It’s in the context of all the everyday people with everyday problems gathered around Him that Jesus begins to speak about the good life in Matthew 5:3-12.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (5:3)
Contrary to appearances, the broken down and poor in spirit, actually belong in God’s kingdom – they are flourishing with God because they know their need and are looking to God.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (5:4)
Those who lament and cry out have the promise of comfort because God, the comforter, is near at hand. In the future, He will wipe away all our tears, and in the present, He is the God of all comfort. He will “bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning” (Isaiah 61:3).
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (5:5)
Those who depend upon God instead of their own strength, who don’t throw their weight around, but wait upon Him with meekness will find their fortunes reversed because God is their provider in the future and for today. “The lowly will possess the land and will live in peace and prosperity” (Psalm 37:11, NLT).
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (5:6)
Those who are hungry in their spirits for what God desires often will see what’s lacking in the world. Those who look with a clear-eyed desire for things to be made right – for God’s deliverance to come – for justice to roll on like a river and righteousness like a never-failing stream (Amos 5:24) – oh, Jesus says, those will be filled. The day is coming when God will make all things new (Revelation 21:5), but even now God’s kingdom is at hand in Jesus. You’ll be stuffed to overflowing with God’s righteousness and justice. But you’re blessed now even though you’re hungry…live into that blessing now.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” (5:7)
When you have a generous heart, even toward those who don’t deserve it, you’ll be shown that same generosity from others, but also by God. For our God is a God who is slow to anger and abounding in compassion, mercy and steadfast love (Exodus 34:6).
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (5:8)
Those whose hearts seek after God actively, who move beyond just outward actions of ritual purity, and toward undivided hearts set on God above all others, they’ll see God. Even if it’s not acknowledged by others, we will experience a transforming vision of God in our lives. “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12).
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (5:9)
In a world of strife and division, where hatred and violence abound, those who promote peace, who listen with ears of love, get messy in the midst of conflicts to bring the soothing presence of God’s shalom, are blessed. Such people look like their Father. They’ll enter the everlasting kingdom of peace, but even now they will be kept in perfect peace because their minds are steadfast as they trust in God (Isaiah 26:3).
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (5:10)
Those who live for what God requires, shouldn’t be surprised when opposition comes. That opposition isn’t a curse from God but the reality of a world opposed to God. It means such people have made the decision to enter the blessing of God’s flourishing kingdom more important than worldly blessing.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (5:11-12)
With this last of the Beatitudes, Jesus personalizes the statement, helping His disciples know that in this world they – and all future followers – will have trouble, but they can take heart. The prophets, who lived and spoke for God and His blessed life, also faced the same thing. These are the heroes of the faith, who looked for God’s kingdom and lived in the now in light of that kingdom reality. That’s what it means to flourish and be blessed, even if persecution comes.
Jesus says to all those people gathered around Him, the everyday people with everyday problems, “Wake up, turn around, pay attention. God’s kingdom is right here. Come on in and find your place. God is bringing a blessing in the fullness of time. But even now you are blessed. In God’s kingdom your life is a μακάριος life: fortunate, flourishing, happy…blessed. Live now in light of that reality.”