Text: Matthew 5:2-12
“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven”
– Matthew 5:12a
The word “beatitude” comes from the Latin word meaning “happiness” or “blessedness.” And while it’s tempting (and common) to look at this list as requirements or conditions for blessing, the meaning of this well-known passage is so much richer than that.
Look at the crowd gathered around Jesus at the mount. They are hardly those we’d label “happy” or “blessed.” Remember how just before He climbed the mountain to preach, Jesus was healing the diseased, the broken, the outcasts? He was delivering Good News to the people, hope to the desperate. The poor in spirit. Those who mourn. The meek and the hungry. The persecuted and reviled. Does this sound like a list of the Who’s Who of the Kingdom?
(I hope that last question makes you smile, because that’s exactly what it is!)
In his book Divine Conspiracy, theologian Dallas Willard says this about the scene at the Mount of Beatitudes:
“Standing around Jesus as he speaks are people with no spiritual qualifications or abilities at all. You would never call on them when ‘spiritual work’ is to be done. There is nothing about them to suggest that the breath of God might move through their lives. They have no charisma, no religious glitter or clout… The pages of the Gospels are cluttered with such people. And yet: ‘He touched me.’ The rule of the heavens comes down upon their lives through their contact with Jesus. And then they too are blessed—healed of body, mind, or spirit—in the hand of God.” (Willard, emphasis mine)
If we look at the Beatitudes as another list of spiritual to-do’s, we diminish the beauty of Christ. It is exactly FOR the unqualified, the bankrupt, the needy and the sick that He came!
Take a look at the verbs in verses 3 and 10: “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Now look at all the verses in between: “they shall be comforted,” “they shall inherit the earth,” “they shall be satisfied,” “they shall receive mercy,” “they shall see God,” “they shall be called children of God.” The promised blessings are for later and right now. And they all hinge on Christ.
Yes, let’s be peacemakers! Yes, let’s be humble and pure in heart! Yes, let’s be merciful! But let’s not believe that our goodness saves us, for we know our ultimate “blessedness” comes only through Jesus Christ. He is not just at the top of our list; He IS the list!
It is in Christ that we are blessed when we make peace in a warring world.
It is in Christ that we are blessed when show mercy to our neighbor.
It is in Christ that we are blessed when we guard our hearts.
It is Christ who blesses us, even when we mourn.
It is Christ who blesses us, even when we are poor and empty.
It is Christ who blesses us, even when our bodies and souls are ravaged with hunger.
It is Christ who blesses the likes of us—and gives us the Kingdom!!—meek women and men who but long to touch his garment and be healed.
Oh, praise God for sending Jesus to reach down from the heavenly mountain to touch the broken and unclean! Praise Him for turning the law on its head, not to empty it out but to fill it up on our behalf, so that we might be blessed.
“Blessed are the spiritual zeros—the spiritually bankrupt, deprived and deficient, the spiritual beggars, those without a wisp of ‘religion’—when the kingdom of the heavens comes upon them.”
—Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy