Matthew 5:1-12

Commentary Excerpt by Tom Boomershine

These are pronouncements or declarations of blessing. You can think of it as performative discourse. It's like what the pastor does at a wedding: "By the authority vested in me by the church and the state, I declare that you are husband and wife." The beatitudes are a pronouncement of blessing. The blessing is what you are doing in these words. You are blessing those who are poor, meek, and so on. The audience is the people in the congregation whom you are addressing as Jesus. So in telling this as an embodiment of Jesus you are blessing those who are there.

The basic structure of thought in this series of blessings is a paradox or even a contradiction: “Happy are those who are sad,” or “Blessed are those who are persecuted and have their backs up against the wall.” In actuality, they are not blessed; they are persecuted. But Jesus declares this as blessedness in light of what is going to happen in the future, in light of the reversal of values that will take place in the kingdom of God.

This is about the audacity of trust in God; to use President Obama's phrase, “the audacity of hope.” It is the power of hope that looks at the present through the eyes of the future.When Jesus looks at the present through the eyes of the future, what he recognizes is the value and goodness of those who have these characteristics. It stands against conventional wisdom that happy are the rich, happy are those who exercise power over others, happy are those who are proud, not meek, happy are those who have no hunger or thirst for anything, and who are confident of their own righteousness.

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