Bitesize Beatitudes: Part 1

Part one of a series in which I look briefly at each of the beatitudes, the introduction to the sermon on the mount. They can be found in Matthew 5.

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The Sermon on in the Mount is Jesus’ first major discourse in the Gospel of Matthew. He has preached previously, telling the people to

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.

He’d been doing various bits of teaching and healing, and had attracted a rather large following as a result, leaving the early reader wondering what else he’d been saying to gain such a following, and what does this kingdom of heaven look like anyway? Matthew builds up to it, and Jesus opens his mouth to say…

Blessed are..

[Brief aside: This kind of construction is quite common in ancient poetry (see Psalm 1), so the crowd was probably thinking he was going to say something about living well or how good it was to be rich or important or relaxed or some such.]

Blessed are the poor in spirit.

I can imagine all those who had heard his reputation (but not his actual teaching) needing to pick their jaws up off the floor. The word “poor” here is the same as the word for someone who is hard up financially; Jesus is essentially saying that those who don’t have anything to offer God are to be envied. Why?

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Because it is such people who understand their need for Jesus, and we’ll see that as we go along. It is they who are citizens of the coming kingdom of heaven. His audience would probably have had the opposite view, that those who were rich in spirit (that is, those that seemingly had much to offer God, such as the Scribes and Pharisees) would have inherited this kingdom of heaven. Such people would have been confident of their own ability to save themselves, but Jesus turns this on its head. He is pointing the people towards the need to accept God’s Grace, for all have fallen short of God’s glory.*

Thus, the first step (for want of a better word) in becoming a citizen in the kingdom of heaven is admitting you have nothing to offer God which can get his favour on your own merit.

But naturally this realisation will lead to a period of mourning.

*See Romans 1:16-3:26 for Paul’s thorough evidence of this.

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One Response to Bitesize Beatitudes: Part 1

  1. Pingback: Bitesize Beatitudes 2: Mourning and Comfort | Ex Post Facto

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