PassageThis passage begins Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount,” which is… a famous sermon that Jesus gave. It’s called “The Beatitudes” (from a Latin word meaning “happiness”), because in this passage Jesus is telling his listeners why they are “blessed,” or why they should be happy. It’s a short passage, so instead of giving a summary of Jesus’ words, I’ll just suggest the reader click the link to Luke 6:20–23 (ESV).
ThoughtsThe first thing to note about this passage is that Jesus is talking to his disciples (verse 20 (ESV)); it’s not a general message to miscellaneous people, it’s specifically to believers. That’s important because Jesus is not saying that the kingdom of God belongs to all poor people, or that all hungry people will be satisfied, or that all those who weep will laugh; and definitely, when he talks about people rejoicing when they are reviled for his name he isn’t talking to everyone. Jesus is talking to believers: the kingdom of God does belong to believers, and they will be satisfied, and they can laugh and rejoice when they suffer for Jesus’ sake. If you believe in Jesus but you are poor, or you are hungry, or you are weeping, or people are rejecting you because you believe in Him, you have a reason to rejoice amidst your suffering: a day is coming when you will be fulfilled, and when you will have a rich and rewarding relationship with your God, unencumbered by this fallen world or your fallen body. The Bible, and especially the New Testament, talks a lot about the joy that believers experience, and occasionally it even specifically addresses having that joy amidst suffering—something that sounds counterintuitive (or even oxymoronic) to non-believers, but makes immediate sense to any believer who has experienced suffering in this world.
If I could take this a step further, however, it’s doubly tragic for those who are poor, those who are hungry, those who weep, but who are not believers. You can easily understand why God would have a special place in His heart for these people—and He does, as any search in the Bible for the words “the poor, the orphans, and the widows” would confirm—because it’s doubly tragic for someone to suffer in this life and in the life to come. If we are His children, if we are growing closer to Him, then we should have this same concern for those who are suffering.
And why do I keep talking about the life to come? Because that’s what Jesus is referring to in this passage. The “kingdom of God,” the “satisfaction” promised to the hungry, the “laughter” promised to those who weep, these are things that the Christian has partial access to in this life, and we definitely can (and should) rejoice now, but these things won’t be fully realized until Jesus’ return. Definitely verse 23 (ESV), which talks about our reward being great in heaven, is referring more to the future than to the present, even though Jesus is telling us that the knowledge of those rewards can cause us to rejoice “in that day” that we are hated, excluded, or reviled in this present life.