The juxtaposition couldn’t have been more perfect. The scribes and Pharisees delivered their lessons in the temples; He delivered his most famous lesson outside the temple walls. Heck, it was even outside the city walls. And it wasn’t one of the more majestic, *holy,* outdoor places like Mount Sinai, Zion, Moriah or Olive. Nope, it was a common, ordinary hillside outside of town…and he didn’t stand at a podium and lecture. He sat on the ground. Quite the contrast from the first time God addressed a crowd with Moses on Mount Sinai. At that time, there was thunder and lightening and shaking ground. And, understandably, people kept their distance. God’s message was one of Thou shall and Thou shall not…
But this time, God’s voice was soft spoken, casual and very approachable. Jesus introduces the famous Sermon on the Mount with what is now referred to as The Beatitudes; a Latin word meaning blessedness. And each one implies a current state of well-being, said in a proverb-like way…and loaded with meaning. The message this time was one of humbleness and love. Together, these Beatitudes combine to give us a clear picture of what a true disciple of God looks like.
The audience is made up of townies. An oppressed crowd, they have zero power and less hope their lives will improve under Roman rule. They’re poor, down-trodden, anxious and unsure of the future. The Messiah is their only hope, and they realize they have nothing to offer God that ensures a place in that kingdom. It’s to these souls God speaks words of encouragement, hope and comfort.
In this case, the word blessedness does not mean happy. After all, if being blessed means their lives are filled with happiness, how much sense does it make to say, blessed are the poor in spirit or blessed are the meek or blessed are those that mourn? That’s crazy, right? No, it’s more like saying they will be fulfilled, complete and joyful despite their circumstances.
The Beatitudes give a snapshot of an authentic follower of Christ. Plus, the words can provide peace when faced with life’s trials and tribulations.
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure of heart,
for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
It’s to our souls God speaks words of encouragement, hope and comfort. Words that tell us we can be fulfilled, complete and joyful despite our circumstances. Words that help our attitudes be (Be-attitudes..get it?) in a more fulfilling place.
And just for fun, here’s a clip from my go-to flick, Jesus Christ Superstar, to reinforce that point.