Summary: These words of Jesus were caring words of understanding. He was saying to these people, “I know your struggles. I understand what you are going through and I care.” The beatitudes may be prescriptive, but on one level may be descriptive. We will see both.
Reversal of Fortunes
Matthew 5:1-12 1 Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them, saying: 3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
1. Identifying the Struggle
Identification: There are many people who have become poor in spirit, who are mourning, who have been through so much, yet are meek and gentle (as opposed to angry, bitter, resentful), who crave justice, (have been treated mercilessly) yet are merciful, are pure in heart, and are peacemakers. Many are persecuted because they love and live what is right.
-These words of Jesus were caring words of compassion and understanding. He was saying to these people, “I know your struggles. I understand what you are going through and I care.” Jesus was validating them and their experiences. He was identifying with them in the midst of the injustices they were facing. Yet He turned these things around to show how God could work in the midst of impossible situations. Jesus brought more of a kingdom-minded perspective. (Lord’s Prayer: Yours is the kingdom, the power, the glory.) These can be turned around for His glory and our blessing!
-The world might look at someone and say, “Life has been hard on that person. They don’t have much to offer b/c they are poor in spirit. They aren’t the life of the party. Always so serious!” Or they might say, “That person is so sad. Why can’t they just get over it and move on?” Or, “He is so quiet. You never know what he is thinking. You barely notice when he is in the same room. And he’s way too nice to people – too concerned about what they think.” Or, “She is always griping about getting a raw deal. Well, she should just accept the fact that life isn’t fair!” Or, “She is such a goody two shoes. Thinks she’s better than everyone else.” Or, “I think he is afraid to fight. He is always trying to negotiate peace instead of letting people just fight it out.”
-The world system (our culture) often has these things turned upside down. The beatitudes are viewed as negatives rather than positives. Let’s move on now and take a look at how they can be positives in a person’s life.
2. Entering the Kingdom
-But before the kingdom value of these adverse conditions of their world could be realized or appreciated, it is necessary for people to receive and identify with the Kingdom of Heaven. The first beatitude introduces the way into the kingdom. The way up is down. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
-Just prior to the start of the earthly ministry of Jesus, John the Baptist preached that the Kingdom of Heaven was near and that people could prepare for it through repentance from sin. John also pointed ahead to the Messiah who would follow him up.
-When Jesus showed up He spoke about heart issues and commitment and a person’s treasure. He talked about the need for a spiritual birth, a new beginning with new life.
John 3:3-7 Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." 4 "How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!" 5 Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.'
-Jesus also made it very clear that He was the way into the kingdom of heaven:
John 14:6 Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”