The Beatitudes20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.
22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.
Jesus Pronounces Woes24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.
“Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.
26 “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.
Accompanying John MacArthur sermons: The Character of a True Christian Part 1 and Part 2
Accompanying Mark Driscoll sermon: The Beatitudes Part 1
Accompanying Matt Chandler sermon: Blessings and Woes
I really enjoyed Matt Chandler's sermon on this passage would encourage you to listen to or read it.
Now, obviously Jesus isn't meaning literally poor and hungry in this passage. Our salvation does not depend on our wealth, where the poor go to heaven and the rich go to hell. The parallel passage in Matthew (which is either a similar sermon given by Jesus at a different location, or a different take on the exact same sermon) is clear on this.
Blessed are the poor in spirit
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
I was going to try to put this in my own words, but I just really like how he unpacks this so I'm just going to quote parts of his sermon (emphasis mine). Chandler:
we’re talking about the state of the heart. So blessed is the man, happy is the man, transformed is the man, deep is the man who understands that he’s spiritually bankrupt, that he has nothing that he can give to God as a barter for God’s favor, for justification or for right standing. Blessed is the man who understands that no matter how many religious activities he’s in, no matter how well he pulls off the moral code, no matter how clean his life is, God still owes him nothing. And although I think a lot of us know that in our minds, I’ve been around enough to know that most of us still don’t really grasp that in our hearts. Most of us still feel that God owes us favor because we’ve been good. But he’s saying here, “Oh no, blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are those who understand that there’s nothing in them that they can give to God that’ll somehow make God go, “Oh, I’ll take that and give you this.” Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are the ones that go, ‘I just can’t figure this thing out.’ Blessed are those.” Now, this starts to make sense, right? Because remember what Jesus said He quoted out of Isaiah, that He came to do? “I came to preach good news to the who? Poor.” But He’s definitely ministering to more than just poor people. So He came to proclaim good news to those who were poor in spirit and felt like they couldn’t do it, and that they couldn’t get close enough to God and that they were broken and they were wicked. Now, this starts to make even more sense when you look at who gets enraged by the gospel message. For the last two weeks, we’ve covered how the Pharisees have responded to Jesus coming and preaching grace, preaching mercy, preaching love, preaching reconciliation. What have been their two responses? Remember we did the scale? One was wrath and then last week, big time, fury. Wrath, fury. So the religious elite, those who believed that they were clean and they did have right standing because they were good and they did wash their hands and they did say grace and they didn’t do this and they went here and they did that, so God has to love them— those found Jesus’ message unbelievably offensive. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,”—now watch this—“for theirs is the kingdom of God.” I wish I could go on for like an hour and forty five minute tirade right now on the kingdom of God. “The present power of the King of the universe on hand for the poor in spirit, but woe to you who think, by your discipline, and by your humanistic good deeds, can find justification. Woe to you. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God, theirs is the kingdom of heaven, theirs is the power of God to transform.” It’s pretty good news. I think it’s why they call it that....
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” It doesn’t stop. Let’s view this as progression. Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are the ones who can’t figure it out—they have issues that haunt them, but they know they can’t fix themselves. They’ve been trying; they can’t get there. Blessed are the poor in spirit. Now He moves to blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Blessed are those who are hungry for forgiveness, who are hungry for intimacy with God, who are hungry for reconciliation, who are hungry for wholeness. Blessed are those who are hungry for those things, because if you’re hungry, you’re going to pursue Him.....
Everybody loves the conversion story. It’s a very sexy story. But nobody likes to talk about the next six years...ten years...twelve years...two decades. Nobody tells that story. “..and then he was converted. The end.” Nope. The beginning. After Christ saved me and I started going to church, it seemed everybody who touched the stage stood like this and had a cape on flapping in the wind. They’re like, “Yeah, I memorized the New Testament this year, and then I healed a guy with no legs. He grew legs and walked. My whole neighborhood believes in Christ now, and they come to my house for a Bible study.” And then you would hear really bad teaching, stuff like this: “If the Holy Spirit lives inside of you, you won’t even want those things.” Which is why those of us who grew up in denominations have been saved fourteen times and baptized thirteen times. So we’re just like in there again, “Please God, let it take. For some reason it’s not taking.” It’s like everybody I knew came out of the water knowing the whole New Testament. They like came out like, “Romans 8:28 says...” And I came out of the water, and I didn’t even know what happened. Nobody explained baptism to me; I was just supposed to do this. I came out of the water and went, “That’s weird,” and dried myself off. And here’s what happened: I still had monumental issues, but I was in this place where no one else did. Well, I’ve come to find out all these years later that’s a lie. Progressive sanctification is horrifically slow. What ends up happening in an information age is we learn truths quicker than we can apply them, and so we never want to come clean about what’s actually going on in our hearts because we would rather be a hypocrite than be seen as one. And so I want to be like, “Hey, if you’re all busted up, welcome to the family. Oh, you’re dysfunctional? Us too! Come on in. One of the crowd.”
But here’s the thing I need you to hear me say out of this text. It’s okay to not be okay. It’s not okay to stay there. Like if the Holy Spirit has revealed to you that you’ve got issue, you can’t sit on that; you have to move....
Blessed are the ones that hunger and thirst for righteousness. Why? Because they’ll be filled. Now hear me—because some of you are on the path, and it’s painfully slow. And so it’s easy to give up when like a year later, you’re still, “When’s it going to go away?” Just put your faith in His transforming power. I promise you, you’re farther along than you think you are. You don’t ever really get to see spiritual growth; you just kind of wake up there......
it’s not enough to know; you’ve got to be hungry enough to walk towards it. I’m not talking works-based. Please don’t hear me talk about that. He’s saying, “Blessed is the one who’s hungry enough to pursue God, because he’s going to find Him.” The problem is most of us like to stay in the poor-in-spirit mode. They don’t want to take that step, which is why some of you are on your way out. Like some of you are here for all those different reasons I gave at the beginning, but some of you are on your way out. You’re absolutely on your way out because you are not going to be willing to commit, you are not going to be willing to submit to the Lord. And so once that happens, once you’ve said, “I’m not doing that,” then you’re just on your way out....
Blessed are the hungry for they’ll be filled, but woe to the full. I think we’ve got to work hard at letting some silence into our day. Technology has really enabled us to not ever quiet things down enough to hear our hearts. And some of us don’t know that we’re hungry because we fill ourselves and our day— we hate silence, because silence starts going, “Hey, there’s a little unsettling here. There’s something not right down here.” But man, we can make that thing go away with Facebook. I tell you that, we can make that thing go away with a Myspace page, a 24 DVD box set. I think if we’re going to be serious about this thing, we’ve got to slow down enough to go, “Okay, what’s really going on in me? What’s really going on down here?” and then not be afraid of that. Let me assure you of something, this will be a little bit of a secret: it’ll be dark, whatever’s going on down there. But it’s okay to not be okay. Come on in. Woe to you who are full. Woe to you who think you have no need. Woe to you who think you have it all figured out. Woe to you who think you don’t need a greater power than you.....
Now, blessed are those who mourn. Mourn what? Mourn the fact that they’re bankrupt and hungry. This is repentance. That’s what this is. Blessed are those who mourn over their sin, whose hearts are overwhelmed at the darkness inside of them, who are overwhelmed with grief for how they’ve offended God. Now, the Scriptures make a distinction between worldly sorrow and godly repentance. Worldly sorrow is, “I’ve made a mess of my life. I wish I wouldn’t have.” But that doesn’t transform hearts and souls; that’s just regret.
“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!” That’s going to be an important little line there, because some of you are just pompous jerks and people hate you because you’re a pompous jerk, not because of the Son of Man—because you’re an arrogant, graceless soul, and that’s why people hate you. Now I know you like to use this verse as a “They hate me because I love the Lord.” No, they hate you because you’re a jerk. Verse 23. “Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.” Now look down in verse 26. “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.” ...
So He just said here, “Blessed are you when you’ve been so transformed that people see Jesus on you. Leap for joy. If they’re reviling you and excluding you and hating you because you love the Lord; if they’re going, “Oh not Johnson, he’s going to bring his Bible,”—if that’s you, then congratulations, Christ has begun to transform your heart in such a way that it’s now visible to others— leap for joy. But woe to you if everyone loves you, because chances are you’re lying to everyone, even you.” ...
Blessed, deep, full of life are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are those who mourn, for one day they’ll laugh, being set free from what haunts them. Blessed are those who know Jesus in such a way that it’s changed them, so that they’re excluded and reviled and at times hated, not because of their arrogance, but simply because of Jesus. But woe to you who are self-sufficient. Woe to you who are proud of your religious lineage. Woe to you who have figured it all out. Woe to you who have got it all right, for you’ve got the fullness of what you’ll have. And woe to you who are full, full and yet starving.
What an empty place to be. And woe to you who laugh while your soul decays. And woe to you who are loved by all, because you haven’t been transformed much. The good news in all of this is Christ and the grace of Christ covers where we failed here. Because if we’re honest, some of us would have to say, “Hey listen, I’m not hungry, but I want to be.” Okay then, that’s where we begin.
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Luke 6:27-28