Jesus of Galilee
Today God has many blessings. He has blessings for everyone who asks them, and He brought them to man by bringing His Son into earth to deliver these for Him personally.
The Beatitudes, or Blessings of our Lord, were the first teaching he gave in the Sermon on the Mount (sometimes called the Sermon on the Plain, in reference to Luke). These are found in the fifth chapter of Matthew, who mentioned nine of them, and in the sixth chapter of Luke, where four are given. The Beatitudes have been called the hinge upon which the whole Gospel of Matthew turns.
Luke shows his words as directed to the multitude -- "Blessed are you," which stresses a particular situation and the factor of social change. The woes he discussed were more intelligible to his Gentile readers.
Matthew's account rather emphasizes the situations in which the followers of Jesus of every age find themselves, and from there he launches into a thorough code for Christian discipleship.
The Beatitudes thus became the directives of Jesus Christ, the anointed Savior, for the man of Israel. They came as a triumphant declaration to the poor and sorrowing. But while this teaching gives hope to those who lack the physical necessities of life, even more does it come to those whose sorrow is at a higher level of function -- who grieve for the need to relieve the suffering of the world.
The word "beatitude" means "supreme blessedness," or "felicity," synonymous with happiness. Beatitudes are declarations of a fortunate state, generally beginning with the words "happy" or "blessed." Some were used in the Old Testament, especially in the Psalms. These emphasized God's nearness to those who love, trust and wait upon Him.
Now Jesus truly "opened his mouth" to the people, truly he "lifted up his eyes on his disciples," and began seriously to teach. For here God began in earnest to plant upon the earth His spiritual Garden.
The Greek word used in the Testament is "ptochos," meaning destitute, rather than merely poor ("penes"). It refers to the voluntarily poor -- those who have humbled themselves in spirit and give up totally to God. Of myself I am nothing; the Father in heaven -- He is all. And I have nothing except that which comes from God.
The Hebrew word "ani" (poor) refers to that humble, faithful man who has no help on earth, and who in perfect trust has wholly committed himself to God. In the Aramaic Bible, its meaning is given as "humble," "poor in pride," or unassuming.
One can be sitting upon a rich throne before the eyes of the world while yet poor in spirit, humbly kneeling within himself before God. Or one may be groveling in false humbleness, while within lurks a haughty pride and smug conceit in personal superiority. God sees the spirit of a man.
Sermon on the Mount
Jesus did not indiscriminately condemn the rich and praise the poor. He blesses the meek, the poor, and the afflicted only insofar as they have the right perspective. He condemns the lovers of pleasure and wealth only insofar as they seek the material satisfaction of their desires to the loss of eternal beatitude.
Here he opened the way of hope for everyone, regardless of material means. Most things which appear to be riches on earth are but glittering baubles when seen from the other side. While much that appears sadly lacking in value conceals the purest spiritual gold at its core. When one finally receives material wealth, he is using up the earned grace of previous times -- but can still use this wealth to do good, and so with it earn more.
There are two sides to every coin, except for the unqualified gift of Grace which is from God. The law of cycles has its effect, at first on earth -- in the alternating experiences of life which enable one to see all sides and to grow in strength and wisdom.
Then, when one comes upon the great Way of God on the path of spiritual unfoldment, there usually come interior crucifixions which bring their corresponding spiritual reward.
(Don't expect to be crucified in the physical way that Jesus was. That has been done.)
Those who laugh now, out of smugness or heedlessness, will find a reaction according to the tone of their laughter. Laughter can be good, too, when directed in a positive vein to help others.
Those who weep now are paying off a debt, evening up some old score, and purging themselves for something better to come, if the tears are truly penitent and not just maudlin self-pity or heedlessness of the welfare of others. Paul said, "Godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation." There are things only sorrow can teach, though one could not bear it continually.
Grief leaves a vacuum to be filled, and the comforter will come. When Jesus left the earth, he promised the disciples a Comforter in place of their teacher -- "even the spirit of Truth" which would enable them to be taught from within, as he was now doing from without.
When one "reaches bottom" in the depths of despair, God can be found if one is looking for Him and not for oblivion through the nearest stop-gap. Man's help is nearest when hope seems darkest.
3. "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."
Meekness implies patience -- one who is gentle of spirit and not easily provoked. He is non-resisting, and therefore all is his. As Jesus also said, "Resist not evil, but make way for good." Therefore, all good flows unto him who places no barriers in the way, for in obedience he accepts the guidance and providence of God in the Promised Land.
The word "righteousness" in some translations is given as "to see right prevail," or "to do what is right." It all amounts to the same thing. Those who yearn for that which is good and godly, to see it rightly done, shall have their desire rewarded with the accomplishment of good.
Mercy is called the "outgoing kindness of the Heart of God, the basis of His whole relationship to man." "As you give, so shall you also receive." "Do unto others as you would have them to do unto you also." To obtain mercy you must first earn it by giving it to others.
"Pure," in the sense that it is used here, is from the Greek word, "katharos," which implies "without blemish or alloy," a sort of ritual purity. Unadulterated purity is closest to being One with God.
"Shalom," the Jewish word for "peace" (and latter part of the name, "Jerusalem"), carries the additional meanings of prosperity, security, and happiness -- in other words, the fruits of peace. Only those who are of God make efforts to obtain peace and are rightly called His sons, for those who do His will are the brother, sisters and sons with the Lord Jesus.
We have observed the unobtrusive meek, and the patient who cause no one any trouble and who quietly accept that which comes their way; but those who suffer persecution to bring about righteousness and justice, and who give up the earth for the sake of God, these gain access to the still higher kingdom of heaven which is at times superimposed over the earth itself. This kingdom is reserved only for those who are willing to go "beyond" the ordinary requirements -- to do more.
Luke gives a similar statement: "Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude or discriminate against you, and cast out your name as evil on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in Heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets." And: "Woe to you, when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets." (Also Luke)
It is easy to gain acceptance and popularity by being false to God, but how fickle and fleeting is the pleasure thus gained. Happier is the man on trial for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ, who finds himself alone or cast out with hatred because he loves God -- for God will remember His own, and will requite those who persecute in the course of time. The early Christians sang hymns of joy for the opportunity of bearing afflictions in His Name, knowing the greater reward awaiting them.
Luke proclaims the Will of God as the central functional activity around which the Beatitudes revolve. The last four of them refer directly to heaven, the consummation of Christ's kingdom, and the reward for members of the kingdom.
The last Beatitude sums up the others, and Jesus applies it in a special way to his apostles because of the fate that awaits them. The Beatitudes show the ways of entering the kingdom and remaining in it. Jesus taught the kingdom in its earthly phase and in its heavenly. In the Sermon on the Mount are delineated in sure swift strokes the outlines of Christ's kingdom, and as he proceeds in his Sermon, he fills in the details of the picture.
Anyone who is truly seeking to receive the Light need not go without; for if he should but apply himself diligently to the study of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, such as he gave in the Sermon on the Mount, these will lead him to greater awakening of the Christ spirit within himself. Then will he proceed into more direct attunement with God, even as Jesus did, and will indeed receive the "wisdom that passeth understanding."