This blog post is part of a series of posts that will explore the Atonement by studying Christ’s life in the New Testament. If you want to find the assignments, you can download my eBooks for Matthew, Mark, and Luke. (John coming soon.)
The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ – Assignment for Matthew 5
“1. Christ has officially begun His ministry here. His ministry is a part of His purpose, His goals, and is the set up to His eventual Atonement. Keep this in mind as we study His teachings. See if you can find how the Savior’s teachings fit into the Atonement, plan of Salvation, and your life, personally.
2. Each thing Christ has taught in this chapter, He has modeled Himself. He is the Exemplar. You may consider studying some of these qualities and finding instances where Christ exemplifies them. For example: poor in spirit. Find a time when Christ was poor in spirit. How can you follow His behavior in your own life?” – New Testament Study Companion: Matthew
As I have read this assignment and the chapter of Matthew 5, I have thought to go through each of the beatitudes listed in Matthew 5. Not only have they taught us how we ought to live, but Christ exemplified them in His life and when He performed the Atonement. I will spend the next several blog posts exploring each of the beatitudes and their relationship with Christ’s Atonement. Hopefully this exercise will teach us more about Christ’s Atonement, and how we can apply the advice He gave in Matthew 5 into our lives.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of God.” – Matthew 5:3
This is the first of the beatitudes taught by Christ.
Poor in Spirit
First of all, it is important to understand what Christ meant by poor in spirit. When we look at the footnotes, we can see that it means “poor in pride,” or humble. In the account of Christ’s visitation to the Nephites, Christ gave the same sermon to the people. (See 3 Nephi 12:3.) There he says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This difference implies that we, who are both poor in spirit and willing to come unto Christ will inherit the kingdom of God.
Christ was poor in Spirit. He was humble. He always humbly went to the Lord in everything He did. He uttered prayers of thanks before he fed the five thousand. He did nothing but the will of God.
As I think about the Atonement, I can’t imagine that there is a more humble act that anyone could have performed. He chose to submit to all. In the garden of Gethsemane, he suffered all of the sins of all of mankind. He didn’t have to do this! Not only did He suffer our sins, but he also suffered all of the afflictions and difficulties of mortality. This was not necessarily what he wanted to do – while in the moment. He asked Heavenly Father to remove the cup, but, because of His humility and obedience, chose to fulfill God’s will rather than His own.
Christ didn’t assume that He knew better than God, he simply submitted.
The thing that is important to remember here is that Christ is the King of kings. He is the Lord of lords. He knew and understood His power and relationship with God. He knew that He is the literal Son of God. He created the earth. He is Jehovah. He knew He didn’t have to perform the Atonement, and that, as part God, he would never have to submit to death.
Yet he bled and suffered for our sins even though He had never committed one. He chose to come to this earth in the most meager and humble of circumstances. He didn’t require obeisance or honor from the Pharisees who claimed to be people of God. He humbly proceeded through His life, to the Garden of Gethsemane, and took on our sins.
Furthermore, He agreed to be charged and judged, though falsely, by wicked Priests. He was betrayed by Judas, denied by Peter, and then nailed to the cross and forsaken by His own Father. He descended below all, dying – And Yet He is the King of kings. Lord of lords. Infinite and Eternal.
Imagine someone who lacked the attribute of being poor in Spirit or poor in pride. Would that person ever have agreed to the life that Christ lived? Would they have agreed to the final moments of Christ’s life? Had Christ not been poor in Spirit, I don’t think that He would have submitted to God’s will – which meant submitting to our sins, the priests’s wicked judgement, or death. He would have chosen a vastly different path which would have garnered vastly different results.
Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven
We can see that because Christ was poor in Spirit and submitted fully to the will of His father, the Kingdom of Heaven truly is His.
If he hadn’t submitted below all, then He wouldn’t have risen above all either. If Christ wasn’t submissive to God’s will, then He wouldn’t be able to offer healing in His wings. How could Christ be resurrected if he hadn’t died in the first place? Christ couldn’t offer salvation from Sin if He didn’t first take it on.
Because Christ was poor in Spirit, He inherited the Kingdom of God. And, because Christ inherited God’s kingdom, we, too have the opportunity to do so.
Though we cannot ever inherit the Kingdom of Heaven in the same way Christ did, when we are poor in Spirit, we can come unto Christ and covenant with Him. Then, His ultimate act of Humility will combine with our humility – enabling us to become joint heirs with Christ and inheritors of the Kingdom of Heaven.
It’s a pretty good deal for us… 🙂
What are you insights and thoughts on being poor in Spirit and the Atonement? How does this beatitude help you understand more about Christ and what He wants us to be?