Before we study each of the beatitudes in detail there are two general facts which we must know.
We see that every one of the beatitudes has precisely the same form.
As they are commonly printed in our Bibles, each one of them in the King James Version has the word are printed in italic,
or sloping, type.
When a word appears in italics in the King James Version it means that in the Greek, or in the Hebrew,
there is no equivalent word, and that that word has had to be added to bring out the meaning of the sentence.
This is to say that in the beatitudes there is no verb -- there is no “are”.
And they shouldn’t be.
For Jesus did not speak the beatitudes in Greek; he spoke them in Aramaic, which was the kind that Hebrew people spoke
in his day.
Aramaic and Hebrew have a very common kind of expression, which is in fact an exclamation and which means,
"O the blessedness of . . ."
That expression, “ashere” in the Hebrew is very common in the Old Testament.
For instance, the first Psalm begins in the Hebrew:
"O the blessedness of the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly." (Psalm 1:1)
That is the form in which Jesus first spoke the beatitudes.
The beatitudes are not simple statements; they are exclamations: "O the blessedness of the poor in spirit!"
That is most important, for it means that the beatitudes are not pious hopes of what shall be.
They are not glowing, but nebulous prophecies of some future bliss.
They are congratulations on what is.
The blessedness which belongs to the Christian is not a blessedness which is postponed to some future world of glory;
it is a blessedness which exists here and now.
It is not something into which the Christian will enter; it is something into which he has already entered.
True, it will find its fulness and its consummation in the presence of God; but for all that it is a present reality
to be enjoyed here and now.
The beatitudes in effect say, "O the bliss of being a Christian! O the joy of following Christ!
O the sheer happiness of knowing Jesus Christ as Master, Saviour and Lord!"
The very form of the beatitudes is the statement of the joyous thrill and the radiant gladness of the Christian life.
In face of the beatitudes a gloom-encompassed Christianity is unthinkable.
The word, “blessed,” which is used in each of the beatitudes is a very special word.
It is the Greek word, “makarios,”
Makarios is the word which specially describes the gods.
In Christianity there is a godlike joy.
The meaning of “makarios’” can best be seen from one particular usage of it.
The Greeks always called Cyprus he “makaria,” the feminine form of the adjective,
which means “The Happy Isle”, and they did so because they believed that Cyprus was so lovely, so rich,
and so fertile an island that a man would never need to go beyond its coastline to find the perfectly happy life.
It had such a climate, such flowers and fruits and trees, such minerals, such natural resources
that it contained within itself all the materials for perfect happiness.
“Makarios” then describes that joy which has its secret within itself, that joy which is serene and untouchable,
and self-contained, that joy which is completely independent of all the chances and the changes of life.
The English word happiness gives its own case away.
It contains the root hap which means chance.
Human happiness is something which is dependent on the chances and the changes of life,
something which life may give and which life may also destroy.
The Christian blessedness is completely untouchable and unassailable.
"No one," said Jesus, "will take your joy from you." (John 16:22)
The beatitudes speak of that joy which seeks us through our pain, that joy which sorrow and loss, and pain and grief,
are powerless to touch, that joy which shines through tears, and which nothing in life or death can take away.
The world can win its joys, and the world can equally well lose its joys.
A change in fortune, a collapse in health, the failure of a plan, the disappointment of an ambition, even a change in the weather,
can take away the fickle joy the world can give.
But the Christian has the serene and untouchable joy which comes from walking for ever in the company
and in the presence of Jesus Christ.
The greatness of the beatitudes is that they are not wistful glimpses of some future beauty.
They are not even golden promises of some distant glory.
They are triumphant shouts of bliss for a permanent joy that nothing in the world can ever take away.
The Biblical basis for this series is found in the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 5.
These simple, profound principles are often called “the beatitudes” from the Latin word beatus
which means “blessed.”
I like the word “beatitudes,” because these are “attitudes that ought to be!”
-- This was adapted from on the studies of William Barclay on Matthew and other sources.