The Beatitudes
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Lesson One • Poor in Spirit
Pastor Ryan Story

In 2017, I had an amazing opportunity to go to Israel with many fellow River Church staff members. Many moments of this trip are etched in my head as amazing memories. I experienced floating in the Dead Sea, climbing the hill that the Israelites were encamped at before David defeated Goliath, laying on the road that Jesus walked near the temple, and the ultimate moment, standing at what many historians believe was the borrowed tomb of Jesus. In all of those moments, December 1, 2017, was an amazing morning. We went to the Church of the Beatitudes. Standing in the exact spot where the greatest sermon was ever preached was humbling.

1. If you had the opportunity to visit Israel, what biblical site would you most want to visit?


Because of this trip, there are many verses that now have a mental picture in my head. To begin the Sermon of the Mount, Matthew records very specific details about the setting of this sermon. While this might not necessarily bring a transformational applicational truth to your life, details like these should not be overlooked because they make the Bible more real for the human audience to whom the Bible was written.
Matthew 5:1-2 says, “Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them.”

There were close to 2000 years separating when Jesus taught at this mountain and me standing and gazing upon the natural amphitheater shaped hill. While sitting there, the questions about the acoustics of this area began to fill my head. I began rereading Matthew chapter 5, and caught the detail of Jesus “opened His mouth and taught.” That is such a strange verse that we oftentimes might pass over. Of course, a teacher must open their mouth to teach. Unless Jesus used felt-board, pantomiming, or other visuals, you could conclude that Jesus had to elevate the volume of His voice. Then as God often does, our guide told us about scientists who came to this exact spot and tested the acoustics of a person being able to hear clearly. So, sitting at the bottom of the hill with a slightly elevated volume to their voice, one could hear everything clearly. He confirmed that it could be done.

2. How do details like this help you with your understanding of the Bible?


It is time to get into the heart of this lesson. Jesus’ opening lines in the Sermon of the Mount are called the Beatitudes. The reason for this is because in the Latin Vulgate (the Latin translation of the Bible used in the fourth century) “blessed are” translates from the “beati sunt.” With each of these qualities we will go over for the next few weeks, we will be looking at the seeming backwardness of the Kingdom of Heaven.

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

3. What is the backwardness of this statement?


I enjoy lessons where we can focus all our attention on small verses. I love word studies and sentence diagraming of Scripture. In this case, there is one complete thought we get to break down, four keywords to unlock the vastness of Jesus’ words.

1) “Blessed”


4. What comes to mind when you think of the word “blessed?”


The word that Scripture uses in Greek as “blessed” is “Makarios” which means happy, fortunate, or well off. My personal favorite aspect of this word is that “Makarios” is used in a poetic form; this gives credence to allowing this word to be overextended and overemphasized because the blessing is coming from God.

5. How does it feel to be blessed?


6. How do you think of being blessed?


7. How do you explain what it means to be blessed?


The most amazing thing about this truth is that Jesus says, “Blessed are.” Not “blessed will be,” “blessed at some time,” or even “blessed if they continue to live a life in perfect honor toward me.” Jesus says, “Blessed are.” Charles Spurgeon said,“The blessing is in every case in the present tense, a happiness to be now enjoyed and delighted in.”

2) “Poor in spirit”


This is the part of Jesus’ statement that can cause us to study. We just discussed that Jesus is indicating a particular type of person will be happy, and Jesus then follows that statement up with “poor in spirit.” Happy and “poor in spirit” do not seem to be in accord with one another.

What “poor in spirit” describes is someone who is spiritually bankrupt. “Poor in spirit” means that the person is completely void of any type of obedience towards God. “Poor in spirit” is a person full of sin and rebellion. There are no “spiritual assets” or any type of good deeds stored in the bank. This is not a self-induced hatred of self-conceit that is artificial. “Poor in spirit” means to be void of any semblance of the Holy Spirit.

8. How can a person who is “poor in spirit” be blessed?


There is a first step to everything, and Jesus knew what He was saying.

9. Why mustBlessed are the poor in spirit”be the first Beatitude?


Read Romans 3:23; Romans 5:8, and Ephesians 2:8-9.

10. What happens to all those who were “poor in spirit” in these verses?


3) “Theirs”


This may seem like a pronoun that we may not need to spend too much time looking into, but to overlook it can cause us to miss out on a monumental truth. Jesus opens His sermon up by telling the crowd that someone can get something. I do not imagine humanity changing too much in 2000 years. You start telling a crowd they can get something and I would bet dollars to doughnuts Jesus got people’s attention. Jesus is saying that those who are spiritually bankrupt are happy and can now have something

Read Romans 8:16-17.

11. Why is the “theirs”and the idea of co-heirs with Christ such an amazing concept in light of our spiritual poverty?


4) “The kingdom of heaven”


We are not talking about the amazing 2005 movie starring Orlando Bloom. Jesus is talking about the kingdom in which His rule will be absolute. This is where He will be God to all His people. The Kingdom of Heaven is where there will be no more pain, weakness, hurt, sin, or separation from God. This is the final resting spot for our weary souls. However, it seems like we are missing one extremely important truth. Those who are just spiritually bankrupt are not just gifted Heaven because of their depravity. Rather, it is when a person comes to themselves (Luke 15:17) to the reality that they are in fact completely void of any goodness from God. It is when a person comes to realize that their works will not save them. When a person comes to realize that they are in fact spiraling out of control in rebellion towards God, both externally and internally, there is hope. This is when we come to the truth that we have not a penny to our souls and that our sin would not allow us to stand before our Heavenly Creator. While we may be earnestly desiring and say “let me in” on the day of Judgment, yet we realize that we have nothing.

12.  Why do we all have to start our relationship with Jesus at a place of spiritual bankruptcy in order to be given the Kingdom of God?


Charles Spurgeon said, “The poor in spirit are lifted from the dunghill, and set, not among hired servants in the field, but among princes in the kingdom… ‘Poor in spirit;’ the words sound as if they described the owners of nothing, and yet they describe the inheritors of all things. Happy poverty! Millionaires sink into insignificance, the treasure of the Indies evaporate in smoke, while to the poor in spirit remains a boundless, endless, faultless kingdom, which renders them blessed in the esteem of him who is God over all, blessed forever.”


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