Reflecting on Matthew for the Solemnity of All Saints

From The Gospel of Matthew, by Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri, commenting on Matthew 5:1-12a

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Jesus frames the beatitudes with the same blessing at the beginning and the end of this list—for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (5:3, 10)— “indicating that all the several kinds of blessedness are aspects of the one supreme blessing of possessing the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Though the promises in the central beatitudes (vv. 4–9) are given in the future tense (they will . . .), the fact that the foundational blessing of the kingdom (vv. 3, 10) is given in the present tense (“theirs is the kingdom. . .”) indicates that the happiness envisioned in the beatitudes is not only for the distant future, but also can be experienced to some degree even now, as the kingdom of heaven dawns in Christ’s ministry (4:17).

Jesus’ beatitudes represent a reversal of values, turning the world’s standards for happiness upside down. Many of the people whom the world would consider to be among the most miserable—the poor, the mourning, the meek, the persecuted—Jesus proclaims to be in an advantageous situation, for God looks now with favor on them and assures them of consolation in the future.

Jesus thus challenges his followers to see life from God’s viewpoint, not the world’s. When his followers live by God’s standards, they are truly in a fortunate state in life, no matter what their circumstances may be, for they bring a glimmer of the joy and hope of the heavenly kingdom into the afflictions of the present world.

Ultimately the beatitudes are nothing less than a portrait of Christ’s own life. Matthew depicts Jesus as meek (11:29; 12:15–21; 21:5), merciful (9:27–31; 15:22; 17:14–18; 18:33; 20:29–34), and persecuted (27:27–31, 39–44). As an indirect portrait of Jesus, the beatitudes “display the mystery of Christ himself, and they call us into communion with him.”

© 2010 Curtis Mitch, Edward Sri, and Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.