At the beginning of his earthly ministry, Jesus announces, “the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 4:17). When we read the “kingdom of heaven,” we may think of harps, clouds, and angel choirs, but Jesus is clear that the kingdom of heaven refers to God’s rule on earth. This kingdom is not fully realized on earth as we know it but will reach completion when we see “the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30). Meanwhile, we are called to live so that the new way of the kingdom of heaven is made visible.
In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5), Jesus tells his followers about the values, ethics, and practices of this new kingdom. His sermon opens with the beatitudes—eight statements beginning with the word blessed. Each beatitude declares that a group of people usually regarded as afflicted is actually blessed.
Those who belong to each blessed group experience God’s grace because the kingdom of heaven has come near. Those who are blessed do not have to do anything to attain this blessing. The beatitudes are declarations of God’s grace. They are not conditions of salvation or roadmaps to earn entry into God’s kingdom.
Most scholars also regard the beatitudes as painting a picture of the characteristics of the kingdom of heaven. As we step into God’s kingdom, we hope to become more like those named as blessed—more meek, more merciful, more hungry for righteousness, more apt to make peace.
In this reading plan, we’ll explore the meaning of each beatitude. We’ll also look for concrete ways in which we can practice living according to the values described in the beatitudes in the context of everyday work.
As you enter into this study of the beatitudes, what hopes do you have? What would you like God to do?
God, open my heart to receive Your grace. Help me to honor that which You call “blessed.”