The beatitudes. They’re certainly well-known from Matthew’s Gospel Chapter five and today and tomorrow I want to take a glimpse at these wonderful teachings, the eight teachings of Jesus. So I hope it might be helpful to you. We talk about happiness. No one wants to be unhappy. We all want to be happy. The question is, what must I do to be happy?
How can I achieve happiness?
There must be some formula for guaranteeing happiness? Well back in the Bible times, the time of Jesus, there were three things that actually gave happiness. There was food. They mainly had corn and grain that was a symbol of happiness – clothes, wealth that was a symbol of wealth and gold and silver. Well, of course, times have changed since then, and wealth takes different forms.
But there’s still that mistaken idea that those things in themselves will bring happiness. Well, Robert Schuller calls the beatitudes the be-happy-attitudes. And that’s what we now know as the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew Chapter five and these are tremendous statements, the eight revolutionary statements of Jesus.
In fact, if they were taken seriously, our world would just be so different.
And in fact, they’re a summary. These eight statements are a summary of everything that Jesus said on Earth, so they’re really the recipe for happiness that Jesus gave. Well, he said, “first of all, happy are those who know they are spiritually poor because the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them.” You might know it as the older version that says “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.” That would have been quite a strange thing.
The rabbis would normally say, God, I thank you that I’m not like the rest of men. In other words, they were fairly proud. But Jesus said, If you have a sense of your own spiritual poverty and you’ve got nothing to offer, then you find everything in me. There’s a kind of going away from the feeling of self-sufficiency. It’s not so much about me, but about Jesus working in me. If you go to the Westminster Abbey and as many visitors do, tourists go into that place. You know it’s not the famous people’s grave they’re looking for. They’re looking usually for David Livingston or the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
They’re the people who know that they were spiritually poor but have done great things. “Happy are those who mourn” Jesus said. God will comfort them. And this seems, on the surface a rather absurd thing to say. How could anyone be glad in times of sorrow? I mean, our society wants pleasure and entertainment, but it’s all about facing up to pain and the negative emotions that we might have. But do you know that being a Christian means that we have the divine help of God himself to face all reality? Whatever that may happen, however, that might happen. You might say, Lord, I’m hurting, I can’t endure anymore. But Lord, I give myself to you. So that’s what it means. Happier those who know what sorrow means, for they will be given courage and comfort. What about the next one?
Happy are the meek, for they will receive what God has promised
That’s Matthew 5:5. What’s this about? You might say, I’m not a meek person. I’m probably an aggressive person. But Jesus is not talking about your emotions, your temperaments. He’s talking about a word that talks about a deep trust of God’s ability to work out the purposes in your life.
So a meek person is someone who is not weak, someone who is strong because he claims that he has nothing, but God will provide all things. Jesus said, take my yoke upon you and learn from me because I am gentle and humble or meek in heart. And then there’s the fourth one that says, “happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires for God will satisfy them fully.”
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. So if you’re hungry and you’re thirsty, well, you’re alive. You’re well. It’s just a basic desire we have, isn’t it? And he’s saying, “well, if you’re like that with God, God is going to satisfy you fully.” We know many people, who understood the time when Jesus spoke to the woman at the well, and he said, whoever drinks the water that I give him will never thirst. If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.
Well, there are some of the beatitudes, and tomorrow I’ll just take it a little bit further.
Heavenly Father. Thank you that Jesus has given us the formula for happiness. Help us not to look for happiness so much, but to look for Jesus, I ask in His name. Amen.