Blessed are the poor in spirit.

So far, in Matthew 4, Jesus has been tempted, began his ministry with a call to repentance because “the kingdom of heaven was near” (Mt 4:12-17), called his first disciples, and began to grow in popularity (Mt 4:18-25). We have seen Jesus preaching and healing many. Then, at this high point of popularity, when the disciples might have been moving between thoughts of crowd control and setting up a mega church at Capernaum, Jesus went up onto a mountainside above the Sea of Galilee, gathered his disciples and began to teach them and the crowds who gathered. He began with what is called the Beatitudes (Latin for “blessing”, see Bob Utley’s Bible Commentaries) as the prelude to Jesus’ longest recorded sermon.

This would not have been what they expected!

In that day, teachers did not teach by proclamation but by quoting other more reputable leaders.

Jesus proclaimed! He began with a series of imperative statements. They are unusual to our ear! When did someone greet you with, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” recently?

Evelyn Laycock, the great Ashram Bible teacher, now in glory, used to translate that term “Blessed” as “Oh the sheer joy!”

Then, this first beatitude would read: “Oh the Sheer Joy of those who are poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” 

Have you ever wondered, what might we learn about Jesus, that he began there, not with any of the other statements which follow? He was speaking to a crowd filled with wonder and excitement at what was happening in their area. What might he be aiming for? 

Could it be, such a beginning struck a chord with his audience? “Oh, the sheer joy of those who are poor in spirit…”

“Joseph dressed in his striped robe and head covering, turned to his wife and said, ‘Did you hear what He said?’

“Lara, in lavender and blue robes, responded. ‘Shhhh. I’m listening. Of course, I heard. I have ears, Joseph.’

“Joseph whispered, ‘No, but don’t you feel worthless sometimes? Didn’t you just tell me the other day you didn’t think you could keep all the laws, indeed, you said you couldn’t even keep one of them correctly.’

“Lara hissed, ‘Yes, I know, but, listen Joseph.’

“Joseph responded, ‘He’s talking about us, Lara. Can’t you hear it? He says, we are blessed, that we have joy right NOW because of what we know we lack.’

“Tears sprang to both their eyes as they stood there listening to those words which brought hope, not bondage. Words that brought victory, not defeat. Words that brought, well, happiness into their dry souls; into the places where they lacked so much.

“Joseph interlaced his fingers with Lara’s. They’d never heard anything like this before in their lives.”

Sometimes, I think we forget, Jesus brought freedom. Remember, to be poor in spirit is simply to know this — you need Him. Embrace Jesus anew today and have hope.

“Oh, the sheer joy of those who are poor in spirit…”