Before we look at the beatitudes, we need to understand what it means to be blessed, the nature of a beatitude (Jesus wasn’t the first to employ them) and how Jesus expects us to understand them.
- Matthew 1-4 contain introductory material to Matthew’s gospel.
- Matthew gives us a narrative introduction (Matthew 4:12-22) and a summary statement (Matthew 4:23-25) before going into the sermon on the mount (a pattern he repeats).
- The Sermon on the Mount is a very important body of teaching given by Jesus at a time when he was very popular.
- Jesus intends to show his disciples the issues they will face if they want to be children of God.
- He contrasts his teaching with the teaching of the Pharisees.
- Luke 6 is the same sermon given in shorter version.
- We can use Luke to understand Matthew and vice versa.
- The Latin word “beatus” means “blessed” or “fortunate.” The “beatitudes” are a series of sayings about those who are blessed.
- Jesus is not the first to utter a beatitude (e.g. Psalm 1:1; Psalm 32:1; Proverbs 3:13).
- The one who is blessed is fortunate and in a highly desirable position, but is not necessarily happy.
- Blessings and curses can refer either to wishes or actions toward someone else.
- When God is the subject, blessings and curses typically refer to actions. When God blesses someone, He approves of them and works for their benefit. When God curses someone, He disapproves of them and they fall under His wrath.
- To be blessed is to be a person to whom good things are coming because I am in God’s favor and God is on my side.
- Fortunate is a good translation as long as we don’t include luck. Blessing is not random fortune or luck. It is a deliberate decision of God to work on my behalf.
- Older translations of the Bible use the word “happy” in the older sense of the word. The old root word “hap” means fortune or chance (e.g. mishap, happenstance, happen, hapless, haphazard, and happy). Happy used to being in a good circumstance, not to good feelings.
For a reason
- Each beatitude gives the reason why these people are in a highly desirable situation.
- The blessed are in a highly desirable situation because their FUTURE is wonderful.
- Each beatitudes emphasizes if you are this way NOW, your FUTURE is great.
- Rather than being a formula for finding personal peace and happiness now in this life, Jesus is describing the fortunate ones in terms of their eternal destiny.
- ONLY the people in the situation of the beatitude have this glorious future.
- Jesus divides people into two groups: those who are blessed and those to whom he says “woe” (Luke 6:20-26).
- To be blessed in the way Jesus is describing is not extra icing on the cake.
- Jesus is describing two entirely different roads. One is blessed and one is cursed.
- Each beatitude has a surprising and ironic twist.
- It’s not immediately obvious why these people are blessed. In fact, they don’t look very fortunate at first glance.
- The qualities that Jesus lists as marking a person as blessed are not highly prized by the world around us.
Each beatitude has 4 features:
- A beatitude tells us WHO is blessed.
- A beatitude tells us WHY such a person is blessed.
- A beatitude tells us ONLY these people are blessed.
- There is something surprising or ironic about why these people are blessed.
The pattern of a beatitude is:
As strange as it may seem, those who are in the seemingly undesirable situation of being X now are actually in a highly desirable situation because they and they alone have a glorious future from God.
Essentially, the beatitudes are a message that is this is how you end up saved or blessed by God, but this list doesn’t sound like the gospel as we typically describe it. But, as I will argue, it is a description of saving faith.