The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 – 7) begins with “The Beatitudes” (5.1-12). “Beatitude” comes from the Latin word Beatus, meaning “blessed.”
For many, the Beatitudes are about how we can be blessed; about what we must do if we are to be blessed. So, we think: If we want the kingdom of heaven, then we should be poor in spirit; if we want to be comforted, then we should mourn; if we want to inherit the earth, then we must be meek and humble; if we want to be satisfied, then we should hunger and thirst for righteousness; if want to receive mercy, then we must be merciful; if we want to see God, then we must be pure in heart; if we want to be called children of God, then we must be peacemakers.
But is this really the case? No.
In reality, the Beatitudes are not telling us to do anything. The beatitudes are merely describing our human state and situation in general, and how the coming of Christ makes a difference to our states of existence.
Jesus is saying that we who are poor in our spirits are now blessed and can find our share in the kingdom of heaven because Jesus has come.
We who have been mourning in life because of life’s sorrows and shames can now be comforted because Jesus has come.
We who often have no share or inheritance in life’s resources and wealth can now be considered to be the most wealthy and fortunate on earth because we can have Jesus.
We who continually and miserably fail to live up to the standards of righteousness can now be filled with the righteousness of God.
We who are merciful to others, but are ourselves in need of mercy and forgiveness, can now receive the mercy of God.
We who deeply long to see purity in life and the world can see and know the purest of purities – the beauty of God’s own face – because Jesus has come.
We who work and strive for peace in the world, often caught in the middle between conflicting groups, misunderstood and mislabelled by both sides, without an identity we can truly call our own, can now have an identity that is given by God himself – we can now be called the children of God.
Once we were not blessed; now we are blessed – Jesus has come and we have received him!