Gospel of Thomas - Chapter 056
- (54) Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven."
- Mt 5:3 ¶ Blessed [are] the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The change to this saying may indicate that Thomas was written earlier than Matthew, and Matthew felt it necessary to clarify the teaching by making the distinction of the 'poor in spirit'.
Matthew is written in a form where what Jesus says in Matt 5 and following is parallel to what Jesus did in Matthew 8. Jesus went up a hill and said Blessed are the poor (in spirit) and then in Ch 8 he came down the hill and heals a leper. Who could be more poor in spirit than a leper? This parallel format divides Matthew into four block, which help tremendously for interpretation of his words, when they are connected to an associated action.
The proper interpretation is that the law of leprosy is a key to understanding what Jesus said.
The leper shaves his head as a symbol of Christ who lost his authority on the cross when the Father left him there ("Why have you forsaken me?") The leper covers his lip as a sign that his prayer has gone unanswered. ("Remove this cup...") The leper is cast outside the camp (Jesus dies outside the city) When the leper is fully covered with leprosy (a symbol of sin) he is declared clean! When Jesus bore our sin completely he was clean in resurrection. Then the clean leper goes through a ceremony like the priest because Jesus went on to be our high priest.
How does this apply to men? We declare God as God, losing our authority. We cover our lip to show that until the time of repentance God has not heard our prayers (nor was he obligated to hear them). We declare that we no longer belong to the earth, we are outside the camp. And because of sin we do not belong to heaven. When we are fully undone by confessing or sin and sinfulness, we are declared clean. Then we become priests as we intercede for others.
Blessed are the poor in spirit.