I’ve devoted a lot of time on this blog to exploring what the Bible means when it speaks on “the Kingdom of God”, & so today I thought it’d be a good idea to look at the King – Jesus – and his most popular sermon, the oft-misunderstood “Sermon on the Mount”.
So, one day Jesus made a campaign speech of sorts (it was like he was accepting his party’s nomination, really) while standing on a hill, & a lot of people came to hear him – around 5,000! Jesus took this opportunity to lay out the important stuff.
Here’s the bummer: in spite of the fact that over & over again Jesus’ message is referred to as “Good News”, in our vast wisdom we manage to misrepresent it as yet another new set of laws, which in my book = BAD NEWS.
We read the phrase “Blessed are the Poor”, & say, “Oh, man… I’ve got to become poor in order to be blessed.” We give ourselves something else to do. Never mind that this totally misses the point of Jesus’ teaching… again, His message is about the Kingdom, what it means to enter that Kingdom through faith in Him, & that process that results in being transformed to new behaviors/actions flow out of being in a right relationship with HIM!
When we work SO HARD to DO, we usually end up looking down our noses at any who DON’T – in reality, THAT is SIN
You see, when we work SO HARD to DO, we usually end up looking down our noses at any who DON’T – in reality, THAT is SIN; we are living as thought the Gospel were a mere program of sin management – trying to juggle a bunch of rules, breaking as few as possible, hopefully to catch God on a good day when we die so – WHEW – we don’t go to Hell! New adventures in missing the point.
At the heart of Jesus’ message is that what it means to be truly Human is not so much about making sure our public choices don’t offend religious people, but it’s about learning to live who you are – having your identity transformed by being adopted into the ROYAL FAMILY – God’s family! God isn’t about rules as much as relationship – His heart is not for conformity but TRANSFORMATION!
Let’s look at his message:
“Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’“
We look at that as a check-list of spiritual attainment – we try to become “spiritually poor” so we can gain access to that Kingdom… with little clue as to what “spiritually poor” actually is, or for that matter, the Kingdom of God. And we wonder why we’re so confused: as author Dallas Willard was wise to point out in this, we are trying to create a condition within ourselves that we think will earn a reward from God.
THAT’S NOT THE POINT! That’s not grace, it’s law – that’s us doing the very things that Jesus came to STOP! Remember: this is good news! This is not prescriptive – it’s descriptive: Jesus is actually describing those he saw around him, & letting them know this transformative truth: GOD IS HERE WITH YOU, RIGHT NOW – you are BLESSED.
Jesus was speaking to the crowd and was describing what he saw.
He saw a lot of spiritually poor people. He saw the misfits and outcasts. He saw those who did not have it together. They were blessed because God had come to THEM right there, in that moment, where they were…in the person of Jesus.
Jesus is saying; “I see you – I see you where you are – I see you AS you are… and I’m HERE… God is HERE WITH YOU! You are BLESSED! You THINK your brokenness, your destitution, your depression, your anger, your bitterness – you believe you are CURSED, but it’s not TRUE! God is HERE – I am here WITH YOU!“
And quite literally, He was – He is.
Jesus turned everyone’s expectations upside down. They had thought that if they were rich or did everything right – they took that as a sign that God was blessing them. But, Jesus said “NO!” to all of that that – our state of blessedness is not dependent upon what we do but upon who God is. The facts are; He has come to us, even the spiritually destitute – even those who mourn.
Don’t believe the lie: you can’t earn God’s love – you can’t earn His blessings. Those blessings comes through Jesus – if we know Jesus, we’ve got them. The Good News of the Kingdom is that JESUS IS KING, & the King has come …even to the broken …especially to the broken.
This is a good King’s invitation to enter his Kingdom. There is no one too far – there is no one too lost – there is NO ONE so broken, that God will not come to them… that He will not pursue – who are not welcome! No, you’re not ‘better’ for being poor, but – and this is a BIG BUT, especially in Jesus’ day – you are certainly no worse for it! No matter how down-and-out you may feel, Jesus is here, & his rule & reign are available, even in life circumstances that seem utterly beyond all hope! THIS IS GOOD NEWS!
So, where are you? What area of your life feels utterly hopeless? What do you think God’s active rule & reign in your life will look like?