NOTE: The Beatitudes Scripture Devotional – If you are reading this, please note that this devotional was first written for a group of students in a class I was teaching on Living Life on Mission. If you find yourself wondering about a statement that may not make sense, it could be because there is context to it that was only expressed to those students. If you have any questions at all, please comment at the end of the article.
In last week’s devotional for our class we learned that the persecution that the Christian church experienced in the first century was the very beginning of the history of us as a church and faith.
This week, we learned that Jesus prepared his disciples for this persecution. Here are the notes that I used for this week’s class:
In Matthew 5:10 we see the last beatitude:
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”
Before we talk about this last beatitude, let us see the whole picture on this scripture; this portion of scripture is the last beatitude of a total of eight beatitudes that Jesus is giving us in Matthew 5. These were given as Jesus’ first series of statements in his first recorded sermon – The Sermon at the Mount.
The word beatitude comes from the word beatific or blessed. In other words, Jesus, using these statements is giving us an insight as to what it means to live the blessed life. The beatitudes are descriptions of how we can live the blessed life.
When we do a Bible study on these, we can see a clear breakdown of these scriptures that allows us to better understand what Jesus is really getting at here. Please see the breakdown of the beatitudes below:
#1. Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
#2. Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
#3. Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
#4. Blessed are those who hunger
and thirst for righteousness, for
they will be filled.
#5. Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
#6. Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
#7. Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
#8. Blessed are those who are
persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Every beatitude has a requirement and a reward
As you can see above, the beatitudes are a series of eight statements of how to live the blessed life. Every beatitude starts with a requirement, and ends with a reward, for instance, the third beatitude:
“blessed are the meek”
is the requirement.
“for they will inherit the earth”
is the reward.
And the rest has the same structure.
With this in mind, we can start formulating our Bible study — the first beatitude has a reward of “theirs is the kingdom of heaven” which is a present tense statement – the rest of the beatitudes after a future tense reward.
In this example then, we learn that those who are poor in spirit actually live in the kingdom of heaven right now. The rest of the beatitudes have a future tense reward … until you get to the last beatitude, which also has a present tense reward – “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”
With this we understand the first insight of the beatitudes – a sandwich is starting to formulate. You have the first beatitude with the same reward as the last one, and vice-versa, which means that those who execute the requirement of these two beatitudes get a present tense reward.
You can also run a line across the middle, and the eight beatitudes can be broken in two sections of four. Since the fourth beatitude ends with a requirement that has to do with righteousness:
“blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness”,
and the last beatitude also has a requirement that has to do with righteousness:
“blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness”,
It is only right to assume that Jesus is dividing the Beatitudes into two sections of four. So, having the last beatitude of each section ending with a requirement of righteousness, Jesus begins to unfold the entire purpose of the Beatitudes.
The purpose of the Beatitudes
After taking a look at this basic way of breaking the eight beatitudes we understand one powerful insight; that the whole purpose of the beatitudes is to get us into a place of righteousness.
The whole purpose of the beatitudes is to get us into a place of righteousness
Starting with the last beatitude of the first section, which is beatitude number four:
Please note that this beatitude is describing a human that hungers and thirsts for righteousness. But further from Jesus blessing those who are hungry – notice that Jesus is blessing those who hunger, not those who simply have an appetite or craving – what Jesus is trying to tell us is that from beatitude number one to beatitude number four, the whole time, Jesus is speaking about a human searching for righteousness. There is a deep and painful desire to find righteousness. The first section of four describes the journey of those who are seeking for righteousness. This is why the fourth beatitude ends with such statement; blessed are those who have been searching for the thing that matters most – righteousness.
So, the question here is; what does it take to become righteous?
Now with this in mind, read the first section of four again:
This is what it takes to become righteous – at least that is what we begin to learn from Jesus. When someone is poor in spirit, knows how to and what to mourn for, is meek or humble, and is hungry for what is righteous – he is a man seeking righteousness.
Now, if the first four beatitudes describe a man searching and seeking righteousness, the second section, or the last four, also end with righteousness, but in a different way. The second section of the beatitudes describes a man already walking in righteousness and being persecuted because of it.
The question here is; what does it look like to walk in righteousness?
With this in mind, please see this man already walking in righteousness and being persecuted because of it:
This is how it looks like to walk in righteousness. When someone is merciful, pure in heart, peacemaker, and being persecuted because of it – he is a man walking in righteousness.
The first section of the beatitudes, or season one if you will, ends with a human seeking and searching for righteousness, season two of the beatitudes ends with a human being persecuted because of righteousness. This shows us and gives us the evidence of what Jesus is trying to get at. He is reminding us of what really matters – righteousness. The point of the beatitudes is not just showing us how to live a better life, and it’s not just showing us how to live the blessed life – what Jesus is showing us is that living the blessed life is living the life of righteousness.
The point of the beatitudes is not just showing us how to live a better life, and it’s not just showing us how to live the blessed life – what Jesus is showing us is that living the blessed life is living the life of righteousness.
The last beatitude
Coming back to our main point of last class, I said all that to say this; the last beatitude shows a man being persecuted because of righteousness. Jesus was preparing his disciples because he knew that the church would be persecuted, and Jesus was letting them know, that if there is going to be any persecution, let it be because of righteousness and not anything else.
Jesus knew that his disciples needed to be ready to take upon the work of the church, even in the midst of persecution. The last beatitude describes a human righteously being persecuted, but take heart, Jesus’ promise was that those being persecuted because of righteousness are experiencing the kingdom of heaven… right now.
On to you…
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