Matthew 4:23-25, 5:1-48
We’ve talked about satan’s modern work being that of deception, distraction, and misinformation. Now we have a Biblical movie produced and directed by atheists: Noah. It never uses the word “God” or any of its variants and the producer says this is the most unbiblical biblical movie ever produced. Why would we expect satan to be satisfied twisting society and morals when he can go right to the word of God?
Eric Elder and The Ranch publish a daily online devotional called This Day’s Thought. They had a quote from an unknown author that went along with our Harlem vs. Hollywood mission discussion last week: “The most important missionary journey a person can make is to walk next door.” If we are going to transform OUR culture, we have to be in OUR culture.
Last week: Jim goes off topic, Jesus heals the nobleman’s son, household saved, Jesus returns to Galilee, teaches in the surrounding region and is well accepted, teaches in Nazareth, preaches the gospel to the spiritually poor, heals the brokenhearted, proclaims liberty to the captives, Makes the spiritually blind see and, gives liberty those who are oppressed, teaches Isaiah 61, proclaims He is the fulfillment, refuses to do local miracles for purely spectacular motives, crowd mood changes, mob takes him to a cliff to kill Him, He miraculously walks away, Jesus moves to Capernaum, begins His fundamental message, “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”, calls Peter, Andrew, James, and John to discipleship.
Now that we have seen the foundation of His message, we get a description of His ministry in Galilee.
And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them. Great multitudes followed Him; from Galilee, and from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan. (Matthew 4:23-25)
Teaching in their synagogues: The customs of the synagogue in that day gave Jesus many opportunities to teach, because they would often give a visitor – especially a distinguished one – a chance to speak. “After the address there came a time for talk, and questions, and discussion. The synagogue was the ideal place to get a new teaching across to the people.” (Barclay)
Teaching . . . preaching the gospel of the kingdom: The difference between teaching and preaching is one of emphasis and manner, not of content.
“Preaching is the uncompromising proclamation of certainties; teaching is the explanation of the meaning and significance of them.” (Barclay)
All kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease: Jesus’ ability to heal those with all different kinds of diseases demonstrates that He has authentic power over the damage done by the fall of man. His authority over demons (and those who were demon-possessed) shows He has authentic power over all creation.
This is the first mention of the demon-possessed in the New Testament, and the concept is rarely recorded in the Old Testament (Saul was one example, who was troubled by a spirit, as in 1 Samuel 18:10, 19:9). There is more record of demon possession in the New Testament than either in the Old Testament or in the contemporary western world. Why is that?
· Some believe that God gave the devil greater allowance to afflict man in this way, to give greater evidence of Jesus’ credentials as Messiah.
· Some believe that God allowed the devil a greater allowance to afflict man in this way to rebuke the Sadducees, who did not believe in supernatural beings such as angels and demons.
· Some believe that there was no greater allowance in those days at all, and that there is the same amount of demon possession today, although it is not recognized as such. Maybe we just call it mental illness.
· Some believe that there is simply far less demon possession in cultures that have been under the influence of the gospel for hundreds of years, and far more in pagan cultures.
· Some believe that Satan himself is not interested in a strategy of widespread demon possession of humans in the contemporary western world, because he finds anonymity and spiritual skepticism more effective tools. Imagine how we would be turned off from satan if we routinely saw “The Exorcist” or “Amityville Horror” type demon possession. We’d all run away from that. Satan is now more effective avoiding that and concentrating on deception and, most importantly, distraction.
Great multitudes followed Him: Jesus had a purpose for allowing such dramatic miracles to attract great multitudes. He wanted to teach the multitudes, not simply to impress them with miracles. “Christ’s fame spread very far doubtless, because of the good he did, and the miracles he wrought . . .” (Clarke)
Jesus gave us many signs. When Jesus looks down at the billboard of our life, what sign does he see us showing Him?
Once a person becomes a Christian their life should be characterized by love. God should see a big billboard of love. Our commandment, and our commission is love.
Remember when a U.S. cable network started broadcasting an Al Jazeera network feed and Christians come out of the woodwork to hold up a sign of hate and derogatory comments. How is that showing love when Al Jazeera represents 48% Christians and only 41% Muslims? We don’t even know what we are talking about but we already hate it. Is their coverage any worse than MSNBC? Two of the funniest TV shows I’ve seen were on Al Jazeera: a sports center format with x-jocks getting all emotional and animated over sports replays but, they are dressed in bright white tunics and Ghutra and ropes. The other was the Three Stooges dubbed in Arabic with English subtitles. I never thought you could make the Stooges any funnier but this was funny, speechless funny.
But, if we want a pure billboard of love, without our petty little moments of hateful political and religious thoughts, what is on it?
1. Love of God
Above all, our love should be directed to God. In the Old Testament this was made clear.
Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength (Deuteronomy 6:4,5).
When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment, He emphasized that God should be loved above all.
Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’ (Matthew 22:36,37).
How can we be a sign that we love God? Simple. We keep His commandments.
If you love Me, you will obey what I command (John 14:15).
2. Love The Believers
First and foremost, the Christian is characterized by the love they show to fellow believers.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I do you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another (John 13:34,35).
Peter wrote: Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king (1 Peter 2:17).
3. Love The Unbelievers
The believer also needs to show love for the unsaved. The Bible says that God showed His love to the world by sending Jesus.
For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
4. Love Your Neighbor
We are also commanded to love our neighbor. Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:36-39).
We love our neighbor by keeping the commandments that effect those close to us. For example, we should provide for our family.
We should also help with the needs of fellow believers.
Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality (Romans 12:13).
We are also to love widows and orphans. The list goes on and on.
Our sign to God should be a huge billboard of love.
The sign of the Christian is love. First, we are to love God. Next we are to love our fellow believer. Finally, we are to love the unbelieving world.
Now we answer this weeks burning questions: Who are blessed? Am I on that list?
Matthew 5 is the Great Manifesto of the kingdom of God. The beatitudes tell us qualities and experiences God values and wants of those in the kingdom of heaven. It is present tense! Each blessing is associated with a promise. Each ‘condition’ makes it easier to focus on God.
The Sermon on the Mount was addressed to the disciples but, multitudes were also there. There are not two doctrines, one for the disciples and one for the masses, like Buddhism. This is one message meant for us all.
The first section contains the Beatitudes. Matthew 5:3-16 The Beatitudes place the emphasis on what we are as opposed to what we do. Matthew 5:17-48 deals with the relationship of Jesus to the law. Matthew 6 deals with our relationship with God, and Matthew 7 deals with our relationship with man.
Matthew 5 – The Sermon on the Mount
Jesus prepares to teach His disciples.
And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. (Matthew 5:1)
When He was seated: This was the common posture for teaching in that culture. It was customary for the teacher to sit and the spectators to stand. At Kyle Field at Texas A&M, it is traditional for spectators to stand whenever player are on the field.
Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: (Matthew 5:2)
The verb translated “taught” describes repeated and habitual action, and the translation means: “This is what he used to teach them.” This was not a one-time sermon and was likely the core of His other messages.
These Beatitudes, blessings, list seven characteristics that make up the Christian character. The eighth Beatitude deals with the reaction of the world to these traits. These characteristics are all interrelated and progressive. The Beatitudes are not natural characteristics, and they actually create a sharp distinction between the Christians and non-Christians in the things we should admire and the things we should seek.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)
“Blessed” in the Greek means “Oh, how happy!” True happiness is a byproduct of a right relationship with God. The first three Beatitudes have to do with our response to the revelation of God (Romans 7:9; Luke 18:11). This first characteristic of the child of God is a foundation that God can build upon. God cannot build upon the foundations of pride, self will, or our own ambitions. God’s process is usually that of emptying before filling (Luke 2:34; Jeremiah 1:10). A man who is truly poor in spirit will not be admired by the world (Luke 16:15). “Poor in spirit” indicates a willingness to surrender to the authority and control of God. We will not be making demands, because we’re unworthy and undeserving (Genesis 32:10). Poverty of spirit is a consciousness of our own sinfulness and spiritual poverty (Isaiah 6:5; Daniel 10:8; Luke 5:8; Jeremiah 17:9-10; Psalms 8:3-4). The way to happiness is poverty of spirit (Luke 18:10-14; Matthew 7:13).
The poor in spirit recognize that they have no spiritual “assets.” They know they are spiritually bankrupt. This beatitude is first, because this is where we start with God.
Occasionally, I will quote Charles Spurgeon. He died in 1892. He was a Strict and Particular Baptist (that was actually the name of the denomination), and preached at the New Park Street Chapel in London. It is said that his oratory skills held his listeners spellbound and it is estimated that he preached to 10 million people in his lifetime. I like him because of his generally precise exposition, his penetrating thought, and his creative turn of phrase.
“A ladder, if it is to be of any use, must have its first step near the ground, or feeble climbers will never be able to mount. It would have been a grievous discouragement to struggling faith if the first blessing had been given to the pure in heart; to that excellence the young beginner makes no claim, while to poverty of spirit he can reach without going beyond his line.” (Spurgeon)
The godly reaction to poverty of spirit is mourning. We mourn our poverty of spirit.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)
Blessed are those who mourn: The Greek grammar indicates an intense degree of mourning. Jesus does not speak of casual sorrow for the consequences of our sin, but a deep grief before God over our fallen state.
For they shall be comforted: Those who mourn over their sin and their sinful condition are promised comfort. God allows this grief into our lives as a path, not as a destination.
The next step: meekness.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5)
When we realize the truth about ourselves, our attitude towards others is one of meekness. Meekness is related to lowliness (Matthew 11:29; Ephesians 4:2), gentleness (2 Corinthians 10:1; Titus 3:2), and learning the Word of God (James 1:21; Isaiah 61:1). We are to seek meekness (Zephaniah 2:3). In the Greek the word for “meek” means “a happy medium between two extremes.” Meekness is moderation. It’s balance. A meek person can have anger when others are treated unjustly, but not be angry when he is unjustly treated (Mark 3:1-5; John 2:13-16). The Jews didn’t expect their Messiah to be meek. They were anticipating Him to overthrow the Roman government by force. Meekness is having others see the truth about ourselves and giving honor to others (Philippians 2:3). A meek person has learned that happiness doesn’t lie in his possessions, but in a relationship with God (Philippians 4:11). We have examples in the Bible of men that were called meek: Abraham (Genesis 13:5-9, 21:22-34); Moses (Numbers 12:3); David (1 Samuel 24); Stephen (Acts 7:59-60); Paul (Acts 26:21-22); Jesus (Philippians 2:5-8; John 4:34; Mark 14:36).
When we think we are strong, we are our weakest, because we are not leaning on God’s strength. As the reverend Billy Ray Collins of the Sword of Joshua Full Gospel Pentecostal Assembly says, “lean on Jesus before he leans on you”.
For they shall inherit the earth. What do we get for acting in moderation and balance? We inherit the earth.
The desire of the one who has poverty of spirit, mourning for sin, and meekness: righteousness.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” (Matthew 5:6)
The first three Beatitudes were the emptying process. Now we come to seek for an answer to our helplessness. In the Greek this verse denotes one of desiring, not just a portion but all of the righteousness of God. The primary purpose of the Church isn’t to take care of symptoms such as starvation and crime, but to bring the Gospel to men so that they will be brought into a position of hungering and thirsting for righteousness. Hungering and thirsting is such a vivid analogy. Righteousness cannot be achieved in our own strength; it is only standing before God.
Christians are very human and we sometimes hunger after power, authority, success, comfort, happiness, etc. We’re not to hunger after these things but to hunger and thirst after righteousness. Blessed is the man, not who is righteous, but who hungers after righteousness. It isn’t necessarily righteousness itself that brings happiness (1 Kings 8:18). It is the passionate pursuit of righteousness.
“He does not hunger and thirst that his own political party may get into power, but he does hunger and thirst that righteousness may be done in the land. He does not hunger and thirst that his own opinions may come to the front, and that his own sect or denomination may increase in numbers and influence, but he does desire that righteousness may come to the fore.” (Spurgeon)
For they shall be filled: Jesus promised to fill us up. As much as we can hold. Hunger is a unique analogy because food both satisfies us and also keeps us longing for more.
I can relate to this emptying and filling because the first year of architecture school is emptying: unlearning the limits we’ve been taught in the prior 12 years and unlearning the creative thought stifling mind set of public education. Only then, are we ready to be filled and, if don’t hunger and thirst for architectural knowledge and skill, we won’t make through the degree. It is not something you can do casually.
It would be unfortunate, if your are in a class taught by an architect, that you didn’t pick up something architectural. I’ll answer a couple of comments we hear too often. “Oh, I can’t draw a thing!” Picasso couldn’t draw either. The worse you draw, the more boldness is required. As clumsy as your drawing may be, own it. Picasso started a whole movement because he couldn’t draw. As clumsy as your righteousness is, own it passionately. Live and breathe is and start your own movement. Another thing that is often said is, “I can’t even draw a straight line!” Well, of course not. There is a trick. Our lines are naturally curved because of our natural motions. We put the pen down and our eyes follow it as it moves across the page. Put the pen down and look at where you want it to go instead of where it is. The pen follows the eye and goes straight to the destination rather than the eye following the pen as it wanders off the page. With righteousness, if you look where you, the pen, are now, you are satisfied: you are not hungering and thirsting for more righteousness. IF you are hungering and thirsting for righteousness, you are looking a the next destination of the pen and your path will be straight.
The last thing, “I don’t see how you come up with all these things – I just have no creativity.” I didn’t have a suitable response to this until just a few years ago. I spent most of my life being creative but couldn’t adequately define it. It’s like walking with God: I do it but I still can’t explain it in a way that does it justice. There are zillions of books and articles about being creative. Don’t waste your time on them. If they worked, we’d all be creative. Creativity is a natural, God given gift to all of us but, society takes it away when we learn there is no Santa Claus. When you grasp creativity, it is so elegantly simple – like the creation of the universe. What do you see on this table? My cup of water, my notes. That is what you are taught to see. What about the bowl of green apples, what about the glitter from someone’s scrapbooking effort, what about the crossword puzzle may friend Doug is scratching his head over? Creativity is only five words: seeing what is not there.
When we decided to re invent the toothbrush. We saw the white film of residual toothpaste on wherever we routinely put the brush. If we put it in a slot, there is a nasty white coating of white muck on it. If we put it in a cup, there is soon a pick slime growing on the bottom of the cup. We’ve all seen it. But, Pierre saw what wasn’t there: a little suction cup on the bottom of the handle so the brush stands up and sticks wherever you put it so nothing touches the bristles. We see a big cardboard box and it is just a big cardboard box. To a five year old, it’s a submarine to cruise with dolphins or a spaceship to the farthest reaches of the unexplored universe. See what is not there. Christians are, by definition, creative. We see the same world everyone else sees but, we also see things that are not visible: Jesus, salvation, redemption, and cleansing. Many people look at a Bible and see a book. We see a spiritual adventure, an odessey, a cosmic pilgrimage, a spiritual expedition. See what is not there – like a young child. That’s faith. There is a reason Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)
Blessing to the merciful.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)
Justice is getting what we deserve. Mercy is not getting what we deserve. Those who show mercy receive mercy. The Greek word for “mercy” has its root in the Hebrew word meaning “to get inside someone else’s skin.” This means that you can totally identify with what he’s seeing, thinking, and feeling (Ezekiel 3:15).
Like the song says, “before you criticize, misuse, or abuse, walk a mile in his shoes.” That always works because then you are a mile away from your problem and you have his shoes.
Being merciful requires sympathy. Sympathy is to suffer or experience the pains and sufferings of others (Luke 10:30-37). Why do Christians suffer? Many reasons but one is so we can learn sympathy and thereby be merciful.
The Beatitudes are like a beacon light that calls us to self-examination. If we’re merciful, then others will be merciful to us (Luke 6:38; 1 Corinthians 11:28,31).
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8)
The word “pure” here refers to a purity that is the result of a washing. The heart is the center of one’s being, the throne of the spirit. The Pharisees were concerned with the outward observances of righteousness (Matthew 15:2). God is concerned with the inner heart (Proverbs 4:23; Jeremiah 17:9). The heart needs to be cleansed (Psalms 51:10). Being “pure in heart” is a work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The Christian has a renewed heart in an unrenewed body (Mark 14:38; Romans 7:15-25; Galatians 5:17; Psalms 103:14).
We can see God in His creation, in the events in history, and in our daily circumstances (Romans 8:28). In the future we shall see God face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12; John 1:18; 1 Peter 1:8; John 6:46; 1 Corinthians 15:53).
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9)
The Jews were longing for the Messiah to lead them in war, to conquer all Gentiles, and to rule the world. Peace is more than a passive existence; it’s a very positive state of good.
A peacemaker is more than one who stops quarrels; he brings good into other people’s lives.
Peacemakers deal with the corrupted issues so that there can be a true state of peace. Jesus was fighting against the corrupted religious system and for peace between man and God (John 2:14-16; Matthew 23:27). Real peace can never be found in a compromise with evil. There can never be a peaceful coexistence with sin (1 Corinthians 5:7; Isaiah 57:20, 48:22).
This is not just living in peace. It is not some personal apathy to conflicts around us. It is actively making peace and keeping peace.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
The character traits described in the Beatitudes are not valued by our modern culture. We don’t recognize or give awards to the “Most Pure in Heart” or “Most Poor in Spirit.” Though our culture doesn’t think much of these character traits, they do described the character of the citizens of God’s kingdom.
God is upfront in telling us that we will suffer and that the world will not react in love and kindness towards us (Matthew 10:16-25; Acts 9:1-16).
To be righteous is to be Christlike. We’ll be blessed for being persecuted because we’re righteous, not because we’re fanatical or stupid (Luke 6:26; 2 Timothy 4:3-4). If you do dumb things, you will be persecuted but that sort of persecution doesn’t count. This is only suffering “for My sake”.
The doctrine stating that Christians only go through suffering and afflictions if they don’t have enough faith is very inconsistent with Scripture. (2 Kings 13:14; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Philippians 2:27; 1 Timothy 5:23). The religious people were the ones who persecuted Jesus, because they were challenged by Him. Sometimes persecution comes from religious circles.
As Christians we should face persecution:
1. By not retaliating against our persecutors (Matthew 5:44; Luke 23:34; Acts 7:60)
2. By not holding resentment against them
3. By rejoicing in the fact that this proves that we are God’s children and have a great reward in heaven (Romans 8:7; Acts 5:40,41). Because we’re His children, our position in His kingdom is secure. We need to remember that we’re His ambassadors on earth, and we represent Christ. We need to remember where we’re going (2 Timothy 4:8). The prophets were persecuted (Acts 7:52). All of the apostles were persecuted for Jesus’ sake. They persecuted Jesus. Persecution has strengthened the Church (Romans 5:3-5).
Where does Jesus want His disciples to display their discipleship? The followers of Jesus should be like salt.
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” (Matthew 5:13)
You are the salt of the earth: Disciples are like salt because they are precious. In Jesus’ day, salt was a valued commodity. Roman soldiers were sometimes paid with salt, giving rise to the phrase “worth his salt.”
You are the salt of the earth: Disciples are like salt because they have a preserving influence. Salt was used to preserve meats and to slow decay. Christians should have a preserving influence on their culture.
You are the salt of the earth: Disciples are like salt because they add flavor. Christians should be a “flavorful” people. We’re to make every experience “taste” better because of our presence.
Salt prevents infection. Christians are to have a antiseptic effect on the sores of the world.
If the salt loses its flavor . . . it is then good for nothing: Salt must keep its “saltiness” to be of any value. When it is no good as salt, it is trampled under foot. In the same way, too many Christians loose their “flavor” and become good for nothing.
The followers of Jesus should be like light.
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)
You are the light of the world: Jesus gives the Christian both a great compliment and a great responsibility when He says that we are the light of the world, because He claimed that title for Himself as He walked this earth (John 8:12 and John 9:5).
Light of the world means that we are not only light-receivers, but also light-givers. We must have a greater concern than only ourselves, and we cannot live only to ourselves; we must have someone to shine to, and do so lovingly.
“Poor world, poor world, it is dark, and gropes in midnight, and it cannot get light except it receives it through us! . . . To be the light of the world surrounds life with the most stupendous responsibilities, and so invests it with the most solemn dignity. Hear this, ye humble men and women, ye who have made no figure in society, ye are the light of the world. If ye burn dimly, dim is the world’s light, and dense its darkness.” (Spurgeon)
Let your light so shine before men: The purpose of light is to illuminate and expose what is there. Therefore light must be exposed before it is of any use – if it is hidden under a basket, it is no longer useful.
“Christ never contemplated the production of secret Christians, – Christians whose virtues would never be displayed, – pilgrims who would travel to heaven by night, and never be seen by their fellow-pilgrims or anyone else.” (Spurgeon)
The figures of salt and light also remind us that the life marked by the beatitudes is not to be lived in isolation. We often assume that those inner qualities can only be developed or displayed in isolation from the world, but Jesus wants us to live them out before the world.
A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden: Jesus wants us to live visible lives that attract attention to the beauty of God’s work in life.
Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand: The idea of a lampstand gives the sense that we are to be intentional about letting this light shine. Even as lamps are placed higher so their light can be more effective, we should look for ways to let our light shine in greater and broader ways.
That they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven: The purpose in letting our light so shine by doing good works is so that others will glorify God, not ourselves.
The three pictures together are powerful, speaking of the effect of Jesus’ disciples in the world:
· Salt is the opposite of corruption, and it prevents corruption from getting worse.
· Light gives the gift of guidance, so that those who have lost their way can find the path home.
· A city is the product of social order and government; it is against chaos and disorder.
People should be able to notice if we are children of God. We should not try to hide our relationship with God. Our good works should draw attention to Christ.
When I read the beatitudes and think of what we should be, I think of Scooby Doo band aids. I carry a box of Scooby Doo band aids in my truck: Not as first aid but as a reminder. Scooby is a character that makes everyone happy. You can’t see Scooby and not see happiness. He’s humble, kind, forgiving, and he makes life better. A band aid heals wounds, it keeps things clean and antiseptic, and it is applied with love. If we could all just be Scooby Doo band aids.
Next week, the law and true righteousness. The relationship of Jesus and the law.