“…Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.” (Matt 5:3)
*Matthew begins the beatitudes with the words “he opened his mouth and taught them, saying…” (5:2). This is significant. He’s writing to a Jewish audience – a people of the text. Even most Jewish laypersons in the time of Jesus had a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. It’s my opinion, then, that these words would have caused the Jew to immediately recall to mind Psalm 78, a psalm about sharing God with the next generation. It begins like this. I think Jesus was, to some degree, expounding on and interpreting the words of the Psalmist.
In Ps. 78:8 we read, “and they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.
Flipping back to Matthew 5:3, we hear the words of Jesus, “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Whether intended or not, we should not find these kind of connections surprising or write them off as a stretch. Everything Jesus did and said, during his earthly ministry, had Old Testament significance. He was the WORD incarnate. And, the word of God is deep, and rich, and detailed!
More importantly, what does Jesus mean by the poor in Spirit? These are those who:
– have no other hope outside of Him who has called them.
– desire no earthly comfort, possession, or security.
– desire no other reality then the one Christ has given them.
– have renounced any claim to innate spiritual power, experience, or knowledge.
– have realized that the glory of the kingdom is found now in the poverty of the cross, and that eternal life is walking with God in obedience right now.
– have recognized that there is no sociological or political agenda here. Jesus wept of over this very misunderstanding (Lk. 19:40).
– are unattached to this earth; whose feet are loosely established here.
– have left all earthly ‘riches’ for a hidden treasure, a treasure hung upon a Roman cross.
Theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
“The only man who has the right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the man that has left all to follow Christ. Such a man knows that the call to discipleship is a gift of grace, and that the call is inseparable from the grace.” (Bonhoeffer)