The multitudes following Him had increased in number as the Galilean ministry of the Lord Jesus continued. Teaching, such as they had never heard, gripped their hearts. Those whom He had healed rejoiced in new-found strength that they had despaired of ever enjoying again. As they gathered round Him on the mountain to which He had led them, He sat down to teach, assuming the posture of a Rabbi. What would He say? Of what did the teaching of this man consist? They listened with rapt attention as He opened His mouth and uttered the word, "Blessed".
But there should have been no surprise! The first act of God towards the man and the woman whom He had created was to bless them (Gen 1.28). The first word in the book of the Psalms is "Blessed" (Ps 1.1); the opening word of the thirteen Maschil Psalms, those for instruction, is "Blessed" (Ps 32.1); the opening word in the long Psalm 119 is "Blessed".
Nine times over they would hear that word repeated, each time given added emphasis by being the opening word of a statement. It must have echoed in their ears with the power that only His words could deliver. The multitude set before Him consisted mainly of those from Galilee and from "Syria", which was northern Galilee and further north. They did not hail from favoured Judea but from despised Galilee of the Gentiles. Amongst them would be the poor, disadvantaged, tired, weary, anxious, and worn, and yet the words resonating through the multitude that memorable day told them that His followers, considered by the society of the day to be of little account, were blessed.
But what does this mean? The word "blessed" indicates a state of happiness and the Teacher is giving them the secret of true happiness. There are conditions set out to enable the listeners to enjoy this blessedness. The poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek etc. will all experience that sense of happiness. These are not just for tomorrow, but are promised for today. They are not material, but spiritual. They are foundation principles for happy contentment to be enjoyed by those who, amongst others, mourn the spiritual condition of this sad world, and those who recognise their spiritual poverty, which only He can alleviate.
These words form the source of an irresistible river of blessing that flows through the teaching of the books that follow, culminating in the final flood in Revelation where a further seven beatitudes are to be found (1.3; 14.13; 16.15; 19.9; 20.6; 22.7,14). In that river there are significant high water marks. Who would doubt that Ephesians 1.3 is one of them, where Paul writes of believers being "blessed (a different word from that used in Matthew) with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ". These are not earthly blessings; each of them is spiritual and each one of them is in the heavenlies. What wealth is this!
But one further feature makes the Beatitudes of the mountain top sermon attractive to the believer. Examine them carefully and there is an unmistakable stamp on each of them. Reading them is to read of the Lord. He, the Teacher, is the perfect example of His own teaching. When we read what He taught others, we read of His life also. One would expect nothing less than this from Him, and in the Beatitudes, as with all His teaching, we are not disappointed. May all who teach learn that salutary lesson.
Let us all then take heart. Our service may appear in our eyes to be of little consequence. We may, like those who followed Him that day, be regarded as insignificant and the saints with whom we gather as of little or no consequence. But we have what the world so desperately seeks the secret of true happiness. The pathway of seeking wealth, of satisfying worldly ambitions and position, if achieved, will fail to satisfy, the illusive goal of true happiness still beyond reach.
Not so for those who are the followers of the despised Teacher who is their Lord. He has promised blessing to those who submit to His teaching. He has assured us that His way is the only way to satisfaction, that the blessings we have cannot be measured in terms understood by the world. Take courage, and daily, in the early quietness of the morning, contemplate the hours ahead that, in submission to Him, can be indeed "Blessed".