All Saint’s Day, 2018
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt
“And [Jesus] opened his mouth and taught them…” (Matthew 5:2). The words that follow are some of the most recognized words of Scripture: the Beatitudes. But if you were explaining them to someone—if you shared the Gospel with a friend or neighbor with the Beatitudes as your inspiration—what would you say?
Are the Beatitudes a set of Christian how-to’s? Would you say to your friend, “If you want to go to heaven, this is what you need to do”?
Is the Bible, B-I-B-L-E, just “Basic-Instructions-Before-Leaving-Earth”? Are they something else?
The First Beatitude: “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).
If this Beatitude is a Christian how-to, then you need to be more poor in spirit.
So, what does “poor in spirit” mean? Are you “poor in spirit” enough? And how do you get enough “poor in spirit” that yours is the kingdom of heaven?
If the Beatitudes are Christian how-to’s, inevitably, you’ll ask questions that use the word “enough.”
Instead—hear the First Beatitude this way: Blessed are the spiritually bankrupt. Blessed are those who hope not in themselves. Who have nothing to offer in themselves. Blessed are those who need only the mercy of Jesus Christ.
Blessed are they. Theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
That’s not a “how-to.” That’s a “what are.” As in, what are you to God? Who are you to God? What have you done already? What can you do? And what has God done already? What can God do?
Blessed are those who have nothing but open hearts, minds, ears, and hands to receive all that God gives.
The Second Beatitude: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). This suggests “sorrow,” so perhaps we can say, blessed are the sorrowful.
Of course we mourn and feel sorrow for our loved ones lost. But this blessing has in mind those who are like the Man of Sorrows, the Suffering Servant. Jesus—who wept for Lazarus, who felt such gut-wrenching compassion for the unclean-but faithful-Gentiles. Who cried out for Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city who kills the prophets and stones those sent to her.
This blessing has in mind those for whom this world is not enough.
For in the Resurrection, when the saved all around them appear, they will find full comfort.
The Third Beatitude: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). Can you “meek” your way into blessedness? Of course not.
Thematically, the Beatitudes distinguish between those concerned with temporal things and the blessed, those who are concerned with things eternal.
So blessed are those who have nothing or next to it.
Blessed are those who don’t have to have things immediately. Blessed are those for whom it is enough when Jesus says, “Here—I—am. Receive your inheritance—given and shed for you for the forgiveness of all of your sins.”
The Fourth Beatitude: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6). Do you thirst for righteousness? Do you seek it out?
For some, seeking the feeling of righteousness is thirsting for righteousness. But that’s not true righteousness.
To hunger and thirst for righteousness is simply to want what you do not have. “Hallowed be Thy name,” (Matthew 6:9) we pray, not “my name.” Blessed are those sinners who hunger and thirst for what they can’t achieve themselves.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for the forgiveness before God, true righteousness.
They shall be satisfied.
The Fifth Beatitude, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7) is the brother of the Fourth Beatitude.
What does hunger and thirsting for righteousness have to do with the merciful?
They’re the same.
Those who hunger for righteousness confess their emptiness and need to be filled up. When Jesus says, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice” (Matthew 9:13), He’s saying, “I don’t want you to be arrogant or proud or boastful. I want you to be empty, so I can fill you up.”
So blessed are the merciful, the empty, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. They receive mercy and are satisfied.
The Sixth Beatitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8) is the twin of the Third Beatitude. The pure in heart are the meek. The pure in heart have confessed their sins. To these, God gives an inheritance. The pure in heart, the meek, Taste and See that God is good.
The Seventh Beatitude, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9), could also be said this way: “Blessed are the “harmony-doers,” those who seek and bring about harmony. This goes hand in hand with the Second Beatitude. Blessed are the sorrowful, those who weep and mourn looking to the heavenly inheritance.
Blessed are the sorrowful who seek harmony now.
This side of Heaven, it’ll never be found. But these look forward to peace eternal. Blessed are the peacemakers who yearn for eternity.
The Children of God shall be comforted.
The Eighth Beatitude: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10).
This is the bookend to the First Beatitude.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, those persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The poor in spirit, looking to God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for all things—will find persecution in the world.
Seeking righteousness from God, from the only source of true righteousness and faith, the poor in spirit are persecuted, because they don’t seek righteousness from the world.
Blessed are they. They belong to the Kingdom where there’s no persecution. Where God gives all that is needed.
The Beatitudes aren’t a set of Christian “how-to’s.”
They’re a description of what the Christian is, now.
And what the Christian has to look forward to.
You are poor in spirit. You have nothing of intrinsic spiritual value, there is no dormant divine spark waiting to be fanned into flame. God, Himself, has brought you into His Kingdom by His Word and Work.
By the suffering and death of Jesus and the promise that all who believe in Him shall be saved.
Yours is the kingdom.
Blessed are you.
And blessed are you because of Jesus.
He prepared a place for you, your inheritance.
Jesus comforts, you, His people by marking you as one redeemed and redeeming you from death and hell by the power of the name of God.
He satisfies your hunger and thirst for righteousness with His holy Body and precious Blood.
The mercy of God—for you—is shown at the Cross when Jesus, persecuted for righteousness’ sake, makes peace between God and Man once and for all.
Yours is the kingdom.
You will be comforted.
You shall inherit the earth and be satisfied.
You shall receive mercy and see God.
Blessed are you.
Though the whole world persecutes you—though others revile you and utter all kinds of blasphemy against you—blessed are you.
Yours is the Kingdom.
“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:12).
Blessed are you.
The Beatitudes don’t describe the things you need to do.
They describe you in Christ and Christ in you.
Salvation isn’t a work done by you in faith to God. It’s not a work you could do by following the Beatitudes.
Salvation is a work Christ does for you.
The Beatitudes are some of the most recognized words in all of Scripture. But they’re not a Christian “how-to.”
They’re a Blessing to you and for you.
They’re a Blessing that describes Christ living in you and for you.
Blessed are you.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!