3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
In this portion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount known as the Beatitudes, Jesus is presenting principles of the Kingdom of God that are so contrary to the kingdoms of this world. In the Kingdom of God it is the poor in spirit (not the rich) who receive a great inheritance. In the Kingdom of God those who mourn are blessed. In the Kingdom of God it is better to be hungry and thirsty for righteousness than to have one’s appetite quenched. And, the citizens of this Kingdom should be happy when they are insulted. Strange indeed! It as if the Kingdom of God is upside down from the world we know.
But the true disciple of Jesus Christ begins to see that it is not the Kingdom of God that is upside down. Rather, it is this passing world that is upside down. We need to orient our lives to the principles of God so that it is not his Kingdom that seems strange to us. We need to come to grips with the fact that as Christians living in this fallen world we are in a strange and distant country, passing through as pilgrims and strangers, headed to our true home.
In his book, Crucifying Morality: The Gospel of the Beatitudes, R.W. Glenn says that one thing we learn from these verses in Matthew is that “Kingdom blessing looks like the opposite of everything we value. So don’t moralize the Beatitudes, sterilizing the gospel as though it is primarily or even only a rule book for nicer living. You cannot put the mind-altering, world-shattering nature of the Beatitudes into neat categories. Jesus won’t let you.”