The Beatitudes: Who Are The People of the Code?
If asked to describe the citizens of their country, most would choose lofty words like “patriotic”, “independent” and “heroic”. But in describing the citizens of His Kingdom Jesus chose words like “poor”, “gentle” and “persecuted”. As we noted in the previous lesson, the Kingdom would not be composed of the kinds of people the Jews were expecting; it would be a Kingdom of “losers” (Matt. 21.31; Micah 4.6-7; Zeph. 3.12). Paul Earnhart describes the sobering reality of the beatitudes this way: “To a society governed by some serious misconceptions about the kingdom of God, the beatitudes make two basic statements. First, that the kingdom is not open to the self-righteous and self-assured, but to the supplicant sinner who comes seeking out of his emptiness. And, second, that the kingdom is not to be had by the ‘mighty’ who obtain their desires by wealth or violence, but by a company of patient men who yield not only their wants but even their ‘rights’ to the needs of others.” (Invitation To A Spiritual Revolution. Pages 5-6)
Before examining each of the beatitudes in some detail, it will be helpful to keep a few general principles in mind.
- These are the characteristics of ALL Kingdom citizens, not a select few. Note Luther’s criticism of how the beatitudes were interpreted by the Catholic church: “from this fifth chapter have come the pope’s monks, who claim to be a perfect class, in advance of other Christians, basing their claim upon this chapter; and yet we have shown that they are full of avarice, of arrogance, and of late full of all sorts of devils.” (Luther, Martin. Commentary on the Sermon on the Mount)
- We are not naturally inclined to these qualities. We must choose to adopt them.
- These qualities are inseparable. You either strive for all, or strive for none.
- To be considered “blessed” does not necessarily mean you are happy. In fact, many of these qualities result in anything but happiness. However, they make us blessed in the eyes of God, which will ultimately be the greatest source of happiness.
- Finally, note that the reward which bookends the beatitudes is “the Kingdom of Heaven” (vss.3,10). If the Kingdom is what we desire, these characteristics will be our aim.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)
Chances are, you’ve never experienced true poverty. Perhaps you think of the times when the balance in your bank account was perilously close to $0. Those are anxious times indeed, but even then you probably had a place to sleep and food to eat (even if you were down to ramen noodles and cereal). We probably don’t know what it’s like to be totally poor; to have nothing and to have no hope of having anything on our own.
But poor is what we must be if we desire the Kingdom. While the term is used in the Scriptures for physical poverty (see Luke 16.20-21), “here it is applied to the sinful emptiness of an absolute spiritual bankruptcy in which a person is compelled to plead for that which he is powerless to obtain (Jer 10.23) and to which he has no right (Luke 15.18–19; 18.13), but without which he cannot live. Begging comes hard to men (Luke 16.3)—especially proud, self-reliant Americans—but that is where our sinful ways have brought us and we will not see the kingdom of heaven until we face up to this reality with humble simplicity.” (Earnhart. Page 8)
Those who recognize their spiritual poverty have the wonderful promise of the Kingdom! The empty are filled! Blessed indeed are the poor in spirit.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)
Sin and sorrow often go hand-in-hand, but not always for the right reason. Paul speaks of a sorrow that produces death (2Cor. 7.10). This sorrow mainly arises from the fact that one was caught doing wrong. This sorrow is temporary and doesn’t produce lasting change. But godly sorrow produces real change and thus leads to salvation (2Cor. 7.10-11). The beatitude speaks of this kind of sorrow, this is the mourning Kingdom citizens exhibit.
The Psalmist reflected on the true value of mourning. Note these passages from Psalm 119…
- “Before I was afflicted I went astray, But now I keep Your word.” (vs. 67)
- “It is good for me that I was afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes.” (vs. 71)
Mourning over our sins, realizing just as David did that our sins are wrongs committed against God (Psalm 51.4), will result in our return to God and our longing for His guidance. Mourning isn’t pleasant, but its value is beyond measure.
Those who truly mourn shall be comforted. They are comforted because even though they sinned, their sorrow has led them back to the Father. And He longs to forgive and comfort (Psalm 51.17). Blessed indeed are those who mourn.
Leave a Reply