Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:3-12 TNIV)

I used to see these opening words of the Sermon on the Mount as looking forward. I heard them as a set of great expectations. Jesus was laying out what he expected his followers to become. He was declaring the duty of his disciples. He was saying, “If you follow me, know that you’re setting out on a lifetime mission of becoming poor in spirit, merciful, peacemaking, etc.”

However, I no longer understand these words that way. Now I see them as a description of where people already were rather than where Jesus expects people to go. I hear them not as a list of expectations, but as a call of invitation. Jesus isn’t declaring here the great duties of being his disciple (that will come later – Matt. 5:21ff), but is offering hope to all who are oppressed, telling them to take delight in knowing God has not forgotten them. He’s looking those who were poor, hungry, pure in heart, and persecuted straight in the eye and saying to them, “You think your situation is hopeless and you’re overlooked by God, but I’m here to tell you God knows what you’re going through and you are truly the earth’s blessed ones right now.”

Trying reading Jesus’ words again with this perspective in mind. Read them slowly and thoughtfully, hearing them as one who is beaten down and with virtually no hope left in life.

Happy are people who are downcast, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

Happy are people who grieve, because they will be made glad.

Happy are people who are humble, because they will inherit the earth.

Happy are people who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because they will be fed until they are full.

Happy are people who show mercy, because they will receive mercy.

Happy are people who have pure hearts, because they will see God.

Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children.

Happy are people whose lives are harassed because they are righteous, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

Happy are you when people insult you and harass you and speak all kinds of bad and false things about you, all because of me. Be full of joy and be glad, because you have a great reward in heaven. For, in the same way, people harassed the prophets who came before you. (Matthew 5:3-12 CEB)

Let’s pray, and then I want to ask you a question.

Heavenly Father, as you call me to believe in you, thank you for believing in me. As I pray to remember you in all I do, thank you for remembering me. As I long to seek you in all things at all times, thank you for seeking me. Through Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

What does hearing this passage this “new way” do for you?