Summary: The beatitudes, what are they all about? Why are these people blessed, to be poor in spirit brings blessing but why?
Interestingly enough when we think about beatitudes we often get this sought of thinking going on that these things, poorness of spirit, mourning, etc should be our attitudes. However the word beatitude comes from the Latin word for ‘blessed’, ‘beatus’ which is what Jesus was talking about at the start of his Sermon on the Mount. He was talking about blessings and why particular people would be blessed, once again there are all sorts of thinking about why these groups of people will be blessed and how God sees these people.
If we look a bit further at ‘blessed’ the word, from the Greek it’s not about, physical stuff, again this is related to the spiritual, about receiving God’s favour, it can though be about good feels associated with receiving God’s favour. (repeat)
Over the next six weeks I’m going to attempt to answer why these blessings come about and just why Jesus gave us this teaching, I’ll also attempt to make a few leaps towards what this all means to us here in Sydenham and how we could be addressing receiving or witnessing these blessings in our lives.
The first couple of verses of this passage appear to have a fairly straight forward sought of description to them: let’s have a look at what is being said here.
“Now when he (Jesus) saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them, saying…“ What happens next is that Jesus speaks forth the beatitudes.
Why the wee description about the where and how he began?
Well in other interpretations the words of verse two are slightly different, the ‘Restoration Scriptures’ say “And he opened his mouth, and taught them saying” where the ‘Revised Standard Version’ says, “and he opened his mouth and taught them saying”.
If you were listening very closely to me as I said that you would have noticed the only difference between the two versions was a slight pause. One has a comma punctuating the sentence and the other does not.
So why would Matthew say “he opened his mouth and taught them saying?”
A) Because we need to know Jesus was not a ventriloquist.
B) Because we need to know that the disciples were not taught by osmosis.
C) Because we need to know that Jesus didn’t teach by telepathic means.
D) None of the above!
While all three of A, B and C are correct, none of them apply to this verse, the reason Matthew pointed out that Jesus “opened his mouth” is because he is wanting the reader or listener to understand that what is coming out of the mouth of Jesus is really quite important, it would be a bit like me saying, “listen this is well worth hearing, it’s well thought out and has something important wrapped up in it!” These words that were to be spoken had a set will and purpose. Or in New Zealand speech what was to follow was, ‘gusty stuff, worth hearing, listen up.’
This term ‘he opened his mouth’ was a fairly well used Hebrew saying and crops up quite a bit in the Old Testament in situations where something with a bit of substance was to follow.
An example of this is from Psalm 78:2 and this is quite important, this Psalm is referred to in Matthews gospel in reference to Jesus teaching all those years later, this Psalm is a bit prophetic, it’s written by and in the style of a wisdom writer about God. It says this, “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter hidden things, things from old”. If we look at Matthew 13:35 after Jesus had told the parables of the mustard seed and the yeast we read, “So it was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world. “
What we have here with this whole “He opened his mouth to speak” business is that Matthew is pointing to Jesus divinity. The words of Jesus mouth are worth hearing, impacting and in the cases recorded in the gospels, in these beatitudes they are not just that, they are life changing, life giving and countercultural.
For those of us who believe that Jesus is a person of the Godhead, that he is undivided in essence and co-equal in power and glory, with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit we are left with, the importance of Jesus words, being extreme when we remember that God spoke light and all of creation into existence. This from Genesis 1:3 “and God said, ’let there be light,’ and there was light.” So the importance of what Jesus says can not be underrated.