Blessed Are Those Who Are Persecuted

Beatitudes, Christian history, Justice, Kingdom of God, Spiritual Growth

The moment Jesus announced the Beatitudes in “the Sermon on the Mount” and began to live by them in a public manner, he was launched on a course that would inevitably lead him to Good Friday.

The Beatitudes themselves are found at Calvary. All eight of them are on full display. Here’s a famous painting of the crucifixion that Andrea Mantegna painted in 1459. It hangs in the Louvre in Paris. Just look at it for a moment.

mantegna,_andrea_-_crucifixion_-_louvre_from_predella_san_zeno_altarpiece_verona

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

In this scene, where do we find the poor in spirit receiving the kingdom of heaven? The thief on the cross – who at first joins in the taunts of those who are mocking Jesus, but later thinks better of it, repents, and scolds his compatriot who is being crucified with him and says, “We are receiving what we deserve, but this man has done nothing wrong.” And then he turns to Jesus and says, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Blessed are the Peacemakers

Beatitudes, Kingdom of God, Spiritual Growth, Suffering

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

As modern Western Christians when we read the word “peace” in the Bible we build a fence around it. We shrink it down to size. We define it as “inner peace.” “Emotional peace.” “Spiritual peace.” “Peace of mind.” “Peace in my heart.”

Undoubtedly, Jesus gives us all of those things. But if that’s all we think of, we are limiting the biblical concept of peace in a way that is not warranted in Scripture and is not endorsed by Jesus.

In a world that is drunk on hatred and hostility, it is the kingdom of Jesus Christ that brings peace. Shalom. The prophets talked about it incessantly as a recurrent theme. Here’s just one familiar example.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

Peace among hostile groups. Peace among the nations. World peace.

It’s the wish of dippy beauty queens. But it’s also the dream of the prophets.

Blessed are the Pure in Heart

Beatitudes, Kingdom of God, Spiritual Growth

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

The Greek word translated in this verse for “pure” is katharós. Elsewhere in scripture, katharós is most commonly translated as the word “clean.” I suppose the word “pure” is used in this verse because it relates to the moral quality of a person’s heart, thus “pure” sounds more appropriate. But katharós is just the ordinary word for “clean.”

“Blessed are the clean in heart…”

Think of your heart as having a window. Windows do two things. First, a window allows light to come in so that we’re not living in darkness. Second, a window also enables you to look out and see what’s going on outside.

But if the window becomes dirty with accumulated grime so that it’s almost as if it’s completely painted over, you will live in darkness and you can’t see out.

The capacity to see God has something to do with the purity of your heart. And the grime that accumulates on the window of the heart that keeps us from seeing is not just any particular sin. It’s a particular kind of sin.