A unique look at the “Beatitudes” of Jesus

For many believers, the verses of Scripture we call the “Beatitudes,” which are found in Matthew 5:3-12, are among the most beautiful and inspiring words ever spoken by Jesus. They can also be some of His most perplexing words.

beatitudesJesus was not the first teacher to use “beatitudes.”  On the contrary, the beatitude was a common teaching and rhetorical tool used by the Greeks, Hebrews, and Christians to describe a state of happiness and fulfillment a person can attain after they achieve a certain level of success, wisdom, or virtue. The word “beatitude” comes from a Latin adjective that simply means something like happy, fortunate, content, or blessed. Beatitudes have also been called “makarisms,” from the Greek word makarios, which was used to describe what it means to be bless-ed. In Jesus teaching, the state of being bless-ed is not just about a person’s happiness and fulfillment, but also about God’s happiness with the person. Thus to be bless-ed is both a gift that is bestowed by God and an attitude by the one who receives the gift. Being bless-ed means experiencing fulfillment and joy now — but also a much fuller and more complete joy in the future when God brings His Kingdom to fruition.

You will find several translations and interpretations that use the word “happy” instead of “bless-ed”. This idea is not altogether incorrect, but I think it still falls short just a bit.

I love what John Stott says here:

All Christians can testify from experience that there is a close connection between holiness and happiness. Nevertheless, it is seriously misleading to render makarios as ‘happy’. For happiness is a subjective state, whereas Jesus is making an objective judgment about these people. He is declaring not what they may feel like (‘happy’), but what God thinks of them and what on that account they are: they are ‘blessed’. [1]

John Chrysostom, my favorite preacher of all-time, says further:

God has set his blessing upon these things (the Beatitudes) to keep us from expecting something that belongs to the material world. For if one wore the prize or garland for things that are to be dissolved together with this present life, things that flit away faster than a shadow, would that one truly be blessed? [2]

During a recent study at our church, a group was asked to try approaching and interpreting the Beatitudes by trying to imagine the many possible meanings Jesus may have intended. It was interesting to hear the myriad of ideas and suggestions that came from various members of the group, but I was left with a nagging question: What did Jesus really mean?

So I decided to experiment with trying to understand these words of Jesus from an internal, biblical, point of view — that is, by interpreting Scripture with Scripture. In my estimation, the Beatitudes were not “one-hit wonders”. They were based on things Jesus used to say all the time . . .

MY EXPERIMENT WITH THE BEATITUDES

Below you will find the Beatitudes listed one-by-one. Below each one you will find my interpretation  based on other words of Jesus or other Scriptures. I would love to know . . . do you find this helpful? Would you use other Scriptures to interpret them differently? Either way, ENJOY!

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“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those whose treasures are not on earth, for their treasures are in heaven. (Matthew 6:19-21)

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Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

Blessed are those who are hurting or grieving loss, for God is near to the brokenhearted. (Psalm 34:18)

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Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who humble themselves, for someday they will be exalted. (Luke 14:11)

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Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.

Blessed are those who seek first His kingdom and righteousness, for everything they need will be added unto them. (Matthew 6:33)

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Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are those who forgive others, for the Father will also forgive them. (Matthew 6:14-15)

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Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.

Blessed are those with clean hands and a pure heart, for they may ascend the hill of the Lord and stand in His holy place. (Psalm 24:3-4)

or

Blessed are those who cleanse their hands and purify their hearts, for when they draw near to God He will draw near to them. (James 4:8)

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Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them,that they may be children of their Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:44-45)

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Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who are insulted because of the name of Christ, for they are blessed and the Spirit of glory and of God rests on them. (1 Peter 4:14). Remember, this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)

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Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Blessed are you if the world persecutes and hates you. Keep in mind that it persecuted and hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. (John 15:18-21)

FOR THOSE  WHO LIKE A LITTLE EXTRA . . .

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LUKE’S VERSION OF THE BEATITUDES, LIKELY SPOKEN BY JESUS ON ANOTHER OCCASION

Luke 6:20-26

20 Looking at his disciples, he said:

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.

22 Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.

23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.

24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.

25 Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.

Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.

26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.

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SOME BEATITUDES OF THE OLD TESTAMENT

SOME ‘BEATITUDES’ OF THE OLD TESTAMENT:

Psalm 112

1 Praise the Lord.

Blessed are those who fear the Lord,
who find great delight in his commands.

Proverbs 8:32-35

32 “Now then, my children, listen to me;
blessed are those who keep my ways.
33 Listen to my instruction and be wise;
do not disregard it.
34 Blessed are those who listen to me,
watching daily at my doors,
waiting at my doorway.
35 For those who find me find life
and receive favor from the Lord.

Psalm 1:1-3

1 Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.

Psalm 128:1-3

1 Blessed are all who fear the Lord,
who walk in obedience to him.
2 You will eat the fruit of your labor;
blessings and prosperity will be yours.
3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
around your table.

Jeremiah 17:7-8

7 “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
8 They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”

REFERENCES

-All Scripture quoted here is from the most recent New International Version.

[1] Stott, John. The Message of the Sermon on the Mount. IVP, 1985, p. 33.

[2] John Chrysostom, On Matthew, 15.5.

3 thoughts on “A unique look at the “Beatitudes” of Jesus

  1. don says:

    1 Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
    or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
    2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
    3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
    and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.
    4 Not so with the sinner like chaff
    which the wind drives away.
    5 The ungodly will not stand in judgement,
    nor will the evil join in the congregation of
    the righteous.

    Guess what, Eric. By coincidence Psalm One is a scripture to memory I worked on last week. I decided to learn it because it’s been some time since I memorized a scripture a week for each week of the year. I wanted to test memory capacity against age, but more so, to thank God for His glory and for being my heavenly Father; our heavenly Father.

    Don

  2. donshank1@cox.net says:

    Eric,

    An interesting study (Psalms 78 and 79) is learning why God chose Judah over Ephraim and Jerusalem over Shiloh to foster His people and bring them forward (David to Jesus). Have you ever taught or preached on that?

    Don

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