Summary: The first in the series on the Beatitudes. 1. The Happy, 2. The Humble, and 3. The Heaven bound
Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit
The crowds had begun to follow Jesus. His miraculous works, teachings, and His name had spread throughout the regions.
Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him. Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them, saying: (4:25-5:1)
How large were the crowds? We are not sure, but one time 5000 men followed and were fed. Some say that crowd with women and children could have been as high as 12,000-15,000 people. Scripture does not record the exact number but it does tell us they were from everywhere in the region. Jesus withdrew from them to a higher point. While the mountain cannot be identified, Delitzsch calls the Mount of Beatitudes "The Sinai of the New Testament".
The greatest sermon to ever be delivered is the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus redefines the faith. The Pharisees had long taught that righteousness was a matter of the external. Ritual washings and cleansings, following a set of legalistic rules, prayer, fasting, and the shekel amount of ones contribution to the temple, defined ones level of righteousness.
Amazingly Jesus did not come out railing against the Pharisees. Instead, He redefined the nature of the Kingdom and the faith. Jesus described a kingdom character. He began His teaching by defining a believer’s attitudes within instead of a list of outward rules and regulations. Righteousness is measured by character, not a checklist.
The Happy - "Blessed are"
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus begins the sermon with the word "blessed". I can imagine the disciples these who followed Jesus listened closely when Jesus started with "blessed". The Greek word here makarioi is an adjective that means "happy"¨. The Latin word for happiness (makarioi) is "beatus". It is the reason these verses together are called the beatitudes. The very literal translation would be, "the happy(s)" or better yet, "the joys".
As one commentator explained "to them (the people listening) it meant ’divine joy and perfect happiness.’ It was a word that was used for a joy that went beyond the surface emotions. It implied a deep and abiding satisfaction that could not be shaken by any circumstance on earth. It is as if Jesus went into the great display window of life and changed all the price tags.
Obviously, it is not the diluted word "happy" which we use to describe that which brings a smile to our face. This happiness is not centered on things, circumstance, or person. Solomon sat upon the throne of Israel with women, wealth beyond compare, possessions unimaginable, and power over most of the world and he said to himself,
Meaningless! Meaningless! says the Teacher. Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless. (Ecclesiastes 1:2)
It is obvious from Solomon’s search for satisfaction in life that all the things that we think will bring happiness do not, saith the wisest man. So where does the joy come from, on what is this blessedness based?
The Humble - "Poor in spirit"
Jesus said the first is "blessed are the ’poor in spirit’". Frankly, that doesn’t make sense and yet it is exactly what Jesus said. It contradicts everything this world of ours believes. How can someone who is poor in spirit be happy? Lazarus the beggar was poor in spirit. Jesus sermon changes the very framework of how we look at life.
One must have an attitude of humility to be poor in spirit. The word suggests utter spiritual destitution. It is the realization that we are not God and that God is God. It is an understanding of who we really are before Him. We are humbled before Him. Like Isaiah in the presence of God we cry out,
Woe to me! I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty."
Like Isaiah we see ourselves as sinners with no righteousness of our own having no alternative but to rely on the mercy and grace of God that is only available through Jesus Christ. We are all poor in spirit before God and in order to receive the blessing one has to acknowledge their helplessness and hopelessness before Him and receive His Gift of salvation in Christ Jesus.
The Heaven Bound - "For theirs Is Kingdom of Heaven"
So what is the blessing? The kingdom of heaven is what the poor in spirit receive. The Lord himself invites you to a meeting concerning your immediate and endless happiness. He desires the very best for us because He loves us.