They are more than an explanation of principle, or a set of ethics and certainly greater than a list of pious platitudes; they are a declaration of a person. St. Bernard referred to them as a “veiled autobiography of the character of Jesus.”
Others have commented on them as the:
- Constitution of the Kingdom of God.
- Jesus’ distillation of the entire Hebrew prophetic tradition.
- Magna Carta of the Christian faith
- Manifesto of Christ’s alternative society.
Jesus is not merely telling us how to be Christian, but how to be human. Jesus is not only speaking as Head of the church, but as Creator of humanity.
I have given each of the statements a corresponding singular word to help identify the character trait or virtue of Christ’s life.
- Poor in spirit = Humility
- Mourn = Compassion
- Meek = Faith
- Hunger and Thirst = Hope
- Merciful = Love
- Pure in Heart = Beauty
- Peacemakers = Peace
- Persecuted = Grace
Jesus called his disciples to follow and learn from him. We think of learning in the form of the acquisition of information, facts, but rabbi’s like Jesus made it a lifestyle…an internship within the affairs of everyday life. These words are incarnated in more than his sermon on the mount, but in the life he went on to live and the death that he died and in the resurrected life that he offers to all who pick up their cross to follow him.
Christ’s discipleship was the result of an accessible life…his students were eye-witnesses called upon to emulate, simulate, mimic and imitate his thoughts, words and deeds. Are you a disciple of Jesus? He has made his life accessible to you, but are you learning from him, following him, are you close enough to Christ to call yourself an eye-witness? Who in your life represents the accessible life of following Jesus…do you have a spiritual mentor, director, father or mother to whom you are following? To whom have you made your life accessible so that they can learn from you?
No one goes sadly or reluctantly into discipleship with Jesus. No one goes in bemoaning the cost. They understand the opportunity. -Dallas Willard
Daily discipleship is to be an ongoing experience of the cross and resurrection. The beatitudes are the Cross and Resurrection transposed into the life of discipleship.
The first half focuses on the crucifixion, where each “blessed are they ____” gives us the character and fruit of the company of the crucified–specifically crucified to the demands and dictates of the ego.
The second half focuses on the resurrection, where each “they will be _____” shows us a very real description of what Jesus produces in those transfigured by his resurrection and life (participation in the divine nature that changes us from glory to glory).
What does it look like to take up the cross and follow Jesus? Jesus never speaks about the cross as a sit back and watch me die for you. No he talks about the cross as pick up yours and follow me…die with me. Jesus did not die instead of you – it is an invitation for you to die with him and be raised with him.
Blessed are…is better translated as “divine life” or from the classical Greek, “the life of the gods.” He is showing and telling us a new way of being human.