Relationship of The Two Stanzas of the Beatitudes

The people described in the first stanza are those who lack dikaiosynē. The people described in the second stanza are those dedicated to bringing dikaiosynē. Thus the people in the second part provide what the people are lacking in the first part. Ironically, by seeking to provide dikaiosynē, the virtuous may find themselves in the position of lacking dikaiosynē. With Jesus as an example: he proclaimed justice to those deprived of justice, and he became one who was unjustly executed.

Whether the coming of God’s kingdom is perceived as bringing reversal or reward depends only on the position that one occupies prior to its advent. God’s rule sets things right. Those for whom things have not been right are blessed by the changes it brings and those who have been seeking to set things right are blessed by the accomplishment of what they have sought. (Powell, 138).

The Final Blessing

11 Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.

The sudden shift to “you” must have been shocking to the disciples and other followers. Up until now in the gospel, the disciples have neither been the unfortunate in need of the eschatological reversal nor the virtuous waiting for the eschatological reward. They just followed Jesus, but sort of standing on the sidelines, watching the activities; listening to Jesus. They have been hearing about those other poor and virtuous souls and the blessings pronounced on them. Suddenly the word you involves the hearers. Suddenly Jesus’ words aren’t about those other people any more but me. Why would we be reviled and persecuted and lied about? Because you are committed to dikaiosynēand because of this commitment, you will end up in the position of those lacking dikaiosynē – being unjustly persecuted. However, we have already heard the blessings God has in store for such people. Will we believe those promises for ourselves or not? Will we believe that God will make all things right for us – whether reversal or rewards? If so, we can rejoice and be glad, knowing we have a great reward in heaven.

Image credit: Cosimo Rosselli Sermone della Montagna, 1481, Sistine Chapel, Public Domain 

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