What was Jesus really saying when He said

“Blessed are the. . . “?

A look with Biblical cultural eyes provides us a more appropriate “listen” to these powerful words.”

In Matthew Five, Six, and Seven, we find some of Jesus’ most profound teaching, especially a section in Chapter Five we call “The Beatitudes”.

1When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. 2He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying,

3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

5“Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

6“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

7“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

8“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

9“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.                                                                                                                                                                                     Matthew 5:1-9

Many view this passage as an idealistic view of what disciples should be, with a feeling of  “I could never become that.”  However, there are a few keywords in the original Greek language that help us understand the passage as Jesus’ audience received it. These keywords build upon each other and must be viewed in a “progressive” sense.

The word “Blessed” is “makarioi”, which is a poetic word that gives a sense of a “transcendent happiness of a life beyond care, labour and death” (The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament) and indicates qualities of God. This word refers to the joy that is experienced by having a relationship with God and inclusion in His Kingdom.

“Poor in Spirit” is “ptochoes” which refers to a helpless person, who has no physical resources, and is unable to help himself. This is the first step in “Blessedness”.

“Those Who Mourn” is “hoi penthoutes” which in this context means to lament and have sorrow for one’s sins as well as the sins of others.

“Gentle” is “prautes”, which according to Aristotle, is the position between getting angry without reason, and not getting angry at all. In this context, prautes means “having anger at sin”.  One who is physically and spiritually bankrupt, and who has suffered the consequences of sin, and who mourns the effect of sin on his life and the lives of those around him, becomes angry at sin.

“Hunger and Thirst” is “peinao” and “dipsao”, and according to Strong’s Lexicon means to crave ardently, to seek with eager desire and those who are said to thirst who painfully feel their want of, and eagerly long for, those things by which the soul is refreshed, supported, strengthened, which in this case is dikaiosyne or Righteousness. Strong’s defines dikaiosyne as integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, correctness of thinking feeling, and acting.

Merciful is eleēmōn, which translates kindness and goodwill toward those afflicted by sin, and indicates a desire to help. This is the attitude of one who has personally felt the affects of sin, is sorry for it, has become angered by it, and is now living his life in an active personal campaign against it.  “Eleos” (mercy) allows Christians to have compassion on the sinful, unsaved people around them, with a willingness to help them. It is the heart of a missionary.

Pure of Heart is “katharos  kardia”, and indicates a purification by fire or the condition of a vine that has been pruned and is ready to bear fruit.  It is the result of this process of recognizing one’s own spiritual helplessness, and the sorrow for sin and anger at the effects of sin, combined with the desire to live a righteous life and having compassion for those caught up in sin.

Peacemakers” (eirēnopoios) are not just those who stop fights, but rather those who bring the peace of God that they have experienced to those around who have yet to receive it.

  Understanding these characteristics of disciples in the context of the original language gives us a more realistic view of our own experience with God, as He opens our eyes to our own process of having God’s character become our character.

Let’s face it: This does describe the man and woman who has taken a realistic look at themselves and seen Jesus for who He is.


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