Easton’s Bible Dictionary tells how the Mount of the Beatitudes got its name: After spending a night in solemn meditation and prayer in the lonely mountain range to the west of the Lake of Galilee (Luke 6:12), on the following morning, our Lord called to him his disciples, and from among them chose twelve, who were to be henceforth trained to be his apostles (Mark 3:14, 15). After this solemn consecration of the twelve, he descended from the mountain peak to a more level spot (Luke 6:17), and there he sat down and delivered the “sermon on the mount” (Matt. 5–7; Luke 6:20–49) to the assembled multitude. The mountain here spoken of was known by the name of the “Horns of Hattin,” a ridge running east and west, not far from Capernaum. It was afterward called the “Mount of Beatitudes.”

We visit this site during our trips to Israel. From its rocky sides, you can see the flat plains of farmers’ fields spreading out for miles, eventually giving way to the Sea of Galilee. It could have easily held the great multitudes that followed Jesus in His early ministry. There is a beautiful church on that site today.  It’s shaped like an octagon, and each side represents one of the eight beatitudes. These are the eight blessings that Jesus pronounces on those with certain characteristics. Some might number them differently, seeing 7, 9, or even 10 blessings, but it has been mostly understood as containing eight. The Greek word translated “blessed” means “happy, blissful” or, literally, “to be enlarged.” In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus uses the word to refer to more than superficial happiness; in this context, blessed refers to a state of spiritual well-being and prosperity. The happiness is a deep joy of the soul. Those who experience the first aspect of a beatitude (poor, mourn, meek, hungry for righteousness, merciful, pure, peacemakers, and persecuted) will also experience the second aspect of the beatitude (kingdom of heaven, comfort, inherit the earth, filled, mercy, see God, called sons of God, inherit the kingdom of heaven). The blessed have a share in salvation and have entered the kingdom of God, experiencing a foretaste of heaven.

The Beatitudes set the tone for the entire Sermon on the Mount by emphasizing man’s humility in view of God’s righteousness. Each of the eight Beatitudes portrays the ideal heart condition of a kingdom citizen—a condition that brings abundant spiritual blessing.  The eight heart conditions are: 1) Poor in spirit refers to an awareness of spiritual bankruptcy apart from Christ. 2) To mourn is to be grieved and broken over sin.  3)The meek, like Christ, exemplify gentleness and self-control.  4) “Hunger and thirst” is a vivid description of those who crave God’s righteousness. 5) The “merciful” is both forgiving and compassionate.  6) To be “pure in heart” refers to that internal cleansing necessary for entering God’s presence. 7) The “peacemakers” are those who invite men to be reconciled to God and to one another. 8) Finally, there is a blessing for those who are “persecuted for righteousness.” It is normal for the world to oppose kingdom citizens.