19 March 2024 at 19:48:00 JST

Every person has the right to happiness. In Matthew 5: 3–10 Jesus congratulates people who, on the face of it, may not be happy at all. March 20th is the International Day of Happiness and a good reason to take a closer look at these teachings and blessings.



Many people followed Jesus. He travelled from place to place, performed miracles, and many people dropped everything to hear Him preach. One day He went up on a hill—Luke tells us it was a field—and delivered His most significant speech. The Sermon on the Mount is regarded as the key to understanding the teachings of Jesus.


And it starts with promises. Jesus does not begin His teachings with commandments, admonitions, or threats, but by giving the people clues to happiness and blessing. Because “blessed” can be translated as “fortunate” or “Those who … are to be congratulated”.


Congratulations are offered in every culture whether on a birthday, on passing an exam, or on the birth of a child. The Old Testament mainly congratulates the faithful, the obedient, those who profess their faith, the courageous, those who obey God and study the Torah. Jesus turns this around and emphasises other aspects.

With the beatitudes, Jesus congratulates and invites all those who choose to follow Him. His words are addressed to everyone. They are broadly defined. They are not explicitly addressed to the Jews nor to the specific culture of the time. There are poor and hungry people and cross-bearers everywhere. Jesus reversed their situation already then because He promised them a great future.


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

This beatitude can also be found in Luke, where it says: “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20). He makes a point of addressing those on the bottom rung of the social ladder. By adding the words “in spirit”, we can assume that Matthew is referring to those who are bent under the burden of guilt and are aware that they stand before God with empty hands. Jesus promises them the greatest reward ever: participating in the kingdom of heaven now and in the future. Because receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit signifies the birth of the new man, who will live with God for all eternity.


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

This beatitude is reminiscent of Isaiah 61: 2, where the prophet speaks of a Messiah who will one day comfort all those who mourn. This promise has been fulfilled in Jesus. Those who fear God’s punishment because they have incurred guilt and suffer on account of their sins can be reassured: God has granted them mercy. This is already a comfort today, but in the future, when His reign will have become visible, the consolation will be perfect.


Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Meek” can also be translated as “oppressed”. At the time of Jesus, many Jews believed that revolutionary violence was the only adequate response to the oppression they experienced, and they wanted to bring about the promised kingdom of God by force. But Jesus’ message is one of peace. He rejects violence and warns against using violence to enforce the Christian faith. Happy are those who trust God that He will fulfil His promise and make a new creation. The promise is: those who persevere today and trust God will be heirs of the new creation.


Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.

While Luke explicitly focuses on those who hunger (Luke 6: 21), Matthew calls those blessed who hunger and thirst for righteousness. The kingdom of God is a just kingdom. And God’s justice differs from human justice. His justice is characterised by love. A look at Psalm 119: 123 shows that righteousness means being free from guilt in the eyes of God. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness therefore have an intense desire to be free from guilt. Jesus promises that this desire will be fulfilled. He grants access to God’s grace and forgiveness of sins. And in His kingdom of peace the guilt will have been completely erased.


Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

The beatitudes that follow now are the moral teachings of the Sermon on the Mount. First, we must perceive that there are people in distress. And this realisation must then be followed by a response. Mercy and compassion, the loving and kind help for people in distress, is the key to the fundamental commandment to love your neighbour as yourself. Nowadays we call it empathy. Those who act on this are assured that God Himself will grant them mercy. He has mercy on sinners and helps the individual out of his distress both in this life and after death.


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

In Deuteronomy 6: 5 it says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength.” This is what Jesus means by a pure heart. Its bearer perfectly fulfils this commandment of God. Those with a pure heart do not want to harm others; on the contrary, deep down they want the best for them. In return, Jesus promises that they will see God. No human being has ever been able to do this; it is only possible in the new creation. For the time being, the following applies: whoever sees Jesus sees the Father.


Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

This is proactive. Peace is not just the absence of war. It requires that people’s needs are seen, that they are taken seriously, and that they are met wherever possible. Those who help to make the people around them happy and satisfied are assured the privilege of being a child of God. Some of the revolutionaries who wanted to bring about the kingdom of God by force falsely referred to themselves as peacemakers. But peacemakers means not only living at peace, but also creating peace among others.


Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

This beatitude calls those fortunate who are persecuted for their faith. Careful, difficulties and hostilities that are faced on account of one’s own sins do not count. The reason for the hostilities is a life lived in accordance with the will of God. Persecution is a consequence of discipleship. But it is worth it. In fact, as in the first beatitude, Jesus also promises those who are persecuted for His sake the greatest reward, namely participation in the kingdom of God. This sums up all the gifts mentioned. There can be no greater promise. Congratulations!

Author: Katrin Löwen


nac.today: New Apostolic Church International

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