The Beatitudes

Re-post. This is my take away from a great sermon at a NYCBC coffeehouse (where I also got to catch up with fellowship friends and TC family. It was so refreshing.)


Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them, saying:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 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 5:1-11

That’s a lot of scripture. I’m always amazed at the richness of literature in the bible 🙂 Anyway.

At a glance, in verses 3-10, the words that pop out are POOR, MOURN, MEEK, HUNGER, THIRST, MERCIFUL, PURE, PEACEMAKERS, PERSECUTED.

In other words, at a glance, it seems like this passage is saying, I can only have God’s blessing if:
1. I’m poor
2. Someone close to me died
3. I’m a pushover
4. I’m trying to be perfect
5. I’m a pure hearted do-gooder 24/7
6. I’m a pacifist
7. I’m always getting beat up (verbally and/or physically)

It seems kinda rough if I have to go through all that just to get God’s blessing. If he’s so loving, why do I have to be poor? Why can’t I stand up for something? Why does someone have to die? I’m not perfect, why should I try? Why should I get beat up?

So, that’s just at a glance, what does it REALLY mean?

Blessed are the POOR IN SPIRIT, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The speaker was looking at this passage, and for this verse in particular, he told us a story:

There was a king who was old, and had no successor. So he announced that the child who can impress him will be his successor. In the town square, every child was given a pot and a seed, and they were told to grow a beautiful flower for the king. Of course, all the parents were excited and wanted their child to become king or queen. A little orphan boy also received a pot and a seed, and he watered his seed, made sure it had lots of sunshine, but as the weeks went by, nothing grew.

Nothing came out of that soil. As he looked at other houses when he went out, he saw giant, magnificent flowers in the windows, and he became discouraged. Soon, it was time for each child to show the king what they had grown. Of course, as everyone was gathered, all the parents were so excited, hoping that their child will become king or queen. But the little orphan boy, with just his pot of dirt, was ashamed, especially with all these wonderful flowers there, so he hid behind one of the pillars.

So one by one, the children brought their flowers to the king, and when the last one was done, the king asked if there was anyone else. Then one of the guards at the back spotted the orphan boy and brought him from behind the pillar. When the king saw his pot of dirt, he asked what happened. The orphan boy told him that he tried to take care of his seed, made sure it was watered and had enough light, but nothing grew.

The king then announced that this orphan boy will be his successor. The children were meh, and you can imagine the parents were in uproar. All the other kids worked hard caring for their plants, and look how pretty those plants became… this kid has nothing. The king then told everyone that was there that he planted dead seeds in every pot. All these plants are not the ones he gave the children.

The poor in spirit, doesn’t mean depressed, it means humility. Acknowledging the fact that we have absolutely NOTHING of worth to offer to God, let alone impress him. Some people think of God as a comedian, and we are the audience, and no one laughs.

I believe it’s the other way around. God is the judge, and we’re on stage, auditioning, showing every thing we’ve got under God’s scrutiny, hoping that we’ll get that big break. Except, our best is not good enough.
Some of you might think sarcastically, “well that’s encouraging…” and you’re right, it isn’t, but let’s look at the other Beatitudes.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
 
Mourning here, doesn’t mean mourning someone who died, or being sad in general. In context, mourning, is the mourning of our poverty of spirit. We want to be rich in spirit, closer with God, understanding who He is and why He does what He does.
So, our best is not good enough, which is not at all encouraging at all until Jesus comes into the picture. In this whole audition analogy, Jesus is like your golden ticket. Where, it doesn’t matter how good or bad you are, you get in. Not only that, you get to CHOOSE whether you want the golden ticket or not. Haha, if you have Jesus, if you have that golden ticket, it’s like you have one of those VIP passes 🙂
And that’s what it means when it says they will be comforted. If you acknowledge that you have nothing to impress the judge, and you opt for the golden ticket, you got no worries, you’re comforted that you don’t have to impress the judge to get in. You still have to perform, but you have that safety net of already being in. At that point, the purpose of performing is not to get in, it’s to get better and clean up your act.
Now that I think about it, it’s all kinda backwards, but in a good way.
Normally, you practice, then you perform, then you get in if you’re good enough.
But in this case, you get in, then you practice to get good enough.
So what’s your act?
Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth.
 
Meek DOES NOT EQUAL weak.
Yes it means humility, it means turning the other cheek, it means sacrifice, but those things don’t make a person weak. In fact, it takes more strength to be meek than not.
David was meek before Goliath, his little sling humbled before Goliath’s might sword. But he won. (1 Samuel 17)
Esther was meek before Xerxes, king of Persia, when she came before him to save her and her people (the Jews) from genocide. The Jews were delivered, and the mind behind the plot was hanged on his own gallows. (Esther 7)
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were meek when they allowed the king Nebuchadnezzar’s guards to take them to the furnace to be burned alive for worshipping God instead of the king’s gods and idols. They survived the furnace. (Daniel 3)
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
 
To hunger and thirst for righteousness, obviously implies that we don’t have it (going back to the “our best is not good enough”).
It means longing for it, preferring it as well as pursuing it.
Romans 3:10 says, “There is no one righteous, not even one.” So we can never be completely perfect and righteous in God’s eyes, but that’s no reason to not try to come close 🙂
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
What does showing mercy look like? What does it mean?
It means not holding someone’s faults against them, and it means NOT giving them a punishment or treatment they deserve.
So being merciful… why should we?
Because of God’s mercy, we are not treated as our sins deserve (hell is an option not a destination). If we’ve been forgiven, what right do we have to not show mercy to someone who’s wronged us?
(See Matthew 18:21-34)
Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God.
 
Pure in heart isn’t just being righteous. It is devoting your heart to one thing, and one thing only: God. Naturally, if God is at the centre of our every priority, we’ll see God in the consequences of our actions, in the actions themselves, and in Heaven.
It’s not easy, there are a lot of “pretty things” to distract us in the world, and a lot of things that we have to have faith in to be pure hearted… so let’s see how that works out:
If everyone put God at the centre of every priority, children would obey their parents, parents would love their children, wives would respect their husbands, husbands would love their wives, there’d be no sexual immortality and STDs, everyone would serve everyone else (so no wars or starving countries), there wouldn’t be any greed (so no rich getting richer, poor getting poorer business), etc.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
 
In the bible, there are two kinds of people: Jews and Gentiles. So anyone who’s not a Jew is obviously a Gentile. Now, these two groups did NOT mix at all, and they resented one another.
So when Christ died on the cross and paid for the sins of both Jew and Gentile, both were reconciled to God, and to each other (but not everyone liked that idea… see pharisees and sadducees XP). In this way, He is THE peacemaker, between the people, and God.
So being a peacemaker in this context is not just stopping war, it’s sharing in Christ’s mission: bringing people to God and developing a relationship.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
 
This part is not fun. It’s beyond our comfort zone, and it’s frankly terrifying. But when I think of what Christ went through… we get to share in His suffering, and therefore His reward. Also note, how Christ brings this whole sermon full circle. The first Beatitude ends with “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” and the last Beatitude ends with the same thing 😀
Anyway, persecuted because of righteousness:
Christ was arrested, whipped, flogged, beaten, spat upon, wore a crown with 2-3 inch thorns driven in his skull, mocked, pulled until his arm was dislocated, and nailed to a cross. Before that, he was insulted and lied about too. And that’s just in the physical. Spiritually, God’s wrath crushed Him.
Him, instead of us.
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