3 November 2013

Matthew 5:1-12

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (vv. 3-4)


Welcome to our week looking at the blessings from the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount and some passages from Proverbs. The fact that this passage comes at the beginning of such a week gives a clue as to how we are going to approach them: in describing who is truly blessed, Jesus is teaching us something about the way of discipleship.

Matthew's Gospel is always very keen to present Jesus as a teacher, there are several blocks of teaching throughout the Gospels, of which this is the first and best known. Even the fact that Jesus sits (verse 1) tells us something - in the ancient world the teacher sat and the learners stood to listen.

This is the very start of Jesus' ministry - up to now we have heard about his birth, his Baptism and temptation and the calling of the disciples and his first healings. Now for the first time Matthew's Gospel presents Jesus teaching which, perhaps, gives even more significance to the fact that he opens by pronouncing who is blessed in this new kingdom.

The word translated 'blessed' is makarios,which is sometimes translated 'blessed' and sometimes 'happy'. It means free from daily cares and worries, or prosperous and was used to describe the state of gods who neither toiled nor worried. This, of course, means that Jesus' list of who is blessed is very strange - it is not the rich, the satisfied and the successful who are blessed according to Jesus, but the poor, the weak and the struggling.

The list includes even those who are struggling for righteousness. Jesus does not say, 'blessed are the righteous' but rather "blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness" (v. 6). There is something here about both humility and also longing rather than self-satisfied achievement which is blessed in Jesus' kingdom.

To Ponder

  • Which one of the beatitudes speaks to you particularly?
  • Why does this one strikes you? What might this tell you about your own discipleship? 

Bible notes author

The Revd Judith Rossall

Judith Rossall is a Methodist tutor at Queen's Foundation in Birmingham. Before moving to Queen's, she was a circuit minister and taught at STETS in Salisbury.