Jesus, after He gets the attention of the disciples and other listeners, begins His sermon with the words “blessed are…” This word blessed means “happy.” It is not a word we usually use in that context today, but it is the meaning. So, as Jesus begins to tell His disciples how to be happy, it is a new train of thought. Jesus has ushered in another covenant with man. We need to remember that He said “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” This way of thought is brand new to all of man kind, we have just left the old covenant of the law and entered into a new covenant of grace.
Before we dive into the beatitudes we need to first compare it to what the old covenant had to say about being blessed (or happy). Look at the verses below; they are the opening words to the book of Psalms (Psalm 1:1-3)
“1 Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night.
3 He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.”
We see in these versed that they way to be happy lies in six things. Three things are things that we should not do and three are things that we should do. The key to happiness is wrapped up in what is done or not done.
We should not:
1. Walk in ungodly counsel (make the ungodly your main friend group)
2. Stand in the way of the sinner (go where the ungodly go)
3. Sit in the seat of the scornful (do what the ungodly do or think in the same way)
1. Delight in the Law (the Word of God)
2. Meditate on it day and night (memorize and take to heart His Word)
3. Bringing forth fruit in his season (leading others to repentance)
In these six things we know what to do in order to be blessed. But Jesus turns this upside down when He begins His sermon. We see in the beatitudes that Jesus is no longer demanding what we do in order to achieve happiness, but instead He is telling us what we are to be in order to achieve happiness. Where in the law (before Christ) we were told what we were to do; Jesus is now telling us that in Him, we can instead become different. So instead of denying ourselves of things that we desire to do, He will change us insomuch that our desires will change. He is now showing the world that in a relationship with Him, He will change the heart of man instead of just the actions of man.
So He begins with a statement that would make little sense to the listeners. John MacArthur puts the phrase in such a way that we can see how different the ways of God are in comparison to our own and how difficult it must have been for those first listeners. John MacArthur says that Jesus, is in effect, is saying, “happy are the sad.” I would like to have seen the faces of those around Jesus when He said those words. There was most certainly an anticipation of what this great teacher would say. The crowd along with the disciples wait for the master teacher to be seated then He comes out with the statement “Happy are the sad.” I imagine the expressions would be much like that of a puppy when it is confused; ears perked, head cocked slightly sideways and eyes that scream “what in the world are you talking about?” But as Jesus goes on He begins to explain that true happiness only begins with the brokenness of man in repentance. In order to come to Christ all must realize how utterly bankrupt that we are without Him. We all must realize the depravity of our sin, for with out that realization, we will never reach for the savior. Why would one who considers themselves “a good person” need a savior?
So Jesus begins by saying “blessed are the poor in spirit.” When ever I teach on this text I use the same illustration because I believe that it is the best way to put this phrase into perspective. When a local high school has “spirit” day they brag that they are the best (even if they had never won a sporting event). The band plays songs, the students use chants with their abbreviated school’s name and sometimes there is even a mascot that performs. The idea is to promote pride in their school. The reality of the school is never really talked about, they are always “number one!” If the football had not won a game in three years the cheer leaders would still cheer that they are number one. This builds team and school spirit.
Being poor in spirit is the exact opposite. It is when we look at ourselves in the light of the perfect righteousness of the Son of God and come to the reality that we, in of ourselves, have nothing to boast about. We can only lay before Him, ask for mercy and a transformed life. This is the first of four steps that Jesus lists in the beginning of His sermon. There are many who simply just began going to a church because it was the right thing to do, but have never come to the realization of the desperate need of repentance ( a changed life). These will never find true happiness and joy because there has never been a need for a savior. Therefore only the sad can truly be happy, but that sadness turns into joy upon accepting and understanding the marvelous grace of the Savior.
We will look at the second step to attain happiness tomorrow.