The Beatitudes

Learn the meaning of the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 and how Jesus' surprising statements describe the arrival of God's Kingdom.

Sermon on the Mount Feb 5, 2024


  1. How is the Jesus-style revolution described in Matthew different from most revolutions?
  2. What does it mean for someone to be pure in heart, and why is it important for Jesus' followers to be pure in heart?
  3. What does it mean to be a peacemaker, according to Jesus?
  4. How are Jesus’ followers similar to Israel’s prophets? What kinds of attitudes and actions do they share?

Scripture References

Matthew 5-7 Matthew 5:3-16 Matthew 5-7 Matthew 5:3-16 Matthew 5:12 Matthew 5:13-16 Matthew 5:17-20


Introduction [00:00-00:30]

Tim: Two thousand years ago, on the eastern side of the Mediterranean Sea, a teacher named Jesus of Nazareth went up onto a hillside and addressed a large crowd.

Jon: It was a crowd of nobodies—poor and sick people, their land occupied by the Roman Empire who charged heavy taxes. This is a ragtag group.

Tim: And while they don’t look like much, Jesus claimed that something surprising was starting with them.

The Kingdom of the Skies [00:31-01:19]

Jon: So he opened his mouth and said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of the skies.” 1

The Kingdom of the skies? What does that mean?

Tim: Well, Jesus uses this phrase to talk about a new kind of reality. From our perspective, we see a world of violence and corruption where might makes right. But for Jesus, there is a realm where generosity reigns, where there’s justice and peace. It's a world where love is the final word.

Jon: And that reality might as well be up in the skies. It’s beyond us.

Tim: Exactly! It’s God’s heavenly reality, which might seem far off. But Jesus was claiming that Heaven was coming to Earth right here and now, beginning with these people.

Jon: That’s unexpected.

Tim: And so is what he says next.

The Grieving and Unimportant Will Rule the World [01:20-02:04]

Jon: “Blessed are those who grieve, for they will be comforted.” 2

Tim: So this group that’s at the bottom of society, they know all about loss and grief. But Jesus said something’s coming that’s going to turn sorrow into joy.

Jon: And then he said, “Blessed are the unimportant, for they will inherit the land.” 3

Tim: And these people are not powerful or important. But just wait, Jesus says, because one day, it will be you all who are ruling the world.

Jon: You know, it kind of sounds like Jesus is trying to start a revolution.

Tim: Well, kind of. But it’s not a revolution for those who are hungry for power or influence. This is a movement of people who are going to serve because they long for healthy relationships between people and communities and nations.

The Merciful and Pure in Heart Peacemakers [02:05-03:18]

Jon: Yeah. As Jesus puts it next, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” 4

Tim: Just imagine it: a group of powerless nobodies ruling the world through generosity, and forgiveness, and justice. This is a Jesus-style revolution.

Jon: The next thing Jesus says is, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” 5

And this one really raises the bar. To be part of this revolution, my heart needs to be so pure I could look directly at God?

Tim: Well, Jesus knows that all of our choices, even our good ones, are often driven by mixed motives. For Jesus, real peace is only possible through people who know that they need to be transformed if they’re going to truly love God and others.

Jon: And this sounds wonderful, but it’s a radical calling.

Tim: That’s exactly right. In fact, Jesus goes on to explore just how radical it is.

Jon: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” 6

Tim: So God’s new reality won’t just happen by itself. It requires people who are willing to enter into the conflicts of others, urging and helping create a way toward peace.

Persecuted Peacemakers Like Israel’s Prophets [03:19-04:40]

Jon: But that way of life can be dangerous. And so Jesus says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of the skies.” 7

Tim: Yeah. Entering into conflicts and advocating for peace—that’s not a comfortable way to live. And so Jesus calls people to this peace-making revolution, and he names the high cost.

Jon: “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in the skies is great, for they persecuted the prophets
who were before you in the same way.” 8

Jon: What does that mean, “the prophets before you”?

Tim: Well, Jesus and this whole crowd are Israelites. And in their Hebrew Scriptures, God promised that it would be through Israel that his Kingdom would be restored over all the world. 9

Jon: But as the story goes, Israel becomes as corrupt and violent as everyone else, and they end up enslaved to oppressive nations. 10

Tim: But Israel’s prophets stood up to these kingdoms and criticized their corruption. They said that one day, God’s heavenly Kingdom would break in, starting with a small group of Israelites who would be willing to surrender everything over to God. 11

Jon: So Jesus wants this crowd to see that they’re part of that legacy.

Tim: Yes, and that’s why Jesus concludes this first block of teaching with three images from their Scriptures.

The Salt, Light, and City [04:41-05:40]

Jon: The first is: “You are the salt of the land.” 12

Tim: Salt is a mineral that preserves food for a long time. And in the Bible, salt is used as a symbol of God’s long-lasting covenant with Israel. 13 Jesus is saying that he and this ragtag group are the launch party of God’s long-lasting ancient promises to renew the world.

Jon: And then Jesus says, “You are the light of the world,” and “a city on a hill cannot be hidden.” 14

Tim: He’s referring to the biblical image of God’s light, his presence shining out from its dwelling place in the temple in Jerusalem, which was a city on a hill.

Jon: But these people, they aren't the rulers. I mean, they don’t even live in Jerusalem!

Tim: And yet, “surprise!” Jesus says. You all are God’s salt and city and light. You all are the blessed ones, the new Jerusalem that’s going to display God’s Kingdom to all the world.

1. Matt. 5:3
2. Matt. 5:4
3. Matt. 5:5
4. Matt. 5:6-7
5. Matt. 5:8
6. Matt. 5:9
7. Matt. 5:10
8. Matt. 5:11-12
9. Gen. 12:1-3; Isa. 55:1-5
10. 2 Kgs. 25:1-12
11. Isa. 10:20-22; Zeph. 3:11-13
12. Matt. 5:13
13. Lev. 2:13; Num. 18:19; 2 Chron. 13:5
14. Matt. 5:14
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