Last week, I wrestled a bit with the Beatitudes:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
I’ve always read this as: “The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are poor in spirit, so you should be poor in spirit. If you want to be filled, then hunger for righteousness,” and so on. Yet, in our world today, the meek are often trampled, those who mourn do not always find comfort, and those who thirst for righteousness and justice are often unfulfilled. As a checklist or a to-do list, what Jesus is teaching here does not make any sense!
In order to deepen my understanding of this passage, I listened to some podcasts and read some sermons and commentaries. I eventually came across a suggested translation by New Testament scholar NT Wright, who paraphrased the Beatitudes this way: “Wonderful news for the poor in spirit: the Kingdom of Heaven is for you! Wonderful news for you who mourn: you will find comfort!” ...and so forth.
In reading it as an announcement of “Wonderful News!”, I saw what Jesus was saying with fresh eyes. Instead of a to-do list, I saw an announcement and an invitation. He’s speaking to the people who typically are not blessed or who typically do not receive wonderful news: the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, those who long for justice, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and the persecuted. Jesus is announcing wonderful news to all of us: God has come to us, and Jesus has begun a new work that will make all things right again.
Our world that creates injustice, rewards the selfish and the oppressors, and rarely offers comfort has been defeated by Jesus; and he has created a people where comfort, justice, mercy, and peace are offered to all now: his church!
Jesus’ extends an invitation to the poor in spirit, the pure in heart, the mourners, the merciful, the meek, and those who long for righteousness to join his work and find what they long for. He is also reminding the church that His body, His kingdom, is a place for these people as well. He is inviting us to a life where we offer comfort, mercy, and justice; where we lose our lives for the sake of others, and end up finding our lives after all.
Before we know it, in living our lives following after Christ and committing ourselves to the service of others, we’ll find ourselves to be poor in spirit, in need of comfort, hungering for justice, looking for mercy, and longing to see God. And the wonderful news for us all is this: God has come to us in Jesus and offers His life to all those who seek Him.