The Beatitudes

Workshop Leaders’ Bible Study

This workshop leader’s Bible study is a historical, theological, and contextual introduction to the “Beatitudes” rotation of Kirk of Kildaire’s Faith Quest workshop rotation program.  It is intended to provide workshop leaders with:

·         A historical context for understanding the Bible story.

·         A Biblical context for reading and teaching the story.

·         The theological basis for the concepts to be taught to the children.

In Kirk of Kildaire’s Faith Quest program, workshop leaders attend a one-hour Bible study two weeks prior to the start of a new rotation.  This Bible study helps workshop leaders understand how the concepts to be taught to the children are derived from the Bible story and how the lessons in the rotation fit together to reinforce the concepts.  It also provides an opportunity for the workshop leaders to grow in their own faith and understanding of the Bible.

It will be helpful to have a chalkboard, whiteboard, or flip chart for writing down questions or observations during the Bible study.

Note:  This is not a comprehensive study of the text, but only a few notes to help provide context and background for workshop leaders.  Consult titles cited in the reference list at the end of these notes for more information.



       Matthew 5: 1-12:  Each of the workshops deals with the Beatitudes as a whole unit rather than dividing them up.

Memory verse for this rotation:

            Proverbs 8:32 (CEV): "Pay attention, my children!  Follow my advice, and you will be happy."


Prayer Concerns & Prayer

·         If workshop leaders do not know each other, give them an opportunity to introduce each other and say which workshop they will be leading.

·         Begin the Bible study by praying for God’s guidance as teachers begin a new rotation.

Reading the text

Ask a workshop leader to read the text aloud.  Since this rotation focuses on an entire chapter, you might want to divide the reading among three or four workshop leaders.

Ask the workshop leaders what questions came to mind as they heard the story or read it before the Bible study.  Write down any questions that arise and will need to be answered during the Bible study.


Historical, Theological, and Biblical Contexts


Background on Matthew

            Scholars believe that Matthew was written anonymously around 90 AD in Antioch by a Greek-speaking Jewish-Christian who was probably a teacher in his community (Boring, 107).  The church later attributed the Gospel to Matthew to offer legitimacy.  The Gospel was probably written " to give direction to the community in a time of transition" (Spivey and Smith, 98).  Matthew is the only Gospel to actually use the term church to describe the community of believers (Boring, 97).  It is believed that Matthew's community was a wealthy urban community that had been dealing with a great deal of transition in the Jewish faith and leadership and began to turn its mission towards Gentiles (Boring, 100).



            Matthew is a Gospel, a unique and new genre.  It is a narrative whose intention is to tell about the revelation of God in the person of Jesus Christ and to describe the community of believers who follow this Jesus.  It is a historical document in the sense that it deals with a particular person (Jesus) in a particular context (Boring, 90).


Theological Themes

            The overriding theme that unites the whole Gospel is the kingdom of God (Boring, 114).  In addition, Matthew is concerned with the identity of the person of Jesus Christ and with the identity of the people of God.  Each of the five speeches found in Matthew represent a major theme of the Gospel (Boring, 112):

Ÿ         The Sermon on the Mount (5:1-7:29): the teachings of the Messiah who is the fulfillment of the law and scripture (Boring, 112).

Ÿ         The Missionary Discourse (10:5b-42): Disciples being sent forth "in mission as representatives of Christ and with his authority" (Boring, 112).

Ÿ         Parable collection (13:1-52):  "kingdom of God in the present, in conflict with the evil kingdom of this age, but ultimately triumphing over it" (Boring, 112).

Ÿ         Community Discourse (18:1-35):  Life of the Church - discipline and forgiveness

Ÿ         Judgment Discourse (23:1-25:46):  places the life of the disciples as described in the Sermon on the Mount "in a specific eschatological context of universal judgment and triumph of God's kingdom" (Boring, 112).


Overview of 5: 1-12

            The Sermon on the Mount lays out the essential authority and teachings of Jesus Christ for his disciples or followers.  The sermon offers a vision of who Jesus is, what characterizes the community of believers or disciples, and what the present and future kingdom of God looks like. 5:1-16, which includes the beatitudes, is the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount and characterizes the community of the church.  The basic structure of the Sermon is as follows:

1.      Pronouncements that constitute the disciples as the eschatological community 5:3-16

2.      Instructions on the way of life in the eschatological community 5:17-7:12

3.      Three eschatological warnings 7:13-27

(Boring, 173).


Throughout his Gospel, Matthew relates "the story of Jesus in such a way as to evoke the figure of Moses as pictured in both the Scripture and Jewish tradition" (Boring, 175).  The placing of the sermon on a mountain is a theological choice that reminds us of Moses' presentation of the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai.


Beatitudes:  A beatitude is a statement beginning with the word blessed "declaring certain people to be in a privileged, fortunate circumstance".   They are an old form occurring not only in Jewish literature but in pagan literature as well (Boring, 176).  In the Sermon on the Mount, these beatitudes are prophetic statements declaring the present and future blessedness of the Christian community who may not seem blessed at the moment but will be so at the "coming of God's kingdom" (Boring, 177).  They tell us what is already true about the community of believers (Boring, 180).  In his commentary, Eugene Boring makes several important about the beatitudes.


Workshop Summaries

Ask each workshop leader to summarize his or her workshop.  As they do so, point out the concepts that each lesson reinforces.  Ask workshop leaders if they have any questions about the logistics or practical application of their lesson.

God blesses those who follow Jesus.

·        In Holywood the children will identify people they know or have heard of who fit the descriptions of those blessed in the Beatitudes.

·        Antioch Arcade will help the children learn more about what each Beatitude means so they can better understand how to follow Jesus.

·        In Creation Station the children will talk about how Jesus described a new way for people to live in the Sermon on the Mount.

Jesus' followers are gentle, kind and peaceful.

·        In Holywood children will learn about how Jesus was a different kind of King who talked to the people about a new kind of kingdom – one where the powerless would be blessed.

·        After discussing each Beatitude in Apostles’ Playhouse, the children will act out an example of one for the others.

·        Skits in Praising Puppets will help the children understand Jesus as a model for loving, gentle, kind, and peaceful behavior.

·        In Good News the children hear the scripture story and will explore what words like peacemaker, mercy and gentle mean.

When something bad happens, God takes care of us.

·        Praising Puppets introduces the children to the idea that although bad things may happen to us, God is with us and will help us.  We may even become stronger as a result.

We are disciples devoted to God, when we do God's will.

·        Holywood:  By thinking of examples of people they know, the children will see what it means to be devoted disciples.

·        In Antioch Arcade the children will explore what it means to do God’s will by examining the Beatitudes more closely.

·        Apostles’ Playhouse:  By acting out the Beatitudes, the children will see how they apply to their life as a disciple.

·        In Creation Station the children will talk about what it means to be a disciple while looking carefully at the characteristics in each Beatitude.

When we do God's will, we feel God's blessings.

·        In Antioch Arcade the children will talk about how they can be blessed even when it seems like things are hare or are going badly.

·        In Creation Station, the children will begin to talk about how even though it may be hard to follow God’s will sometimes, we will be blessed when we do.


Review Questions

Return to the questions that were gathered at the start of the hour.  Have they been answered?  Are there any further questions about the Bible story or about the lessons?

Closing Prayer

Close the Bible study with a prayer.


Boring, M. Eugene. "Matthew." New Interpreter's Bible, vol.VIII. Leander Keck, et al. editors. (Nashville, Abingdon Press, 1995). pp. 89-124 and pp. 173-181.

Spivey, Robert A. and D. Moody Smith. Anatomy of the New Testament. (New Jersey, Prentice-Hall, 1995). pp. 97-129.