Jesus Reveals His Revolutionary Kingdom (the Beatitudes explained)

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The Beatitudes open up the most famous sermon Jesus ever preached. What he says is shocking, countercultural, and a message we cannot miss. There’s a good chance you’ve read them or heard a sermon on them. But have you ever had the Beatitudes explained in a way that unpacks this revolutionary message? Or have you stopped to think about how they apply to your life?

Let’s take a look. 

If you want to read the Beatitudes first you can read it here: Matthew 5:1-12

The Beatitudes Explained (Matthew 5:1-2) 

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.  Matthew 5:1-2

In Matthew 5 Jesus begins teaching a section of scripture called “The Beatitudes.” Which translates as “Full of Blessing” or “Full of God, fully and wholly satisfied in God, connected to God and having God live in you.” Simply put, Jesus is saying this is how to have the good life, the best life, the life intended for you to live.

For all the Jews in the crowd, this image of Jesus sitting on a mountainside would have reminded them of Moses coming down the mountain revealing God’s law, the 10 commandments, to the Israelites. But this time Jesus isn’t giving us a list of “dos” and “don’ts.” Instead, he’s saying “this is how things really are and how my Kingdom really works.” 

What comes out of Jesus’ mouth next is shocking, countercultural, counterintuitive, and different than what any other teacher or philosopher was saying. In short, it was revolutionary. What Jesus says paints a picture for what a true disciple should look like. 

Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit (Matthew 5:3)

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3

The phrase Jesus uses “poor in spirit” refers to one’s spiritual condition. Those that are poor in spirit realize that nothing they can do can get them into heaven. They are powerless, helpless, and undeserving. They don’t sound very blessed, do they? But they are blessed because Jesus has not forgotten them. They are promised the kingdom of heaven. 

This flies in the face of the way the world operates. It’s the strongest and most put-together people that get the good life. But not so in God’s kingdom. It’s those that become poor, those that recognize their own need, those that cry out for their savior that will receive the kingdom.

If we want the best life each of us must first make ourselves poor in spirit. We must recognize our dire situation and that the only way out is to rely on God.

Paraphrase: Blessed are those who recognize their dire need for God, for God will bring them into his Kingdom. 

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn (Matthew 5:4)

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4

Jesus isn’t talking about mourning over the loss of a loved one. Although that is talked about elsewhere (Isaiah 40:1, Isaiah 61:1). Here Jesus is speaking of the mourning of repentance.

Jesus is continuing the theme that was started in the previous verse. First, he says blessed are those who recognize their sinfulness and need of a savior. Now He adds blessed are those who mourn for their sin, for they will be comforted.

Jesus is saying that in the brokenness of your sin God is with you. It is in that brokenness that you will find hope, healing, and experience the good life, life to the fullest.

Paraphrase: Blessed are those who mourn their sin, for God will forgive them and restore them to the life he intended them to have. 

Blessed Are The Meek (Matthew 5:5)

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5

In Jesus previous statements he was describing our personal recognition of our circumstances. Now Jesus switches gears and he starts talking about our outward posture and expression.

A good definition of meek is strength under control. Think of a dad wrestling with his kids. The dad could end it; he could just knock a kid out and end it right there. But instead, he uses his strength for the benefit of his kids. That’s meekness. That’s strength under control.

This what Jesus is calling us to today. He is calling us to have our strength under control. He’s calling us to leverage our strength for the benefit of others. He’s calling us to not throw our weight around to get what we deserve. Why should we? We are already heirs to the throne of God; what else do we need?

Paraphrase: Blessed are those who have their strength under control, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed Are Those Who Hunger For Righteousness (Matthew 5:6)

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Matthew 5:6

Jesus is probably reflecting on Psalm 42:1-2 when he says this. Many of us have heard that Psalm before and we probably picture Bambi calmly drinking out of a quiet stream. That’s not the picture David was trying to paint. Instead, this is a picture of an animal desperately crawling through the desert looking for water so that they could survive. Jesus is referring to the same kind of hunger and thirst. It’s a desperate, if I don’t get this I will die, kind of craving for God.

Jesus is saying blessed are those that are so desperate to do the will of God that it’s the only thing of importance in their life. They will be filled, their thirst will be quenched, and their hunger satisfied. 

Paraphrase: Blessed are those who are desperate to do the will of God, for they will long for nothing. 

Blessed Are The Merciful (Matthew 5:7)

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Matthew 5:7

We often have a double standard when it comes to mercy. On the one hand, we like to be shown mercy. On the other hand, we like to see others get what they deserve. 

Many people hold on tightly to wrongs that have been done against them. And they are justified in doing so, they were wronged. However, by holding onto those wrongs they are letting go of God’s mercy. You cannot hold onto both. 

Grace seems unfair until you need some. Jesus is teaching us that the good life comes to those that offer what is undeserved, mercy. The good life will not come to those that hang onto past grievances. It will not come to those that are stingy with their grace. The good life belongs to those that give the undeserved gift of grace because they were given an undeserved gift of grace.

Paraphrase: Blessed are those who show mercy and forgive, for they understand the mercy that’s been shown to them. 

Blessed Are The Pure In Heart (Matthew 5:8)

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Matthew 5:8

The religious leaders in Jesus’ day were hung up on ceremonial cleanliness. They had a habit of fixing their external appearance while ignoring what was on the inside. Jesus continually called them out on their actions because he saw through their facade.

We too often focus on our outward appearances but ignore our hearts. We think we can just look the part. But Jesus comes along and says something different. He says it’s the pure in heart that are blessed. In other words, you shouldn’t focus on fixing your actions. Instead, focus your heart on Jesus.

That’s not to say our actions don’t matter, they do. We’ve just reversed the order. When you focus on your actions, your heart will not change. When you focus on your heart, your actions will soon follow. Simply put, Jesus is saying the blessed are those who do the right things for the right reasons. The emphasis is on the motive behind the actions, not the actions themselves.

Paraphrase: Blessed are those focus on the motive of their actions, for they shall see God. 

Blessed Are The Peace Makers (Matthew 5:9)

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Matthew 5:9

When Jesus uses the word peace, he is saying this: one who has received the peace of God AND brings peace to others. Not simply one who makes peace, but one who spreads the peace of God that he/she has experienced.

When Jesus says the peacemakers, will be called sons of God. This is not just a statement of relationships, but of character. In Jesus’ day when you called someone a son of a {Fill in the Blank} they were saying that you acted like that. Good or bad. 

So when Jesus says blessed are the peacemakers, he’s saying God is a peacemaker. God pursued peace with us when we had absolutely no interest in peace with him. Jesus is also saying something about us. He’s saying that when we pursue peace we are being like God. To be called a “Son of God” was unheard of to the crowd listening. It’s commonplace for us today. But this was a revolutionary teaching. 

Paraphrase: Blessed are those who have received peace and bring peace to others, for they are the sons and daughters of God. 

Blessed Are Those Who Are Persecuted (Matthew 5:10-12)

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Matthew 5:10-11

This is one we wish wasn’t included… 

We all know what persecuted means. What we need to lean in on is the why. Jesus says blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake. There are some Christians that get persecuted for saying and doing some really dumb, and hurtful, things, that Jesus never stood for. But when we are persecuted for the things Jesus was persecuted for then we are blessed. 

Paraphrase:: Blessed are you when you are persecuted when what you say and do are consistent with what Jesus says and does.

But Jesus isn’t done yet… 

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:12

Come on… Are you serious Jesus?! 

Let’s dig a little deeper into the words Jesus uses. 

That word rejoice is an interesting word. It’s been translated a bunch of different ways in English. But in the Greek, it was one word and used in many different ways. It was a greeting. So it could be translated as greetings or hail. The phrase “be glad” means rejoicing in hope, excessive joy. It means to be joyful beyond what your circumstance should allow.

So the question becomes how can Jesus say be glad in the context of being lied about, criticized, falsely accused, and persecuted? How can he say rejoice, be glad, joy to you?

You need to understand the weight of his words. He’s not saying this in a trivial sense. He’s not telling us to fake it, to grin and bear it. What he’s saying that there is something in us that endures beyond your current circumstances. There is something in you that despite how dark and bad your life might be you can still rejoice.

That’s the gospel message. That no matter how bad life gets we can rejoice. Not in our circumstance, but in who Jesus is. And let us not forget we serve a God who not just tells us to do this, but modeled it for us on the cross. 

Paraphrase: Blessed are you who can rejoice in worst moments in life, for you have found the true treasure. 

What We Cannot Miss

In the Beatitudes and the rest of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reveals how his kingdom works. What he establishes is revolutionary and different than anything the world has seen. When we read these words we often just read them as good ideas. But Jesus actually expects his followers to live like this. The Beatitudes are not just something that are good in theory, they should be the markers for our life.

I’d love to hear from YOU! Share your thoughts below!

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