The Beatitudes


Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount was delivered near the beginning of His ministry and it is the longest of Jesus’ sermons recorded in the New Testament. It begins with a section commonly referred to as the Beatitudes, meaning ‘perfect joy.’

Most of the beatitudes are irrational and contrary to the world’s view. The word ‘blessed’ is used throughout this passage, and it can be accurately replaced with the word ‘joyful.’ Another synonym that could be utilised is the word ‘happy,’ as long as we understand this bliss is not due to good luck or chance.


‘Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.’ Matthew 5:1-2

Jesus was travelling near the Sea of Galilee and decided to speak to His disciples about what it means to follow Him. He went up on a mountainside and gathered His disciples around Him.

The rest of the crowd appear to have found places along the side of the hill and at the level place near the bottom in order to hear what Jesus taught His closest followers. It was very common practice for teachers to sit down to teach, Luke 4:20 / Matthew 13:2 / Matthew 23:2 / Matthew 24:3.

Please note this is not the same event we have recorded in Luke, on that occasion, Jesus spoke on ‘a level place’, Luke 6:17.

The exact location where Jesus preached this sermon is unknown, although tradition names the location as a large hill known as Karn Hattin, located near Capernaum along the Sea of Galilee. There is a church nearby to this day called the church of the Beatitudes.


‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ Matthew 5:3

The word ‘blessed’, simply means happy, 1 Timothy 1:11.

Spurgeon, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The blessing is in every case in the present tense, a happiness to be now enjoyed and delighted in. It is not ‘Blessed shall be,’ but ‘Blessed are.’

To be ‘poor in spirit’ is to feel a deep sense of spiritual poverty. It is to empty ourselves and understand our insignificance in comparison to our Almighty God, Philippians 2:3-4.

To be ‘poor in spirit’ is to have a state of mind that is lowly and reverent before Him. It is to be full of humility, not pride, Luke 18:9-14.

It is impossible to be ‘poor in spirit’ until we realise our spiritual needs. As long as a person delights in sin, they won’t be ‘poor in spirit,’ and they won’t seek the Saviour since they don’t feel a necessity for Him, Matthew 9:12.

To be ‘poor in spirit’ is a joyful condition because when we become aware of our sinfulness and hopelessness without God, we will seek the ‘kingdom of heaven’ and find hope therein.

‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.’ Matthew 5:4

In the Greek language, the strongest word for ‘mourn’ is used here. This term indicates a type of mourning that cannot be hidden. The mourning can be physical mourning over a loss, Genesis 37:34.

However, the main thrust here is that of spiritual mourning. The blessing here is not upon all who mourn, those with worldly sorrow would be excluded, 2 Corinthians 7:10.

Those who mourn because of sin and consequently repent are the ones who will be blessed, James 4:8-10. Such a person mourns over sin from a tender conscience and broken heart, realising that it’s their own sin which separates them from God spiritually, Isaiah 59:1-2.

After we realise our sinfulness, we can be ‘comforted’ by the discovery and acceptance of God’s pardon, made possible by obedience to the saving Gospel, Romans 1:16 / Romans 6:17.

‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.’ Matthew 5:5

Those listening to Jesus speak were full of the hope that He, as the Messiah, would lead them to conquest in a physical kingdom that would dominate by force, Proverbs 16:32. However, Jesus taught true joy is found in meekness.

The primary meaning of this word is ‘mild’ or ‘gentle.’ Meekness is not another word for weakness, as some mistakenly believe, for genuine meekness is strength under control.

The word ‘meek’ has its origin in the taming or domestication of animals. A wild animal is strong but destructive and of little value when out of control.

However, when a horse, for example, is tamed, it loses none of its power, but its strength is brought under the control of its trainer. It is now a useful animal and can be employed for much good.

The same is true of man. A person who is strong, physically or spiritually, is of little use to the Lord until they submit to Him and allows their strength to be controlled by God’s desires.

A meek person is totally given to the divine will. Such a person does get angry when circumstances warrant it, but they do so in a controlled manner i.e., without sinning, Ephesians 4:26.

Moses is a good example of meekness, Numbers 12:3 /  Exodus 32:19-35, and Jesus Himself is also a good example of meekness, so is Jesus. Matthew 11:28-30 / John 2:14-22.

The Christian Courier Website notes the following concerning inheriting the earth.

1. God is the owner of this earth, Psalm 24:1.

2. Those who obey Christ become children of God, Galatians 3:27Hebrews 5:9, and ‘joint-heirs’ with the Lord, Romans 8:17.

3. The Father supplies all our needs, Philippians 4:19, we therefore enjoy this earth and its blessings more than all others.

4. Mainly, however, our inheritance is spiritual, Acts 20:32, we are heirs in the kingdom of Christ, Ephesians 5:5, and citizenship in that kingdom is available now on this earth, John 3:3-5Colossians 1:13.

Finally, we also look for an inheritance that is reserved for us in heaven, 1 Peter 1:4, because we are aware that the earth will be destroyed when Christ returns, 2 Peter 3:10.

Spurgeon, in his commentary, says the following.

‘It looks as if they would be pushed out of the world but they shall not be, ‘for they shall inherit the earth.’ The wolves devour the sheep, yet there are more sheep in the world than there are wolves, and the sheep, continue to multiply, and to feed in green pastures.’

In other words, the meek shall inherit the earth in the sense that they shall enjoy it more fully while living upon it, Psalm 37:1 / John 10:10 / Philippians 4:10-13.

‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.’ Matthew 5:6

Jesus declared that those who feel an intense desire for righteousness, that which is right or just, shall obtain it, John 4:13-14.

Hungering and thirsting after righteousness is an attitude, a frame of mind, which realises God’s Word, is ‘righteousness’, Psalm 119:172. It is the spiritual food that is needed to grow stronger, Matthew 4:4 / Hebrews 5:13-14 / 1 Peter 2:2.

What type of person doesn’t get hungry or thirsty physically? The person who is either sick or dead! The same is true spiritually, Psalm 143:6.

If a person doesn’t have a strong desire to grow spiritually and feed on God’s Word daily, then they are either spiritually sick or dead, 1 Corinthians 11:30. May those who desire righteousness do so like a deer pants for water, Psalm 42:1-2.

If we yearn to be ‘filled’ and to find true, lasting joy, we must put the kingdom of God first and seek His righteousness, Matthew 6:33.

‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.’ Matthew 5:7

To be merciful is to withhold justified punishment; it is to relieve the misery of one who deserves to suffer. The merciful show pity to others and much joy is found therein, Acts 20:35.

Humans typically have little difficulty showing mercy toward themselves but may find it challenging to be lenient toward others. However, disciples of the Lord must learn to love their neighbours as they love themselves, even when it comes to granting mercy, Matthew 22:39 / Luke 10:25-37.

If we fail to develop this attribute, God will not bestow mercy upon us, Matthew 6:14-15. The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant also clearly communicates this thought, Matthew 18:21-35.

Being merciful is a natural outward expression of an inner hungering after righteousness, Matthew 7:12. And such will generally ensure that our personal quest for righteousness will not turn into self-righteousness, Luke 18:9-14.

‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.’ Matthew 5:8

The ‘heart’ is the centre of our thinking processes; it is the mind, Biblically speaking, Proverbs 23:7. The ‘pure in heart’ are those who are free from evil desires and purposes, their thoughts and speech are pure, Matthew 12:24. This is because they meditate on those things in which there is a virtue, Philippians 4:8.

Such people experience great joy in seeing God. They will enjoy a closer relationship with God. Of course, they do not see Him physically since He is a Spirit being, John 4:24, but they do see Him through faith in Christ, John 14:8-9.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following concerning seeing God.

‘This is true in two ways: 1. The pure in heart shall see God by faith, just as Moses endured, ‘as seeing him who is invisible’, Hebrews 11:272. They shall see God and Christ Jesus in the eternal world, Revelation 22:4 / 1 John 3:2.’

Clarke, in his commentary, says the following, concerning seeing God.

‘This is a Hebraism, which signifies, possess God, enjoy his felicity: as seeing a thing, was used among the Hebrews for possessing it, Psalms 16:10.’

It should be noted that some might appear to be pure by their actions, though their heart is far from such, Matthew 23:25-28. Most of the Jews, having their hearts defiled with carnal hopes or self-righteous pride, Mark 7:1-23, failed to see God as He revealed Himself in the person of His Son, John 14:6-9 / Matthew 13:14-17.

Not only do the ‘pure in heart’ see God, but they shall also see Him ‘as He is’ hereafter, 1 John 3:2.

‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.’ Matthew 5:9

Peace is generally thought of as the absence of conflict or war, but to the follower of Christ, it is much more. It includes an internal component of contentment, even amid trials, conflict, and persecution, Romans 5:1-3. This is the peace from God that surpasses human understanding, Philippians 4:7.

Christ is the Prince of Peace, Isaiah 9:6 and we are rightly considered a ‘peacemaker’ when we seek reconciliation and strive to live peaceably with all, both men and God, 2 Corinthians 5:17-21.

Followers of Christ are called sons of God because they are most like God in their efforts to reconcile man unto himself. Christians are children of God through faith in Christ, Galatians 3:26-29.

A true peacemaker is a person who shares the Gospel of peace with others in hope of fostering spiritual reconciliation, Ephesians 6:15.

Christians should always seek external peace to the best of their ability, Romans 12:18. But it shouldn’t be acquired at any cost. If peace can be achieved without compromising our convictions, purity of heart, and earnest desire for righteousness, then it must be pursued.

The humble and wise ‘peacemakers’ will be joyful; however, the selfish and foolish ‘peacemakers’, that are lovers of conflict and division within the body of Christ will be miserable.

‘Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ Matthew 5:10

To be ‘persecuted for righteousness’ sake’ is to suffer at the hands of others for doing right. This is much different than being punished for wrongdoing, 1 Peter 4:12-16.

It should be realised that in order to maintain peace, we must sometimes suffer persecution. If we are faithful to the Lord, we should expect persecution, 2 Timothy 3:12 / John 15:18-20.

We should react to persecution as Christ did. He didn’t retaliate but denied Himself, 1 Peter 2:22-23. He didn’t develop grudges but had a spirit of forgiveness. He didn’t become depressed but grew stronger and closer to His Father.

Those who suffer because of their loyalty to the kingdom of heaven are blessed by being bound more closely to the kingdom for which they suffer just as the poor in spirit, Matthew 5:3.

The joy in being persecuted is found when we realise, that we are suffering for the Name of Christ, Acts 5:41 / Acts 16:22-25. All who suffer as faithful servants of the Lord should ‘leap for joy’, Luke 6:23.

‘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.’ Matthew 5:11-12

Back in Matthew 5:10, Jesus told us that people are persecuted for righteousness’ sake but here in Matthew 5:11, He tells us that people are persecuted for the sake of Him.

Jesus is telling us that He expects His followers to follow His example of righteous living regardless of the persecuting we may face, 1 Peter 2:21.

Though Christians should live joyfully here on Earth, their ultimate reward will be ‘in heaven’, Matthew 19:29 / Matthew 25:46. Let it always be remembered that the suffering experienced here is nothing in comparison to the bliss God has in store for His faithful children, Romans 8:18.

Also, Christians should find comfort and strength in the example of the prophets and the Christ, 1 Peter 2:21-24. Understanding that persecution for righteousness’ sake is not a sign of God’s disfavour, Hebrews 11:32-38.

Persecution should be embraced, not resisted, as a way to further develop our character through suffering, James 1:2-4 / Romans 5:3-5.

It is worthwhile to note there seems to be a logical progression to the beatitudes. After we come to realise our sinfulness, we must empty ourselves of pride and self-sufficiency, i.e., become ‘poor in spirit’, Matthew 5:3, and we must ‘mourn,’ Matthew 5:4.

This will make it easier for us to submit to God completely and be strong under His control, i.e., ‘meek’, Matthew 5:5. Such a person will naturally ‘hunger and thirst after righteousness’ for they realise without God and His spiritual nourishment, they are destitute, Matthew 5:6.

To strongly desire to do what is right should lead us to be ‘merciful’ as God was to us, Matthew 5:7, and it will also help in the effort to be ‘pure in heart’, Matthew 5:8. Anyone who is full of mercy and devoted to purity is highly qualified to be a ‘peacemaker’, Matthew 5:9.

However, a person who possesses these attributes of true joy will be hated by the world and will suffer as one ‘persecuted for righteousness’ sake’, Matthew 5:10-12.