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Lecture on the Sermon on the Mount: Gospel to Perfection

Ikuro Teshima

The beginning of the Sermon on the Mount in the original text is written like a poem. The first words Jesus Christ uttered on the mountain were:

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

He started with the word μακαριοι (makarioi) which means "to be blessed." Makarioi is not "happy" but "blessed." Jesus' words "Blessed are you" are neither explanation nor definition of "The poor in spirit are blessed," but like an exciting recitation of a poem.

"To be blessed" means that there is someone who blesses us. We have been blessed from the past until now. Who blesses us? It is God. Unless God blesses us, we cannot have this blessedness. Jesus' mother Mary was first blessed by the angel Gabriel who said, "Blessed are you among women!" then she was foretold about her unexpected conception of a son of God. (Luke 1:28)

Jesus Christ repeatedly said to His disciples, "Blessed are you!" on the mountain. His words must have echoed like a poem to the listeners. Therefore, this mountain is called "the Mount of Beatitudes."

I translate this word Makarioi as Japanese "kei-fuku (merciful blessedness)" instead of the usual translation of "blessedness." Although this word keifuku is not generally used, I think it is the most suitable translation of makarioi. The word does not simply mean "to be lucky," but rather "to be blessed by the grace of God."

What kind of people does God bless? "Blessed are the poor in spirit" means "Blessed are you, though you are poor." God does not bless those who are prosperous, of high social standard, or possessing financial power. Rather, the poor, the weak, the troubled, and the burdened become the objects of God's love and mercy. Moreover, it is the poor in the spiritual sense. The Greek original text says, "οι πτωχοι τω πυευματει (the poor in the spirit)" which is literally translated as "the beggars of the spirit." Beggars cannot live unless they receive charity and almsgiving from others. Likewise, we are beggars of the spirit. God's life is called "the Spirit." Since man does not own the Spirit from his birth, it must be given by God. No one can possess the Spirit without begging it from God. If the life of God is given, it is only through His mercy.

If someone says, "I live by my own power," he will not be given the Spirit of God. The divine Spirit is given only to the beggars of the Spirit. We can appreciate all the more the blessedness of this saying, "Blessed are the poor in the Spirit."

However, the Bible scholars and Pharisees did not beg for the spiritual blessings; they thought that they could reach a certain spiritual status through their own disciplinary practices and efforts. They did not have the faith of a beggar in the spirit. Here is a clear-cut difference between the way of Christ's disciples and that of legalistic Pharisees. We would like to be beggars of the spirit until the end of our lives.

(1966)

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