If you read the Bible, you’ll encounter all kinds of literature. Narrative, poetry, wisdom, and discourse. The New Testament in particular has literature such as narrative, dialogue, discussion, and discourse. One such well-known section considered to be discourse is the Sermon on the Mount. At the very beginning of it, we find the Beatitudes. Over the next few weeks, we will look at these interesting statements a bit closer.
It is in the fifth chapter of Matthew that we find the Beatitudes. Jesus has begun his ministry and is gaining popularity among the crowds. We see as the chapter opens that Jesus goes up the mountain to sit down (it’s customary for Rabbi’s to sit as they teach) and begins teaching the disciples that followed him up the mountain. We will see later why this teaching is directed to his disciples and not the crowds.
Structure-wise, a Beatitude starts with the initial “ blessed are” phrase and then designates who are the blessed and lastly the reason why they are blessed. Considered upside-down statements, they say the opposite of what you would expect a blessed person is. Instead of it saying blessed are the rich, it states blessed are the poor. Instead of saying blessed are those who rejoice, it states blessed are those who mourn. These statements are countercultural, in biblical times as well as today. The Pharisees (or teachers of the law) of that time looked down at these qualities as a weakness. They often looked at the external, yet Jesus looks at the internal.
What Jesus is teaching through the Beatitudes are qualities of an ideal disciple. A disciple that first completely empties themself, realizing their real need of God, and then lets the gospel fill them up and transform them into people possessing different character qualities than those who haven’t accepted the gospel. Qualities of meekness, mercy, and peace.
If we want to be true disciples of Christ, the beatitudes are the place to start as they show us what a true disciple looks like. We will begin a closer look in a couple of weeks, finding out who are poor in spirit and why they are called blessed.