“Makarios!” “Be Blessed!”: An Overview of the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12)

When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:1-12; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Via Vitae (“Path of Life”), by Joseph Chaumet (1852-1928) depicts Jesus preaching the Sermon on the Mount, Eucharistic Museum of the Hieron, Paray-le-Monial, Saône-et-Loire, France. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Sermon on the Mount begins with one of the most familiar passages of the Bible. The Beatitudes are beloved because they are simple and memorable. Each Beatitude begins with the phrase “Blessed are….” Then, Jesus mentions a certain quality or class of people with whom God is well pleased. Then, He pronounces a reward or privilege that the blessed person will obtain from God.

We are so familiar with this passage that we can say the word “blessed” without thinking about what it really means. It is one of those “Christianese” words that we use only in church settings, without thinking about what we are saying.

The Greek New Testament uses the word “makarios” here. It appears 50 times in the New Testament and is usually translated as “blessed.” The King James Version occasionally translates it as “happy” (see John 13:17; Acts 26:2). According to Strong’s Concordance, the word can mean blessed, happy, fortunate, or well-off.

The blessing usually clashes with worldly values and offers a reward that will be fulfilled in the next life. Jesus taught that true joy, happiness, and contentment cannot be found by following the ways of the world. That provides a false, temporary, and shallow satisfaction. We find true blessedness in a relationship with Jesus Christ that inspires us to seek His will and desire to be like Him. Every quality that Jesus pronounced blessed is one that He personified. Every reward brings us closer to Him and His Father.

In its notes about the Beatitudes, The Life Application Bible says:

“In his longest recorded sermon, Jesus began by describing the traits he was looking for in his followers. He called those who lived out those traits blessed because God had something special in store for them. Each Beatitude is an almost direct contradiction of society’s way of life. In the last Beatitude, Jesus even points out that a serious effort to develop these traits is bound to create opposition. The best example of each trait is found in Jesus himself. If our goal is to be like him, the Beatitudes will challenge the way we live each day.”

Over the next few weeks, we will study each Beatitude individually and in-depth. Inspired by The Life Application Bible’s notes, most of the posts will focus on the blessing, contrast it with one or more of the secular world’s values, and show us Old and New Testament insight into how to achieve that attitude and obtain the reward God promises.

What does “blessed” mean to you? Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2022 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

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