The Beatitudes and What it Means to be “Blessed”

Sadao Watanabe, The Sermon on the Mount, 1963.

As the Sermon on the Mount begins, Jesus offers a series of sayings that begin with a simple phrased “Blessed are the poor in spirit…Blessed are those who mourn…Blessed are the meek…” This pattern continues over the course of nine sayings as Jesus offers insights into what it truly means to be blessed.

Jesus did not invent this sort of pattern of teaching. It was common to have sayings like this, both in the Bible and in other wisdom or philosophical traditions. In fact, Jesus draws upon a rich tradition of such sayings about what the blessed life looks like. We hear this in other parts of Scripture, especially in Psalms and Proverbs. One example is Psalm 1, which begins:

Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked… (Psalm 1:1)

Such sayings aim to describe what a blessed, or good, life looks like. They hold up an ideal toward which we should aspire but also a reality that is accessible now in our lives through God’s grace.

Each of Jesus’ statements in Matthew 5:3-12 begin with the Greek word μακάριος. The Latin translation of that word is beatus, which is where the name “Beatitudes” for this section comes from. Because this word, μακάριος, is so central to this portion of the Sermon on the Mount, it is incredibly important to understand its meaning. It literally means: “blessed, happy, it will go well with, fortunate, or flourishing.”

The μακάριος life is what we would describe as “the good life.” But it is not just a generally good life in the abstract. The μακάριος life is a good life that is rooted in God. From the inclusio – the bookends – in verses 3 and 10, which say, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” we see that Jesus is using these μακάριος statements as a summary description of what life in God’s kingdom is all about.

Jesus’ μακάριος statements place before us a description of what the kingdom life with God looks like; a life that is fortunate, flourishing, happy…blessed. Simultaneously, the μακάριος statements are a gracious invitation to enter into that sort of life – to move toward that sort of life – with God now.

Think with me about the people who have begun to throng around Jesus that we heard about at the end of Matthew 4. They were everyday people, like the fishermen, but there were others – the sick, the poor, the demon-possessed, those suffering severe pain, those with seizures, the paralyzed. These are just everyday people with everyday problems.

Now, the prevailing mindset in Jesus’ day was that when you had problems like this, then there was something wrong with you. People like this, it was thought, were most definitely not blessed and were perhaps either being judged or cursed by God. Definitely, it was thought, God didn’t want anything to do with people like that. But Jesus says, “Well, that’s not the way it is. Turn around, pay attention. God’s kingdom is right here. Come on in and find your place. God is bringing a future blessing in the fullness of time. But even now you are blessed. So live into that blessed life day after day.”

Becoming Real: The Sermon on the Mount – a new series at Eastbrook

This coming weekend at Eastbrook Church we begin a ten-week preaching series entitled “Becoming Real,” walking through the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, chapters 5-7. This is the third part of our longer journey through the Gospel of Matthew, building upon “Family Tree” and “Power in Preparation.”

This series explores Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount as a basic manual on Christian discipleship, life in the kingdom of God, and re-humanization in Jesus Christ. Jesus begins His ministry – His ministry is becoming real. He invites us to follow Him and learn from Him – discipleship is becoming real. That invitation to Christ calls us toward true humanity – in Him we are becoming real. Join us as we begin the journey with Jesus of becoming real.

You can also join in with the daily devotional for this series online, as a downloadable PDF, via the Eastbrook app, or through a limited-run of paper copies available at our in-person worship services or by reaching out to the Eastbrook Church office.

Join us each weekend of this series in-person or via Eastbrook at Home.

Here are the weekly topics for the series:

February 21 – “Real Life” – Matthew 5:1-11

February 28 – “Real Identity” – Matthew 5:12-16

March 7 – “Real Righteousness” – Matthew 5:17-48

March 14 – “Real Spirituality” – Matthew 6:1-18

March 21 – “Real Treasure” – Matthew 6:19-24

March 28 – “Real Faith” – Matthew 6:25-34

April 4 – “Real Life” – Easter Resurrection Celebration

April 11 – “Real Perspective” – Matthew 7:1-6

April 18 – “Real Prayer” – Matthew 7:7-11

April 25 – “Real Love” – Matthew 7:12

May 2 – “Real Response” – Matthew 7:13-29

Serving God in Hard Places (Hard Places)

Hard Places Series GFX_16x9 Title

This past weekend at Eastbrook Church, we concluded our annual MissionsFest. As we celebrate God’s faithfulness to us as a church for forty years, we heard from two of our long-term, international ministry partners on the theme of “Hard Places.”

This second weekend, Rev. Canon Francis Omondi from Kenya spoke to us about the nature of life in the kingdom, beginning from the Sinai Covenant and the Exodus through the exile to Jesus and toward Revelation.

You can watch Francis’s message below, as well as find out more of what is happening in the next week and a half with MissionsFest here.

The Hunger for Peace [Hungry for God]

During Lent at Eastbrook Church, we continue to explore the soul-deep hungers in our lives planted there by God in order to lead us to Himself. The series, “Hungry for God,” parallels the season of Lent, and has a companion daily devotional that you can access here.

This weekend I explored the hunger for peace. There were so many ways we could approach this topic. In fact just a short while ago, I preached on Jesus as the Prince of Peace. However, this weekend, I decided to focus in on Jesus’ Passion and the journey from the triumphal entry to the cross and beyond to the resurrection. I asked: how does Jesus’ Passion related to the peace He promised to bring?

You can view the message video and sermon outline below. You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

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