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.
“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 those who hunger and thirst for righteousness [dikaiosuné], for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6)
Only one Greek word per blog post. That’s a strict law that cannot be violated. And the one Greek word for the day is dikaiosuné.
It is the word in the Greek language translated as both “righteousness” and “justice.” The English language is sort of an anomaly where we take “righteousness” and “justice” and we turn them into two different concepts. Two separate words. In most languages, they’re the same word.
Now, there is a problem with the word “righteousness.” It’s a great word. But the word “righteousness” can collapse into the world of personal, private spirituality. If you say, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied,” here’s how we hear that: “Blessed are those who really, really want to be spiritual, …for they shall be really, really spiritual.”
That’s not at all what it’s saying. And the way we recover what is being said here is to use the word “justice” or, better yet, “right-ness.” “Justice” or “right-ness” sounds different in your ears than “righteousness.”
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)
We tend to have little affinity for suffering. We wish to avoid it at all costs, wishing to stay within the safe sanctuary of our own contentment. And that is problematic. A life of contentment without suffering will almost certainly be a shallow life.
Suffering, when we allow it to do its work, broadens our capacity for compassion. “Compassion” comes from a Latin word that means “shared suffering.” If you’ve never had suffering it’s hard to share it with someone else. You don’t relate. You don’t understand.
So instead of weeping with those who weep, we want to cheer them up. Not for their sake, but for our sake. Their grief, their sorrow, their pain, their suffering makes us uncomfortable. And so we come alongside them to cheer them up, not for their sake, but because, “Come on, man. You’re bumming me out here. You’re spoiling the mood. I’m uncomfortable. I’m not used to being around people who are acting like this. Get happy for me, will you please?”
And yet, that’s not what the Scriptures teach us to do. Paul says in Romans, “Weep with those who weep.” “Rejoice with those who rejoice.” We want to rejoice with those who rejoice, and rejoice with those who weep.