5 When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the [a]mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. 2 He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying,
3 “[b]Blessed are the [c]poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the [d]gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.
12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Matthew 5:1 Or hill
Matthew 5:3 I.e. fortunate or prosperous, and so through v 11
Matthew 5:3 I.e. those who are not spiritually arrogant
- Matthew 5:5 Or humble, meek
The Beatitudes are one of the best-known sections of St. Matthew’s Gospel. They’re well-loved, much like Psalm 23 (The Lord is my shepherd…) or 1 Corinthians 13 (Love is patient, love is kind…). Because of this, they’re also subject to all kinds of misappropriation and the kind of feel-good kitsch that can make a suffering person feel even worse about their situation. Although there are obvious merits to encouraging the faithful to a life of humility, purity, peacemaking and the like, I feel that Jesus had something different and necessary than just a lesson in morality when he spoke to those early believers.
The Beatitudes are part of the larger Sermon on the Mount, which attempts to reinterpret the Old Testament Law in light of Christ’s coming, and yes, it includes instructions on moral living, prayer, and our role as believers in the world. But it also provides a stunning vision of what the Kingdom of God looks like. It gives us great insight into the heart of God, who knows, on every front, that life is hard.
That those who are weary feel so heavy they can scarcely walk. That we live in a world filled with suffering and hardship. That we, beloved children of God, often don’t get the very things we pray for. This acknowledgement is so important because it means that Jesus understood human experience intimately, and that God cares about us and our struggles. The consolation offered might seem empty in our lowest moments, when we have nothing to give, but it’s significant that these promises are included in this passage that reveals the heart of God and the structure of the Kingdom of Heaven.
No, it doesn’t change the fact that my friend’s daughter died, or that another friend has cancer, or that most of my friends are struggling to find full-time employment, but it does mean that we have a God who knows and cares that we are suffering, and somehow, our suffering can be–is–redeemed.
Shana Hutchings is originally from Anchorage, Alaska. She now lives with her family in Des Moines, Iowa, which she likes to explore by foot.