patty kirk

patty kirk lying down, getting up, sitting at home, walking down the road doing deuteronomy 6:7

Friday, March 1, 2013

the states of blessedness

Jesus’ mountain sermon begins with a cheery little poem we call “The Beatitudes,” or “The States of Blessedness,” so called because all but the last of its ten lines begins with “Blessed are” (or with “Blessed be,” depending on whether or not the translation wants that verb to be in indicative or subjunctive mode).

I call it a poem because the repetition of Blessed and the stringent parallel structure of the lines—Blessed be…for…”—make it sound poetic. It also seems to be spoken forth as one would a poem. Before delivering “The States of Blessedness” to the crowds surrounding him, Jesus first climbs a mountain, presumably for better acoustics. Then—in the original Greek as in most early and some contemporary translations—Matthew goes out of his way to draw attention to the speaking itself with reference to Jesus’ mouth as well as three verbal communication verbs: “And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying…” (Matthew 5:2 KJV).

The Beatitudes are a formal proclamation of exactly what Jesus, reading from the scroll of Isaiah in the synagogue, has already said is the reason God sent him to us in the first place: to preach the good news to the poor and miserable. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,” he told them, and is promising them now, “to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Luke 4:18). These poor sufferers are the very ones surrounding him, who’ve heard of his miraculous healings and come after him with their own griefs.

And into this suffering and longing, Jesus preaches the good news.

I love Matthew's reference to Jesus’ mouth. He didn’t just teach or speak, that day on the mountainside. He opened his mouth and delivered forth blessing upon blessing, word upon word.


  1. I like to think about Jesus speaking to crowds. I like to think that he didn't raise his voice and that everyone who wanted to hear heard him clearly. When we want to hear him - he comes in loud and clear!

  2. I dunno. I'm suspicious of every image we get of Jesus--that he never raised his voice, that he was always mildmannered, that he didn't even cry as a baby--that undercuts his realness as a man. I figure he let loose on occasion, and, when there were lots of people, he spoke up so that they could hear him. I like to think of him as an orator and even sometimes a hothead. In any case, as a real man.