When Jesus gathered His disciples around Him and began to teach them the Beatitudes, what were His disciples expecting? Jesus had called these men to join His kingdom (see Mt 4:22ff). He took them on tour with Him where they saw His amazing power to heal the masses and bring deliverance from the evil one (see Mt 4:23-24). The disciples saw Jesus' popularity and ability to draw great crowds (see Mt 4:25). When Jesus took them up the mountainside, they possibly anticipated becoming VIPs in His kingdom. They may have expected power, prestige, and money. Even after Jesus repeatedly corrected the disciples' false idea of His kingdom, they still thought His kingdom was of this world, and discussed who would be the greatest (see Mt 18:1).
Therefore, when Jesus was talking about eight ways to be happy, that is, the Beatitudes, the disciples may have expected a kind of motivational talk worthy of Dale Carnegie. However, Jesus absolutely shocked the disciples. Happiness was not riches, but poverty; not feeling good, but sorrowing for sin; not prestige, but lowliness; not desiring pleasures, but holiness; not winning, but showing mercy; not doing your own thing, but being single-hearted in doing God's thing; not manipulating others, but making peace; and not popularity, but persecution (Mt 5:3-10).
The disciples could not have been more shocked by the Beatitudes, which continue to send shock waves throughout human history to this very day.
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†Reverend Joseph R. Binzer, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, January 5, 2009.