Jesus came to earth to usher in a new kingdom. And he announced the themes of his kingdom in the Sermon on the Mount. It begins with a list we call the Beatitudes because the Latin word for blessed is beatus.
These blessings that he’s announcing, are not saying “Try hard to live like this.” They are saying that people who already are like this are in good shape. The point is not to offer a list of what sort of people God normally blesses. The point is to announce God’s new covenant. It is gospel—an announcement of wonderful news, of good news, not good advice.N. T. Wright1
Happy or well off are:
- the spiritually needy, for theirs is the kingdom of God
- those who mourn, for they will be comforted
- the humble and gentle, for they will inherit the earth2
- those who pursue justice, for they will be satisfied
- the merciful, for they will be shown mercy
- the pure in heart, for they will seek God
- the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God
- those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of God
- those who are insulted, and spoken falsely about because of Jesus, for great is their reward in heaven
While this is good news for the future, I wonder about now. After all, Jesus tells us to pray “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Are the downtrodden and marginalized really well off now? Again, N. T. Wright gives clarity to my muddled thoughts:
The life of heaven—the realm where God is already king—is to become the life of the world, transforming the present ‘earth’ into the place of beauty and delight that God always intended. And those who follow Jesus are to begin to live by this rule here and now. That’s the point of the Sermon on the Mount, and these beatitudes in particular. They are a summons to live in the present in the way that will make sense in God’s promised future … It may seem upside down, but we are called to believe, with great daring, that it is in fact the right way up.N. T. Wright3
How can you live by Jesus’s counter-cultural standards here and now?
Precious Jesus, thank you for this wonderful news that your upside-down kingdom is for those who need you—the grieving ones, the pure, the persecuted, the meek. Help me to recognize my own humble position before you. Teach me how to make my corner of this earth more like the place of beauty you will bring in the future. Teach me to exhibit kingdom life, submitting to your counter-cultural standards.
1Tom Wright, Matthew for Everyone Part One (Louisville, KY: Westminster Knox Press, 2004), 36–37.
2Inherit the earth is a quote of Psalm 37:11 and seems to infer that the wicked will get their due punishment someday; and once they are gone, the meek will inherit everything (quoting Rev. Dr. David Handy). I also like Chuck Smith’s comment in his sermon notes which says it means, “Having nothing, yet possessing everything.” (Smith, C. “Sermon Notes for Matthew 5:5 by Chuck Smith.” Blue Letter Bible. Last Modified 1 May, 2005. https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/smith_chuck/SermonNotes_Mat/Mat_20.cfm)
3Tom Wright, Matthew for Everyone Part One (Louisville, KY: Westminster Knox Press, 2004), 38.