He Opened His Mouth And Taught Them
Topic: Default Passage: Matthew 5:1–5:12
Good morning! We have finished our Advent series and our next series begins a few chapters later in Matthew with the greatest sermon ever preached. No, I’m talking about my sermon today. I’m talking about Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. I will come back and fill the gaps between chapter 2 and 4 eventually, but this section is timely and fits so well between now and Easter:)
Matthew gives us very little teaching on the part of Jesus in the first four chapters and then this. You can see why if you notice that Matthew has two verses that are almost identical in 4:23 9:35. Those verses act as bookends to this part of Matthew. Both verses say that Jesus went all around Galilee doing two things: teaching and healing. Chapters 5-7, The Sermon on the Mount, is the teaching and chapters 8-9 are the healing. Matthew is trying to give us the best example of Jesus’ teaching that he can. So, what was that teaching like?
In this sermon Jesus is telling us that there are two kingdoms. There is the kingdom of man and there is the kingdom of God. And these two kingdoms have very different economies. I’m not saying that one is capitalist and one is communist. That’s not what I mean by different economies. I mean that these two kingdoms have very different values. Something that is greatly valued in one kingdom is not in the other and vice versa.
So, what does life in the Kingdom of God look like? That’s what we will be seeing from now until Easter.
Our passage today is what we call the Beatitudes. Lot’s people, I have learned, grow up thinking the Beatitudes are the attitudes that you need to be. That’s not quite what the word means. Beatitude mean ‘blessed.’ That’s why most of our translations say ‘Blessed are those who…”. Many have used the word happy. “Happy are those who…”. I don’t think that is a bad translation, but the way we use the word happy today makes it sound a bit weaker than the way Jesus is using it.
We see this word ‘blessed’ used all over the Psalms. Psalm 1:1 says Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; - Psalm 1:1 Or perhaps even more well known is Psalm 32:1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. - Psalm 32:1
Deuteronomy 28 contains a litany of blessings and curses that articulate what it looks like to be in a covenant with God. But we still haven’t really nailed down what it means to be blessed. Does blessed mean things in our life will get easier? Better finances? Better health? Better family? Those things certainly can be under the umbrella of blessing, but that still misses the mark. To be blessed has to do with how God views us.
One commentator suggested we translate this word as ‘way to go! All of you who…” One pastor suggested we translate it as ‘Congratulations! Those of you who…’
And in these beatitudes, we have eight kinds of blessings between verses 3 and 10. Verse 11 seems to simply elaborate on 10, that’s why I don’t think there are nine beatitudes. In these eight beatitudes, we have eight ways that we are blessed in the kingdom of God.
This morning I want to follow in the footsteps of many scholars, including John Stott, who see these eight blessings as two sets of four. The first four address our vertical relationship with God in the new Kingdom and the second four address our horizontal relationship with others in the new kingdom. So, that’s my outline this morning. First, how we related to God in the new kingdom. Second, how we relate to others in the new kingdom and, finally, the promises we have in the new kingdom.
- How we relate to God in the new kingdom
Ok, remember, four blessings in the new kingdom if we relate to God in a specific way. The first is in verse 3: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. - Matthew 5:3 In Mark’s account, he says ‘blessed are the poor’ which has given rise to whole theological systems that say having money is inherently bad. That isn’t what is going on at all. The context and the language all point to Jesus saying that the kingdom is ours if we are marked by being poor in spirit. So, what does it mean to be poor in spirit?
People have gotten off track here and said it means poor spirited. A poor spirited person is an Eor. A person with no joy, no drive and no contentment. That’s not what Jesus is talking about. A person who is poor in Spirit is someone who is not rich in pride. Someone who is rich is pride thinks that they know what’s best for their life. Someone who thinks that God owes them something. Someone who does not see that the fundamental problem with the world is their own heart.
A few years ago, Michael Bloomberg, then the Mayor of New York City, was asked about heaven and here was his response. “I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close.” That is rich in pride.
Now, I don’t want to only pick on the non religious left. The Religious right can be rich in pride too! Do you remember the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18? 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.' 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." - Luke 18:11-14
That is rich in pride. The church in Laodicea became rich in pride and this is what Jesus said to them: For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked. - Revelation 3:17 The person who is poor in spirit sees that he is spiritually bankrupt. He is the prodigal son coming home completely empty in every way.
On social media I follow a recovery ministry and they posted this last week: New Year’s resolution - realize that I am not God. What this ministry realizes is that addiction is more than simply a physical issue. All science is showing this now. Addiction is also a spiritual and relational issue. It’s how many of us cope with our inability to be our own gods. We have irretrievable losses, we have unattainable goals, we have unsustainable finances and on top of that we are increasingly disconnected from life giving relationships so we find something to make us forget.
This verse pushes us to realize that the solution is not forgetting our problems, but embracing them. Admitting that we are not God and we are spiritually bankrupt.
Second, Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. - Matthew 5:4 So, we have to realize we are not God and then we have to mourn over our sin. Mourn over all the ways that we have contributed to fallenes of this world. They way Jesus is using this word, He isn’t primarily saying that we should mourn over sin in the world, He isn’t saying that we just need to be noticeably sad all the time (that would go against all that we just saw about rejoicing in Philippians), He is saying that we need to deeply mourn our personal sin and the way it affects our relationship with God and others.
There is this famous story about a question the London Times put out about a century ago asking what is wrong with the world. Many people responded with long complex answers, but a man named G.K. Chesterton responded simply by saying, “Dear sir, I am.” That is what it means to mourn. Only when we mourn our sin can we begin to take comfort in God. And that is the second way we are to relate with God in His kingdom.
Third, Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. - Matthew 5:5. Meek.
That really doesn’t sound attractive for fun. Jesus isn’t saying weak, He’s saying meek. He isn’t saying powerless, He’s saying your power is under control. One commentator translated this verse, “Blessed is the man who is always angry at the right time and never angry at the wrong time.”
But that sounds more like a horizontal issue than a vertical issue, doesn’t it? At the end of the day a meek disposition toward others has more to do with our vertical relationship with God than our horizontal relationships with others. Let me explain.
Imagine I do acknowledge that I am poor in spirit and I do mourn my sin to God in private. But someone comes along and calls me a shady punk and I hit them in the mouth. Would there seem to be a disconnect in what I say and what I do? Yes! Our meekness is the test of our poverty of spirit and mourning over our sin. If we really believe that we are spiritual bankrupt in and of ourselves, when someone else states that very fact, it won’t elicit an angry response.
I feel like I’m someone who has a pretty long fuse when it comes to anger, but nothing will make that fuse burn faster than bickering in our home or, hypothetically, on a long drive from Mississippi to Orlando. “He’s looking at me.” “She’s copying me.” Or my favorite, “He’s pushing my buttons.” Meekness is having control over your buttons. And that only comes from a humility that flows from bowing low before God.
Lastly, Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. - Matthew 5:6. So, up until now, we have talked about what we are. We are poor in spirit, we are sinful, we are meek, but only now does Jesus talk about what we aren’t. What we truly lack: righteousness.
And notice that He doesn’t say ‘blessed are those who are righteous.’ He says blessed are those who hunger for it, who thirst for it. It’s good to be hungry and thirsty. Those are two of the strongest cravings we have and they keep us alive. Blessed are those who long for righteousness to replace their sin with the same vigor as food and water.
What would someone say you hunger and thirst for? Success? Money? Your family? What is it you long for at the deepest level? That’s where you think you will truly be satisfied. But Jesus is saying none of that will give you the satisfaction you long for. Only those who long to righteous will ever be truly satisfied.
And this is the place Christianity departs from every other world view. I listened to Ben Shapiro some weeks back talk about how the Sermon on the Mount proves that basically all religions are the same. We strive for the same ideals. No! The philosophies of Buddha, the five pillars of Islam, the do more good than bad of secularism and every Disney movie I have ever seen, Jesus is challenging all of it. Jesus is showing us that we can never to it. The bar is too high and we are too far gone.
We cannot enter that kingdom as we are. We have to be made new. There is a wall between the two kingdoms and as long as we are unrighteous we are stuck on the wrong side of that wall looking in. We have to be made righteous. And if you are starting to feel a little discouraged, you’re understanding what Jesus is saying here! Before we can be made righteous we have to long for it. So, how do we find that righteousness?
Jesus, preaching this sermon, embodied poor in spirit, he mourned for our sin and he became the meekest among us by going to the cross, perfectly sinless, in our place. And in that most blessed transaction, He took the wrath of our sin and gave us His righteousness. That’s our ticket in. That’s brings the wall between the kingdoms down. Water is our answer to thirst, food is our answer for hunger and Jesus is our answer to our unrighteousness. He is the living water and the bread of eternal life.
That is how we relate with God in the new kingdom. Now, let’s see how we are to relate with others.
- How we relate to man in the new kingdom
First, Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. - Matthew 5:7. This is a very misunderstood verse. It sounds like Jesus is saying that if we show others mercy, only then can we gain mercy from Him and enter the kingdom. Now, hopefully we have already established that nothing we do other than wanting the kingdom is going to give us access to the kingdom. So, what is this verse saying then? We enter the kingdom by being granted extreme mercy, then we in turn have a whole new capacity to offer others mercy as well.
This is why Jesus in Matthew 18 says that the kingdom of heaven is like a servant having his debt completely forgiven by his king, but goes out and doesn’t offer a much smaller amount of mercy on those who owe him. The king calls him back and says, 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?' 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart." - Matthew 18:33-35
If we have been given mercy, we should be offering mercy. So, what is mercy? It’s similar to grace in that we get it without deserving it, but think about mercy as compassion for people in need. And I’m not just talking about serving people in need, I’m talking about having a deep compassion for them. I’ve seen many people who log hour after hour at food pantries or homeless shelters or tutoring the underprivileged and they are certainly serving the poor, but they aren’t marked by mercy. They are marked by self-righteousness. They serve others to feel better about themselves. Jesus is talking about a genuine compassion for those less fortunate fueled by the mercy we have already received from Him.
We show mercy to others and, secondly, in the kingdom of God Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Matthew 5:8. This is one of those verses that sounds so lofty and so unreachable that our tendency can be to just shut down. Well, to be pure in heart doesn't mean to be perfect in heart. It means to have an undivided heart.
Let me state it like this. C.S. Lewis says that Christianity is not out to make nicer people, but new people. Tim Keller says that the Christian life isn’t about reformation, but transformation. God isn’t sprucing people up for His kingdom, He is creating a whole new model. We aren’t just faster caterpillars, we are butterflies. Are we perfect? No. But, when we believe, we are given the Holy Spirit whose main ministry is to focus our hearts on Jesus. We will still sin, we will still stumble, but in the deepest part of who we are, we desire Jesus more than anything else.
A Christian is someone who sees her idols and chooses Jesus instead. So, how does that affect our horizontal relationships? Significantly! If your idol is making it to the top of your vocation, you will do whatever it takes to get there. Maybe it starts with white lies and eventually, you maneuver and angle so that you get the credit and your co-workers take the blame. But, if your idol of vocational success has been replaced with a pure heart, one that longs for Jesus more than success, you will be ok with others getting the credit they deserve and maybe even the credit they don’t deserve. Maybe you will even take blame on yourself that belongs on someone else. Can you see how different this would be? You are now modeling kingdom economics in your workplace.
A Christian is profoundly changed at the heart level and this changes everything about how we interact with others. And this is where so many well meaning Christians are robbed of the joy of the kingdom. We focus more on how we get in than actually being in.
I have a child who loves everything about planes. He knows all kinds of planes and we use an app that tells us where planes overhead are coming from. His dream is to see an Airbus 380. He especially loves to fly in planes. Now, what if we went to the airport and he is more excited about the check in desk than the airplane? The check in desk is our forgiveness of sin, but our pureness of heart is the plane ride. Our pureness of heart allows us to enjoy the kingdom now.
Thirdly, Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Matthew 5:9. Can I just tell everyone to read Curt’s book? The kingdom of God is parked by peace, so those called sons of God are champions of peace. I want us to see three quick things about peace.
First, it can come at a cost to ourselves. It certainly did for Jesus. Peace can often mean that we have to let go, forgive, overlook or be willing to just be wronged. Second, peace doesn’t mean we are a doormat. Sometimes peace comes from being willing to say the hard things, but from a loving place. Peace cares about the person, pride cares about the problem. Third, we are pillars of peace, but won’t always happen. Paul says to the Romans that we are to live peaceably with others so far as it depends on you. We don’t control all the pieces, but we are faithful to work for peace with what we do control. Are you the kind of person that brings peace where you go or the kind of person who brings strife where you go?
We are merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers and, finally, Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. So, you can see we are ending where we began: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The same words that form a bookend on the beatitudes. If we are a Christian, we will experience persecution.
Now, this verse has been more misunderstood than any of the others. Notice that it says persecution for righteousness sake. Sometimes we are persecuted because we are condescending jerks and there is no blessing for that. We can be so quick to call something persecution that we really just bring on ourselves. I had the opportunity while in Little Rock to visit the Bill Clinton Presidential Library and there was this whole room devoted to one scandal in particular and the name of this room was “A President Under Persecution.” I remember thinking, “I’m pretty sure the word is prosecution.”
The people who bomb abortion clinics and shout horrible things to people on college campuses all over the US look at this verse and think they are blessed because they are opposed. The opposition they experience they brought on themselves and there is no blessing for that. Jesus clarifies in verse 11 that the blessing is for those persecuted ‘on my account.’
So what does it mean to be persecuted ‘on His account’? It means to be persecuted for being like Jesus. The more we become like Jesus, the more it will expose the inner parts of the hearts of those around us. Paul says that some will e drawn to you like a sweet fragrance and others will be repelled like the stench of death.
Now, I imagine if someone in the Mideast or China is listening to this sermon, they might wonder, what suffering do they experience in Orlando? And that really is a fair question. By God’ grace, we have largely been spared the kind of persecution here that has sent countless brothers and sisters to jail and worse. But that doesn’t mean we are not persecuted.
I can’t get around the inevitability of Paul saying Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, - 2 Timothy 3:12 or For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, - Philippians 1:29. Or look at what Jesus Himself says Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. - John 15:20
I think Paul, Peter, Matthew and Jesus would all agree that even in the most tolerant of countries, the cross would still be an offense. So, we need to ask ourselves two questions. On one hand, are we mistaking opposition for persecution? Are we thinking we are blessed when maybe we aren’t? On the other hand, are we experiencing any persecution at all? If there is no pushback on your faith, we have to question what kind of faith it is. How Christlike you really are. There is this story I got form a commentary this week about the church father, Tertullian. A man came to him because his business interests conflicted with is loyalty to Jesus and he asked, “What can I do? I have to live!” To which Tertullian responded, “Do you?” Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.
Those are the eight ways you achieve kingdom blessings. Four have to do with our vertical relationship and four with our horizontal relationships. But what exactly are the blessings? Let’s finish super briefly by looking at the promise of the kingdom.
III. The promise of the kingdom
One promise containing six things. Either all of it is ours or none of it. The promise is comfort, earth ownership, satisfied righteousness, abounding mercy, a vision of God and the title ‘sons of God.’
And if I have any English majors out there, you might be wondering when exactly do we get this promise? The kingdom is in the present tense, but the other six parts to the promise are in the future tense. So, is it now or in the future? Yes. The answer is both. What theologians for centuries have called the already/not yet.
We receive all of the promise in part now and fully when Jesus returns. Let me ask this question, why does Jesus care that the people in His kingdom display kingdom qualities now? If we can’t answer that question, we don’t really understand how Jesus is bringing about His kingdom. There is a day when Jesus is coming back and fully restoring His kingdom here, but we can fall into this trap of thinking that that is the first day of the new kingdom.
The coming of His kingdom isn’t an immediate event, it is a progressive event with a dramatic end. The kingdom is very much here and now. Every person Jesus claims for Himself is one more step toward His kingdom being established here. He claims us, he changes our hearts and He puts us on kingdom mission. We are now ambassadors making bold and loud statements about who the King is. And our bold and loud statements will often be made through quiet and compassionate acts of mercy or behind the scenes peacemaking. But make no mistake, the kingdom is here now and the more we live according to the economy of the new kingdom, the more we will experience kingdom blessing until the day Jesus comes back and we see the King and His Kingdom fully and eternally.
The Christian life isn’t an easy one. But Jesus wants us to hear that when we live according to His kingdom economy, we are blessed. He looks at us and says “way to go! Congratulations. Yours is the kingdom and all that comes with it.”