Analysis of the beatitudes
The Sermon on the Mount, also known as the Beatitudes is one of the many teachings of Jesus that made Him famous and dear to the believers but consequently caused Him to be persecuted. This paper aims to navigate the spiritual lessons behind the Beatitudes and how will these make someone be blessed. Also this paper aims to prove that Jesus really taught in an intelligent manner during His time by presenting the heavenly lessons in manners that the people can first relate to their daily lives. With the Beatitudes, we will see how Jesus bravely taught the Word of God even in the presence of the Pharisees and the Scribes.
ANALYSIS OF THE EIGHT BEATITUDES
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3)
In order for us to understand the meaning of the verse, we need to know who the poor in spirit are, or expressed in another way, what makes someone poor in spirit. In Greek, “ptochos” translated as poor means “extreme poverty or complete emptiness” (B. Wells). To be literally poor is to have nothing as means of self support (D.Heck).In the first beatitude, it says “poor in spirit” meaning that we cannot use the literal meaning of “poor” in this context. To “be poor in spirit”, translated from Greek hoi ptochoi to pneumatic is to realize that one cannot do anything to save himself from his sins unless he comes humbly to Jesus and be sorry for his sins (T. Watson). According to Wells, “the poor in spirit are those who are conscious of their sins and know in their hearts that they are completely unworthy of the grace that a most holy and loving God pours down upon them.” So the poor in spirit are those who accept that he has no hope of salvation without Jesus Christ. According to Heck, “poverty of spirit is a consciousness of one’s emptiness and the result of the Spirit’s work within. Only the poor in spirit have the right to inherit the kingdom of God because they are the people who completely put their trust in Jesus Christ.
“Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)
A person who mourns, in the context of the beatitudes, does not refer to the grief over the death of somebody or lost of something or something that is brought about by physical affliction. A person is blessed if he mourns over his sins before God (D. A. Carson).The scholars observed that the verb “mourn” was expressed in the present tense, “Blessed are they that mourn.” According to their analysis, this tense of the verb indicates that mourning is a continuing experience (D. Heck). A person has to be continually sorry for his sins whether these are sins of omission and commission. To mourn means “to experience a genuine guilt for one’s sins,” says Doug Heck. What is also important to note here is that a person, while he mourns for his sins must also seek for God’s deliverance and recognize that only God can be his source of comfort. The reason for mourning is the fact that sins greatly dishonor the righteous God and sins bring Him pain and sorrow (B. Wells).
Biblica scholars also analyzed the reason behind the shift of tense of “mourn” to the past tense of “comforted.” Their analysis suggest that the “comfort” to be rewarded can only be achieved only after a person puts his trust in Jesus Christ, repented and have done the will of the Lord.
“Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5)
Looking at the dictionary meaning of the word “meekness”, we will see the definition as “deficient in spirit and courage.” If we are to look into the Greek meaning of “meek”, which is translated from the word “praos” it means “gentle, humble, mild, considerate, and courteous” (R. Guelich). Relating the third beatitude to the contemporary world, we can immediately conclude that this will be something hard to accept for the world’s standard is power and authority. Today’s life is sort of a “survival of the fittest”, meaning that those who are weak will die. But meekness, in the context of the Beatitudes and the way Jesus would want to impart us, do not suggest weakness. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus pointed to meekness as being lowly, and to be lowly is to be submissive to authorities, especially on the will of God, who is of the Highest Authority. Scholars also suggest that meekness is linked with gentleness which Jesus also taught to be shown to all men (A.W. Pink).
A meek person recognizes the Greatness of God while accepting that he is nothing without the power of God in his life. A meek person allows himself to be controlled by God: his thoughts, emotion, actions and words (B. Wells). The third beatitude promises a reward for the meek: they will inherit the earth. The meek will not literally own the world and everything in it. Inheriting the earth suggest that the meek should have nothing to fear for God is in control of everything (J. McArthur). Because the meek entrust everything to God, his desires will be to him by God. The meek always says, “I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengthens me.”
“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” (Matthew 5:6)
There are two keywords in the fourth beatitude that are significant to the daily life of the people: hunger and thirst. Everyone experiences hunger and thirst and knows what it feels like. These are daily needs that are to be addressed to and be satisfied at a daily basis. In the context of the beatitude, “Jesus used these physical drives to illustrate the desperation of the blessed person’s desire for righteousness” (D. Heck). Righteousness to, as a spiritual and inner craving must be satisfied.
But what is righteousness? “Righteousness is not absolute holiness or perfection, either” (R. Schuller). In this sense, Schuller suggest that one can be righteous without being absolutely holy and perfect. He argues that man makes too much mistake and to be perfect is something impossible for man to achieve. He further suggests that righteousness points to man’s relationship with others and himself. But this writer believes on the other arguments made by other scholars. To be righteous is to live a life that is in conformity with the will of the Lord. This is different from what the world sees as righteous because the world’s standard of righteousness is far different with that of the standards of God. A thing might be righteous in the eyes of man, such as same sex marriage is acceptable to some, but not in the eyes of God. So righteousness will be measured by God. So the one who hungers and thirst for righteousness, as with daily need for food and water, will be filled with God and be satisfied. The cycle continues by a person continually longing for righteousness and be continuously filled and be satisfied. It is the spiritual appetite of craving for more food of righteousness, so those who crave more and eat more will grow better and faster in spiritual maturity.
“Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)
Mercy is translated in Greek as “eleos” which “expresses itself toward the results of sin-pain, grief, misery, need” (Pink, 170). It is also related to “charis” which means, “helpful”. Another author defines mercy as “a loving response prompted by the misery and helplessness of the one on whom the love is to be showered” (D.A. Carson). From here, we can say that mercy in the context of the Beatitudes is showing compassion for the hurts and needs of others. Heck regards mercy as “a test of genuine integrity.” As Bob Wells expressed it, “having compassion on those that are in any way hurting is only the first part of having mercy. Doing something about it is the all important second part.” Although man is sinful, God had shown mercy towards man through His forgiveness. And because Christ already died on the Cross for the forgiveness of our sins, it is our part, and is but righteous for us to extend mercy to others, with a happy heart.
“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8)
There are two major arguments on what “pure in heart” means, in the beatitudes. One argument suggests that “purity of the heart” encompasses inner morality. The other argument was that of Carson who says that purity of the heart is that of pure motive-of single-mindedness, undivided devotion, spiritual integrity, and true righteousness (p.47). However, scholars find these arguments practically true and correct because they suggest what “pure in heart” means in the Beatitudes. Carson is correct because by having an undivided devotion to God and of maintaining spiritual integrity someone one will be able to achieve inner moral uprightness. This means that the arguments of both should be combines in taking the meaning of “pure in heart.”
The sixth Beatitude therefore suggests that only those who are pure in heart can see God. Those who are pure in heart delight themselves on spiritual matters that are only things that pertain to God. By these, only those who indulge themselves in spiritual matters will be able to see and appreciate the blessings of God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)
The peacemakers are those, “who confront conflict with righteousness” (D. Heck). In this sense, peacemakers include anyone who makes effort for peace to reign, even if they fail. Peacemakers do not compromise to conflict neither do they ignore it. Making peace means reconciling using the standards set by God. This means that, resolving conflict in order to gain peace should make it sure that the moral and spiritual standards of God are to be considered and met.
The reward of peacemakers is that they will be called the children of God. When we become children of God, it is necessary that we belong to the family of God. Because God loves his family and his children, then as children of God, we become dear to Him. One scholar suggest that being called “children of God” does not simply give peacemakers a tag or label of being “children of God.” Robert Guelich suggest that peacemakers will not only be tagged but truly becomes a part of God’s family, being His children. So the seventh beatitude promised peacemakers the blessing of eternal sonship in the eternal Kingdom of God (Heck).
“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10)
Because the moral standards of the world are far lower than the moral and spiritual standards set by God, it is likely that those who conform to the standards of God will be persecuted. Persecution in the contemporary times is no longer as harsh and rude as those experienced by the disciples of God during the Biblical times. Physical persecution as that of hanging, beating and other forms of rudeness may not be experience by the Christians today. However, mocking is still applicable. Persecution today comes in the form of verbal abuse by those who oppose to what the Bible and Christ teach. Christians today may still experience being mocked when they tell others about Jesus and what life God would want people to live at. But persecution is part of being a Christian. When we are persecuted, it means that we are living a life that is opposed to what the world generally opposed to. But to be persecuted in the name of God and righteousness is rewarding, as the eighth beatitude suggest. Because someone lives in righteousness and in accordance with the standards of man, he therefore necessarily have the required qualities that God is looking in man to be able to enter the kingdom of Heaven.
By looking at the meanings of the eight beatitudes, this writer was able to learn that The Sermon on the Mount was actually delivered by Jesus in an intelligent manner in the sense that the thoughts of the verses were presented in a progressive manner. This writer was able to learn that for man to inherit the kingdom of God, he first has to gain the spiritual qualities suggested in the beatitudes. The Beatitudes also taught this writer that each of the verses does not suggest earthly and material meanings but rather they are presented in situations and manner that are materially relative to the daily lives of the people but suggests spiritual lessons and truths.
Barclay, William. “The Daily Study Bible: Matthew,” Vol. 1, (Philadelphia: The Westminister Press, 1975)
Carson, D. A. “The Sermon on the Mount: An Evangelical Exposition of Matthew 5-7,” (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1978)
Guelich, Robert A. “The Sermon on the Mount: A Foundation for Understanding,” (Waco: Word Books Publisher, 1982)
Heck, Doug V. “The Beatitudes- The Character and Conduct of Kingdom Citizens” June 08 2007.http://www.grace4u.org/Topical/Beatitudes.htm
MacArthur, John. “Kingdom Life: Jesus’ Way to True Happiness,” (Panorama City: Word of Grace Communications, 1985)
Pink, A. W. “An Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount,” (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1950)
Watson, Thomas. “The Beatitudes,” (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1985 reprint)
Wells, Bob. “Beatitudes-Their Significance and Meaning” Retrieved on June 08, 2007.http://members.tripod.com/~robertwells/Beatitudes.html 07/08/07