee for dress;
Helpless, look to thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.
Blessed are those who mourn
Not only is this blessed people marked by a poverty of spirit, but this people is also a mourning people. Mourning over what? Just as the last beatitude was connected to the spirit and not the pocketbook, so this grieving is connected to the spirit and not a worldly mourning. This mourning is a natural next step for those who realize the depth of their poverty before God. Not only do they see they are bereft, but they mourn over their spiritual barrenness and the sin that separates them from God and grieves Him. Today’s Christian world would do well to take note of this quality, for often Christians seem to think that grief over sin is something to get over quickly and shouldn’t be a regular occurrence. Sin should grieve the born again Christian. Sinclair Ferguson insightfully spoke this: “The child of the kingdom knows higher joys as well as deeper sorrows, more sensitive mourning, but also more profound comfort, now that he is the Lord’s. His emotional sensitivity becomes greater - not less.” The amazing news for the sin-mourner? They shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek
Biblical meekness flows from the last two beatitudes and is connected to gentleness and self-control; it’s not to be confused with someone who is merely a doormat, defenseless and silent. Martin Lloyd Jones described meekness as “essentially a true view of oneself, expressing itself in attitude and conduct with respect to others... The man who is truly meek is the who who is truly amazed that God and man can think of him as well as they do and treat him as well as they do.” The meek man or woman’s trust is not in self-assertion, but rather in God and His will. This trust deeply affects our interactions both with God and others. Jesus promises the meek that they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness
Everyone is hungry and thirsty for something; the Christian life is to be marked by a hunger and thirst for righteousness! John Stott remarked, “There is perhaps no greater secret of progress in Christian living than a healthy, hearty spiritual appetite.” The life marked by poverty of spirit which leads to repentance and meekness should in turn bloom into hunger and thirst for righteousness if it is truly authentic. The natural and needed next step is not merely grief over sin, but a desire for righteousness. The stunning promise Jesus gives the hungry and thirsty one is that they shall be satisfied.
Song - The D. Whitfield Ensemble Artwork - Chris Wright