The Beatitudes - Part One
Updated: Feb 27, 2021
Last week we looked at verses 1 and 2 of the Sermon on the Mount and we used them to set the context for the next few weeks in which we will explore the Beatitudes. If you haven't already then make sure you read the first blog so that you can set the scene for the next few weeks.
This week we are going to looked at the first Beatitude:
Matthew 5:3 (NIV)
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus starts by using the word 'blessed' or in Greek 'makarios' (mak-ar'-ee-os). In our language we often see the word blessed as fortunate or lucky, but in the context that Jesus is using the word makarios, a more literal translation might be 'supremely blessed' - in fact the Greeks used this word to represent a pure happiness, almost similar to joy. We also have to acknowledge the tense in which Jesus is speaking, he says 'Blessed are' which is in the present tense, meaning that this blessing is not only for the disciples that were present but it also applies to each and every one of us. I found this quote from Spurgeon particularly helpful when looking at this idea:
“Note, also, with delight, that the blessing is in every case in the present tense, a happiness to be now enjoyed and delighted in. It is not ‘Blessed shall be,’ but ‘Blessed are.’” (Spurgeon)
The next section of this scripture is the phrase 'the poor in spirit'. Jesus isn't referring to an earthly sense of poverty here. He is instead referring to a sense of acknowledgement or confession that we are sinful and a sense of humility by recognition of God's grace. The Greeks had a word that represented the idea of being financially poor, but Jesus used the word ptóchos (pto-khos') here which actually means 'truly poor'. He is highlighting the fact that being spiritually poor is to be truly poor. Another point that we have to acknowledge in this is that Jesus isn't referring to a sense of self hatred, but a conviction by the Holy Spirit and our response to that conviction. It is actually really important that Jesus starts the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes with this statement. The amazing thing here is that anyone can start from this point, another quote from Spurgeon to summarise (he puts things so much more eloquently than I can sorry!):
Everyone can start here; it isn’t first blessed are the pure or the holy or the spiritual or the wonderful. Everyone can be poor in spirit. “Not what I have, but what I have not, is the first point of contact, between my soul and God.” (Spurgeon)
Finally, the last section of this verse is 'for theirs is the kingdom of heaven'. This again is a reference to our eternal inheritance when we humble ourselves and come before God, relying on Him to provide all we need and accepting that we are spiritually inept without Him.
This verse is the first step into the Beatitudes and actually builds a foundation/starting point for the rest of the Beatitudes to build on. Without first becoming 'poor in spirit' we cannot receive the blessings to follow.
I pray that we might humble ourselves before God, that we might recognise our need for his grace and mercy in our lives and that we might truly be 'poor in spirit'.