And That’s Not the Half of It

Most of us have heard Jesus’ beatitudes–but have we ever stopped to ask, “What is a beatitude?” A beatitude is a blessing or an announcement of God’s favor. Think about that. The first detailed teaching we have from Jesus in our New Testaments is a pronouncement of God’s blessing.

In fact, the Beatitudes are a nine-fold pronouncement by Jesus of God’s blessing. Nine times Jesus makes statements and He begins with the word “blessed.” In Matthew, Jesus begins his public ministry by telling people about the blessing from God that is ours when we are within God’s reign or God’s kingdom.

Human Beings or Human Doings?

When it comes to our part, notice that the Beatitudes are far more about our being than our doing. The doing is very important but what we do flows out of who we are. That’s what these Beatitudes are about: a way of being when we accept the reign of God in our lives.

You see, we can’t live in these ways on our own but when we begin to live under God’s kingly role then these beatitudes become the direction of our lives. Again, as Oswald Chambers put it, this is the way “we will live when the Holy Spirit is getting His way with us.” It is only because of the strength God gives us through His Holy Spirit living in us that we are even able to live in the direction of the Beatitudes.

That’s why the Sermon on the Mount is tied so closely to the Kingdom of God. We just can’t live like this on our own. It is only with the help of our King and the strength that He provides that we can begin to show the world what a life lived under the reign of God looks like.

That’s what the entire Sermon on the Mount is about. We who are following Jesus are aliens in this world. We are exiles here. We march to the beat of a different drummer. We have a different King and as He reigns in our lives every day we give the world a glimpse of what it is going to be like when our King returns in glory and the will of God is done on earth even as it is being done in heaven.

The way of being that Jesus sets before us in the Sermon on the Mount is then a counter-cultural way of life in this world that has not yet come under God’s reign. We are salt in this world. We give this world a foretaste of the Kingdom of God that is still to come in its fullness.

The Blessing Comes First

Notice again, however, that it all begins with God’s blessing. “Blessed, blessed, blessed”; nine times. I think Jesus is trying to tell us something. The blessing comes first. This is such a hard lesson for us to learn. I know it is for me. I began following Jesus as his disciple over 37 years ago and I’m still trying to accept this truth at a heart level.

Most of us are doers. We are solution-oriented and task-oriented. We like to boil everything down to clear steps to take. “OK, we are talking about the blessed life and here are the nine things we need to do to have a life that will be blessed by God.” That would be the American way of hearing these Beatitudes, but what a distortion of them it would be.

We do not do x, y and z in order to receive God’s blessing in our lives. No, we stop the doing that is really a futile effort to be our own God and, instead, we surrender to the Lord and we accept our new identity under His kingly rule. He begins His reign over us by blessing us richly over and over again every day and, as our King blesses us, He also enables us to begin to live in imitation of Him.