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June 03, 2024

The Beatitudes of Jesus Explained

This article on the meaning of the Beatitudes is based on teaching by Pastor Colin Smith, Senior Pastor of The Orchard from his series Momentum: Pursuing God’s Blessings Through the Beatitudes (watch on YouTube). Follow his teaching on YouTube, the Open the Bible app or by searching “Open the Bible” in your favorite podcast app.


In the Beatitudes of Matthew 5:1-12, Jesus speaks about a life that is blessed by God.

Who would not want to listen to Jesus as he shows us the path to blessing? Everyone wants to be blessed. We want to be blessed in life and blessed in death. We want to be blessed in eternity.

The following explanation of the Beatitudes of Jesus will help you understand what a blessed life really is and teach you how to make progress in the Christian life.

The Beatitudes of Jesus Explained

A Simple Definition of “Beatitude”

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus shared eight beatitudes. The word “beatitude” has its origins in Latin. It is derived from the Latin word “beatitudo,” which means “blessedness” or “happiness”. Jesus begins each beatitude with the word “blessed,” and in His eight beatitudes, He is describing for us what the blessed life looks like.

There Is an Order to the Beatitudes

Here is an analogy that will help you to better understand the Beatitudes. Picture a series of seven rings, each suspended on a short rope from a child’s playground equipment, sometimes called “monkey bars.” The goal is to get from one end to the other by swinging from ring to ring. 

The first ring is within your reach, so if you grab it and swing on it, your momentum will bring you within reach of the second ring, and swinging on the second ring will bring you within reach of the third, and so on.

The Beatitudes are like a series of rings. In order to move to the next ring, you have to grab each one in order. The only way to get to the fifth ring of forgiveness, the sixth ring of purity, or the seventh ring of peace is by means of the rings that come before. You can’t start from the fifth, sixth, or seventh ring. They have to be reached, and the Beatitudes will show you how. 

The good news is that the first ring is within your reach. “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Mat. 2:3). That means, as we will see, that blessing begins when you realize that you don’t have what it takes. In the kindness of God, the need that you feel for forgiveness, purity, and peace in your life is what gets you onto the first ring.


Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3

Meaning: “Poor” means that you don’t have much. “Poor in spirit” means that you recognize your poverty before God. Jesus is not talking here about our attitudes toward one another. He is describing what a person feels when he or she is face to face with God. 

“Poor in spirit” is the first mark of a person who knows and walks with God. You may be a multi-talented superstar in sports, or a high flier in business. You may be a mega mother, a brilliant musician, a technical guru, or a political genius, but if you have truly met with God, you will know that before Him you have nothing to offer..  

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Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

Meaning: There are three kinds of mourning: 1) Natural mourning, which is grieving for someone you have lost; 2) Sinful mourning, which is pining for something that God has not given to you; and 3) Spiritual mourning, which is sorrow over our sins against God. 

Spiritual mourning is the “godly sorrow” that Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 7:10, and it is blessed because it “produces a repentance that leads to life.” Godly sorrow leads to repentance, which is a change of mind that leads to a change of direction in our lives. Spiritual mourning comes from the heart, and that is why it is the key to overcoming habitual sins.

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Blessed Are The Meek

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5

Meaning: Matthew Henry points out that in Latin, a meek man was called mansuetus. There are two words here: manu, which means “hand” and asseutus, which means “used to”. So, meekness is being “used to the hand” which, Henry points out “alludes to the taming… of creatures wild by nature.”

Henry concludes: “Man’s corrupt nature has made him like a wild donkey… but the grace of meekness, when that gets dominion in the soul, alters the temper of it, brings it to hand, and submits it to management.” Meekness is the means by which God tames the temper of the sinful soul, by subduing the assertive self, calming the passions, managing the impulses of your heart, and bringing order out of chaos in the soul.

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Blessed Are Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” Matthew 5:6

Meaning: Hunger and thirst are intense desires, not vague interests. People who are really hungry or thirsty will do almost anything to get food or drink because their lives depend on it. Hunger and thirst are the strongest of motives. They’re powerful in that they produce energy and drive decisive action.  

When you are hungry or thirsty your body is telling you that you need to eat and drink. It is the body’s own awareness of its own need. Jesus tells us that the people who are blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. In other words, when it comes to righteousness, the blessed people are not those who think they have it, but those who feel their lack of it.

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Blessed Are the Merciful

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” Matthew 5:7

Meaning: We could define mercy as: a tender heart that cares and acts for the good of others. God reveals Himself as merciful, with a description that is repeated seven times throughout the Old Testament: “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love” (Exodus 34:6).

Here is what you most need to know about God: He has a tender heart that cares and acts for your good. When you know this, you will come to Him. And when you come to Him, He will reproduce His mercy in your life. Your heart will be more open to helping those with material needs, you will be more tender toward those who are struggling with their faith, you will want to make more of another person’s virtues than their failures, you will be ready to forgive those who sin against you, and you will pray and share the gospel with those who are spiritually lost. 

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Blessed Are the Pure in Heart

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8

Meaning: Purity of heart does not mean you never have a bad thought. If purity of heart meant that you never have a bad thought, it would be a blessing that no Christian could ever receive. But there is a purity or holiness that God calls us to pursue now. There is a real purity in the heart of a Christian believer, but it is mixed. It is real gold, but it is mixed with dross. 

If purity of heart does not mean sinlessness, what does it mean? Two things: 1) A heart that is undivided. It has the idea of going after one thing. That’s at the heart of purity; 2) A heart that is clean. When Jesus washes your heart, you will begin to hate what you used to love and you will come to love what you used to hate.

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Blessed Are the Peacemakers

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9

Meaning: Peacemakers are people who bring peace to others because they have it in themselves. You cannot give what you do not have. A person who lives with unresolved conflict in his or her own heart cannot bring peace to others. 

Conflict seems to follow some people around. The reason it goes with them is that it lives within them. What fills you will spill out from you when other people bump into you. Peace flows from purity, so the more you pursue and discover purity, the more you will enjoy peace in your heart.

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Blessed Are Those Who Are Persecuted for Righteousness’ Sake

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:10–12

Meaning: Jesus tells us in the Beatitudes about the blessed life: Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn, blessed are the meek, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, blessed are the merciful, blessed are the pure in heart, and blessed are the peacemakers. Now here is the question: What comes of such a life? If I pursue the life to which Jesus calls me, what should I expect? 

To that question, Jesus gives two answers: 1) You will be persecuted by the world–this is what will happen. You should expect it. The world will not thank you for being a Christian. The world will not love the church. The world will tolerate the church, at best, and it will show it open hostility, at worst; 2) You will be blessed by God. You may wonder: How could there be blessing now, if there is persecution? There is a fellowship with Christ and an anointing of the Spirit that you can experience in suffering that is greater than you will experience at any other time. And the outcome of persecution in the short term is great blessing and joy, while the outcome in the long term of persecution is great reward. 

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Go Deeper through the Beatitudes of Jesus