Saturday, October 31, 2015

Jesus' Meaning in the Beatitudes, Part III

This is the last part in my series on Jesus' teachings of the Beatitudes.

Matthew 5:9 NIV reads, Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God.

The term peacemaker is from the Greek word aranopois which means those who embrace or love peace. That's pretty straight forward.  The term "children of God" merely means a son or decendent.

Jesus tirelessly teaches the importance of living peacefully. Throughout his ministry he urged us to seek peaceful solutions. Whenver we use force or violence to solve our differences it only leads to more strife. We've heard the term, "like father like son."  If we adapt this peaceful way of co-existing with each other we verify that we are most definitely like our heavenly Father.

Verse 10. Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake or righteouness for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Persecuted comes from the Greek word deoko meaning persecuted or mistreated on account of something.

The word righteouness was explained in my study of verse 6 and is the same meaning -- that of being approved by God and it has to do with purity, rightness, integrity and virtue.

The term "heaven" can refer to the sky but it can also refer to the place where God dwells.

This verse means that if we undergo persecution for teaching God's message then we are a citizen in God's kingdom. So when you weather such torments (either physical or mental) hold on to this sure knowledge that no one can take away your spritiual standing and place with the King.

Verrse 11. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

God loves us and is proud of us when we are unjustly accused of wrong doings or not speaking the truth. It doesn't go unnoticed by him.

Verse. 12.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven for in the same way the persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Don't dwell on these unjustices, In fact, be thankful.  That fact that you are being treated this way means that your message (Jesus' message) is having an impact and you are in good company. People didn't listen to the words of the prophets either and they were direct messengers of God. In the end you will have a greater reward so hold on to that treasure in heaven.

One thing I always wondered when studying the Beattitudes is why Jesus changed up his takeaway at the end of each verse. Sometimes he says, we will be the children of God. Sometimes he says we will inherit the kingdom of heaven. Nearly every statement has a slightly different end reward. Why is that?

My theory is that Jesus varied what he said to state nearly the same concept in different ways so that people grasped it better. Just as he taught the parables on the same subject matter with different illustrations, he changes up the takeaway for much the same reason.

In each circumstance he wants us to know that God understands the challenges and suffering we endure and they they don't go unheeded. Jesus' teaching in the beattitudes illuminates a peaceful kingdom, one where the underdog and down trodden are valued. We are challenged to mirror our lives based on Jesus' teachings. When we do, even when life gets us down, we can hold on to this truth, the suffering is only temporary.  There is a just and loving King who welcomes us into His spiritual kingdom and will balance out all the injustice in the end.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Jesus' Meaning in the Beatitudes, Part II

This week my discussion of the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-11) continues and we'll pick up at Matthew 6 which says Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.

Have I picked up any new meanings behind the translations of the original words used? Perhaps a little for this word. He uses the Greek word panao which means hunger or crave. 

Desparo, the Greek word Jesus used for thirst, can mean to thirst literally or figuratively.

Dekiosuna is the word from which we translate righteousness which means the state in which we are approved by God. It has to do with purity, rightness, integrity and virtue. 

In college I had filled most of my credits for the semester so I could take some less demanding classes. One class I took was advanced reading. The teacher taught us to look at synonyms of words and their connotations because they may mean nearly the same thing but there are different degrees of meaning. Some words can have a stronger message or a more negative or positive message. The word crave sounds like a deeper, on going hunger.If we crave righteousness we have an unquenchable appetite for it.

Jesus referred to himself as living water when he spoke to the woman at the well (John 4).

God is pleased with those who spiritually thirst and crave at state of purity, rightness, integrity and virtue because it indicates they acknowledge a spiritual void in their lives. They are ready to fill themselves on his teachings and take on his character and virtues.

Matthew 5:7  Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. The word mercy translates from the Greek word eleamon which means you get what you give.

Currently I am reading a book about Lachlan Macquarie who served as governor of New South Wales (Australia) from 1810-1821.  This area was basically no more than a penal colony, Bottany Bay, where England shipped out convicts of all kinds to serve seven harsh years of punishment. Young children as young as 14 were sent to pay of crimes as insignificant as stealing a loaf of bread along with more hardened criminals including murderers. The system was highly unjust and for most the length of punishment lasted 7 years were up. When the seven years was up, though they had paid their debts, many were still prevented from living productive lives. Young girls who wanted to return home following serving time had no funds or skills to help them and many turned to prostitution. A group of wealthier residents called "The Exclusives" felt they were a superior class and wanted to keep the convicts in their place. 

Macquarie sought extensive reforms and is credited with turning the area from a penal colony to a free settlement. Under his watch he employed many former convicts, establishing schools, a home and wool mill for young women to help them earn their passage back, organizations and opportunities for former convicts to make a new life. If anyone exhibited mercy in an unjust society, it was Macquarie who soon won the hearts of the people.

As we try to be more like Christ, we learn to extend mercy to others. It shows compassion and willingness to set aside rigid rules and see the person behind the act. The more we put it into practice the more we reflect Christ. When people see us as compassionate, they are more likely to extend mercy back to us, though that is not why we put it into practice.

Verse 8  Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God..

Pure translates from the word katharos which means clean (figuratively) from anything that soils.

Horao is the word from which "see God" translates. It means to perceive, become acquainted with, care for or pay heed to.

Gold is purified by putting it through a fire to burn all impurities. We truly begin to clearly "see" God and understand him we we allow him to work on impurities that would stand between us and him.

We'll pick up next week on the remaining verses. As always, be sure and share your comments.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

What Did Jesus Really Mean in the Beattitudes?

Matthew 5:1-11 has come to be known as the Beattitudes. Jesus delivered this talk to a crowd gathered on a mountain top. He is at the beginning of his ministry. The Jewish people have been waiting for  Messiah, an earthly king to rescue them. He wants to prepare their hearts for his very different message that he is the one they are waiting for but his kingdom is not of this world. What better place to start than with our perception?

His talk focuses in on people of all kinds of spiritual, emotional, and life conditions. Some have relabeled them the "be attitudes" as they describe a state of being along with not only God's attitude toward them which mirrors what our attitude should be when considering these individual circumstances.

One word we find that is repeated over and over comes from the Greek word makarios. Some translations such as NIV and King James translate the word to "blessed." Other translations have chosen to use the word "happy." Neither seems to truly embody the meaning. Makarios can mean supremely blest, fortunate, and well off. Some people would take this literally to mean financially stable, well off, secure. But I choose to put my own words in there and they are "God's favor rests on you, be at peace. You are not forgotten."  It's  lengthy so I will reduce it to "favored."  I still don't feel it encapsulates it well but it is the best I could come up with. If you can think of a better word please share it with me and my readers.

I dug into what Jesus really meant verse by verse. Here is what I found.

Verse 3  Favored are the ptochos in spirit. Ptochos means poor, beggar, beggarly, destitute, lowly, afflicted, downtrodden or lacking in anything. It goes beyond just physical poverty to an emotional poverty.  Have you ever been so down that you have felt completely void of hope? These are the people Jesus is talking to. Jesus goes on to say," for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."  The word kingdom is translated from the Greek word basileia which refers to royal power, or a monarch's rule. It can also mean a territory of rule, or the reign of the Messiah. So in this case I believe Jesus meant his rule as a spiritual king. Heaven translates from the Greek word ouranos and it can apply to either the physical heavens or the spiritual realm in which God dwells. In keeping with the context I believe he refers to the spiritual realm.

Jesus is giving hope to the emotionally and spiritually destitute. People who are this bankrupt are more open to Christ's teaching of heavenly treasure.

Verse 4. Favored are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. The word mourn is from pentheo meaning to mourn or lament. Comforted comes from the word parakaleo meaning to console, encourage, comforted.

The verse is one of the easier ones to translate and is pretty straight forward

Verse 5.  Favored are the meek for they will inherit the earth.  Meek translates from praus which means mild, humble, gentle. Inherit is from kloronomeo meaning, inherit, receive an allotted portion. Earth is from the word ga meaning land or the whole earth.

Jesus often spoke about humility and putting our pride aside. He encouraged us to come as a child to him. Meek doesn't mean weak. I am not clear on the rest of this passage's meaning. Perhaps he meant that when we have a meek attitude and spirit the whole world will belong to us in the proverbial sense. It awaits our meek influence. What are your thoughts?

I will continue this study in my next few posts and welcome your input.