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Disciples in Jesus' Kingdom

Sermon on the Mount  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Let’s open our Bibles to the book of Matthew. When you arrive at Matthew, turn to chapter 5 because today we are beginning a study through what is commonly called “The Sermon on the Mount”. For the next few months we will be studying through together and we’re beginning today by looking at .
This message that we are about to study is, without question, Jesus’ most famous teaching. It is the longest recorded teaching we have. This “sermon” was most likely a series of teachings that Jesus gave over several hours or maybe even a couple of days that was then summarized in the chapters that are in front of us today.
Why did Jesus give us this teaching? What was he trying to do through it? In order to understand the sermon properly, we need to know a bit about the time and place that it was given. In other words, we need to know the context.
At this point in Jesus’ ministry, his popularity was reaching new heights. After miracles he performed, people were following after him in large crowds. People wanted to be near to him, mainly to be healed by him. So there were many followers of Jesus at this time.
Meanwhile, Jesus began to teach the crowds and followers and the key theme to his teaching and preaching was the kingdom of God or the kingdom of Heaven. We can see this in 4:13:
Matthew 4:17 ESV
17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
This is an enormous theme in the Bible, especially in the gospels and in Jesus teaching. The kingdom of Heaven essentially means “the reign of God” or “the rule of God”. Jesus came to proclaim the kingdom of God, but not a kingdom that was geographically focused but a kingdom that was spiritual. This kingdom was the true kingdom of God, where God ruled and reigned over his people.
Jesus preached that this kingdom was near, at hand. It was just about to begin. It was coming. The long awaited time when God would rule his people was near. And the proper response to it’s nearness? REPENT! Turn your back to your rebellion against God and accept God as your king, your authority and ruler. Forsake your allegiance to the kingdom of yourself - a kingdom that is identified in Scripture as darkness - and embrace the reign and rule of God.
Israel, though once God’s people, continued to live in sin and rebellion against God. Therefore, they experienced his judgment. But now it was time to make things right. The kingdom has come. Therefore, REPENT!
And those that have, now live (much like we saw in 1 Peter) with feet in two kingdoms. Though our allegiance is firmly set in the kingdom of heaven, we necessarily live in this kingdom on earth. A world still marked by sin and rebellion. It is a world that God loves and we should be thankful for the goodness in this world. Yet at the same time we reject this world. We are warned to not love the world. Loving this world is adultery against God.
Jesus’ disciples are people that have denied themselves and taken up a cross. We have turned from this world and turned to be citizens of a different kingdom. Not citizens of the US, but citizens of God’s kingdom. And it’s this kingdom lifestyle that Jesus is talking about in the Sermon on the mount. He is talking about a lifestyle that is in opposition to the lifestyle of the world.
This is a lifestyle that calls us to repent of this world.
Jesus is teaching what a disciple is like. While we could take each beatitude individually, it is also important to see them as a whole. It is not as if some citizens of God’s heavenly kingdom mourn while others are merciful. No, all of God’s people should express all of the beatitudes. And amazingly, all of God’s people - as they live as faithful disciples in this world - can expect all of the blessings from these beatitudes.
I believe Jesus points us to the unity of these beatitudes, in verses 3 and 10 the blessing of God’s disciples is “the kingdom of heaven”. Notice though, that many of these blessings is described as in the future, while verse 3 and 10 say that in the present, Jesus’ disciples are blessed with the kingdom of heaven. It’s present-tense. This tells us that the kingdom of heaven is both present and future realities. It is something that we enjoy and something that we long for. These beatitudes turn our attention to how citizens of this kingdom live.
What is a beatitude? It is a latin word that means “blessing” or “happiness”. For us, it is not fully appropriate to consider these beatitudes as a way to be happy in this world. No, what Jesus is talking about is the way to experience “goodness” and “blessedness” in the kingdom of heaven. It is speaking primarily about the blessing of being approved by God. This approval leads to ultimate happiness, but it is not the temporary and emotional happiness of the world. Instead, this is the eternal joy that only Jesus’ followers experience.
There are many ways that we can divide these beatitudes, but I’ve chosen to divide them into two groups: how these beatitudes describes how heavenly citizens are before God and how we are before others.

The Way Heavenly Citizens Are Before God

Matthew 5:3 ESV
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The Message of the Sermon on the Mount 1. The Poor in Spirit (3)

Thus, to be ‘poor in spirit’ is to acknowledge our spiritual poverty, indeed our spiritual bankruptcy, before God. For we are sinners, under the holy wrath of God, and deserving nothing but the judgment of God. We have nothing to offer, nothing to plead, nothing with which to buy the favour of heaven.

Matthew 5:4 ESV
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

It is plain from the context that those here promised comfort are not primarily those who mourn the loss of a loved one, but those who mourn the loss of their innocence, their righteousness, their self-respect. It is not the sorrow of bereavement to which Christ refers, but the sorrow of repentance.

Matthew 5:5 ESV
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Dr Lloyd-Jones sums it up admirably: ‘Meekness is essentially a true view of oneself, expressing itself in attitude and conduct with respect to others … The man who is truly meek is the one who is truly amazed that God and man can think of him as well as they do and treat him as well as they do.’2 This makes him gentle, humble, sensitive, patient in all his dealings with others.

Matthew 5:6 ESV
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
The Message of the Sermon on the Mount 4. Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness (6)

There is perhaps no greater secret of progress in Christian living than a healthy, hearty spiritual appetite. Again and again Scripture addresses its promises to the hungry. God ‘satisfies him who is thirsty, and the hungry he fills with good things’. If we are conscious of slow growth, is the reason that we have a jaded appetite? It is not enough to mourn over past sin; we must also hunger for future righteousness.

The Way Heavenly Citizens Are Before Others

Matthew 5:7 ESV
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

‘Mercy’ is compassion for people in need. Richard Lenski helpfully distinguishes it from ‘grace’: ‘The noun eleos (mercy) … always deals with what we see of pain, misery and distress, these results of sin; and charis (grace) always deals with the sin and guilt itself. The one extends relief, the other pardon; the one cures, heals, helps, the other cleanses and reinstates.’

This is not because we can merit mercy by mercy or forgiveness by forgiveness, but because we cannot receive the mercy and forgiveness of God unless we repent, and we cannot claim to have repented of our sins if we are unmerciful towards the sins of others.

Matthew 5:8 ESV
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Some take it to mean inner moral purity as opposed to merely external piety or ceremonial cleanness. This is an important theme in Matthew and elsewhere in the Scriptures (e.g., Deut 10:16; 30:6; 1 Sam 15:22; Pss 24:3–4 [to which there is direct allusion here]; 51:6, 10; Isa 1:10–17; Jer 4:4; 7:3–7; 9:25–26; Rom 2:9; 1 Tim 1:5; 2 Tim 2:22, cf. Matt 23:25–28).

2. Others take it to mean singlemindedness, a heart “free from the tyranny of a divided self” (Tasker; cf. Bonnard). Several of the passages just cited focus on freedom from deceit (Pss 24:4; 51:4–17; cf. also Gen 50:5–6; Prov 22:11). This interpretation also prepares the way for Mt 6:22. The “pure in heart” are thus “the utterly sincere” (Ph).

The dichotomy between these two options is a false one; it is impossible to have one without the other. The one who is singleminded in commitment to the kingdom and its righteousness (6:33) will also be inwardly pure. Inward sham, deceit, and moral filth cannot coexist with sincere devotion to Christ. Either way this beatitude excoriates hypocrisy (cf. on 6:1–18). The pure in heart will see God—now with the eyes of faith and finally in the dazzling brilliance of the beatific vision in whose light no deceit can exist (cf. Heb 12:14; 1 John 3:1–3; Rev 21:22–27).

This emphasis on the inward and moral, whether contrasted with the outward and ceremonial or the outward and physical, is certainly consistent with the whole Sermon on the Mount which requires heart-righteousness rather than mere rule-righteousness. Nevertheless, in the context of the other beatitudes, ‘purity of heart’ seems to refer in some sense to our relationships.

Matthew 5:9 ESV
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Jesus does not limit the peacemaking to only one kind, and neither will his disciples. In the light of the gospel, Jesus himself is the supreme peacemaker, making peace between God and man, and man and man. Our peacemaking will include the promulgation of that gospel. It must also extend to seeking all kinds of reconciliation. Instead of delighting in division, bitterness, strife, or some petty “divide-and-conquer” mentality, disciples of Jesus delight to make peace wherever possible. Making peace is not appeasement: the true model is God’s costly peacemaking (Eph 2:15–17; Col 1:20).

Every Christian, according to this beatitude, is meant to be a peacemaker both in the community and in the church.

Matthew 5:10–12 ESV
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Matthew 5:

Opposition is a normal mark of being a disciple of Jesus, as normal as hungering for righteousness or being merciful

The Message of the Sermon on the Mount 8. Those Who Are Persecuted for Righteousness’ Sake (10–12)

The beatitudes paint a comprehensive portrait of a Christian disciple. We see him first alone on his knees before God, acknowledging his spiritual poverty and mourning over it. This makes him meek or gentle in all his relationships, since honesty compels him to allow others to think of him what before God he confesses himself to be. Yet he is far from acquiescing in his sinfulness, for he hungers and thirsts after righteousness, longing to grow in grace and in goodness.

We see him next with others, out in the human community. His relationship with God does not cause him to withdraw from society, nor is he insulated from the world’s pain. On the contrary, he is in the thick of it, showing mercy to those battered by adversity and sin. He is transparently sincere in all his dealings and seeks to play a constructive role as a peacemaker. Yet he is not thanked for his efforts, but rather opposed, slandered, insulted and persecuted on account of the righteousness for which he stands and the Christ with whom he is identified.

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