The Difficult Words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Part II)
Updated: Nov 3, 2020
The words of Jesus seem improbable, maybe even impossible. Yet, Jesus does not alter his discourse. The people who are in God’s kingdom are those who have willfully submitted to His rule. And only these! They have taken the journey from rebellion to God, to children of God.
They have embraced the depth of their alienation to their creator. They have realized that this separation has ripped apart the most important reasons for which God gave us life in His image. They do not hide behind self justification but wholeheartedly embrace His pronouncement of judgement over them.
"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."
So, humbled before God, they mourn their separation from Him. They are restored to Him because Gad has placed His wrath on His Son Jesus. They are in a passionate pursuit of lived out righteousness. “For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s”
As a result of God’s redeeming gift to them, they can give mercy. They are pure in heart. Like their Heavenly Father, they are peacemakers. Taking upon themselves this new and renewed identify, instead of being recognized as moral examples, they are vilified and persecuted.
"Blessed are the merciful, for 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....”
They have openly declared that they are gladly in the line of people and prophets who went long before them.
God is active in the midst of the children of His rule. They receive His kingdom as their reward. He will rule over them and they will know the joy of all that He created, is creating and will create for them in eternity. They will be comforted by God Himself in their mourning. The realization of their true position before God, their embrace of its alienation, is comforted by our King. They rise from the position of prostration, to one of full acceptance. They see God!
As the writer of Hebrews so boldly proclaims, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.’ (Hebrews 4:-12)
Not only do these receive God’s kingdom, they receive the world. Paul Marshall concludes, “This world is our home: we are made to live here. It has been devastated by sin, but God plans to put it right. Hence, we look forward with joy to newly restored bodies and to living in a newly restored heaven and earth. We can love this world because it is God’s, and it will be healed, becoming at last what God intended from the beginning.” (Alcorn, Randy. “Heaven.” Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2004-10-01. Apple Books.)
Made new in Jesus, they are satisfied with righteousness. Having received the mercy that only God can give, they are satisfied, so filled with a holy contentment that they can in turn offer mercy to others. Their interpersonal relationships are transformed.
No longer striving to protect their rights, or positions or worldly wealth, the transforming power of mercy gives them confidence with others. In all of their relationships with others, they are peacemakers, like their Father.
Undoubtedly, all of these descriptions by Jesus seem a bit too superlative to us. After all, there is a daily battle with my flesh! I am yet incomplete. Even Paul asserts that he has not arrived, but is straining towards. Are we expecting too much from people?
Yes and no. No! We have freely received everything pertaining to righteousness because we are reconciled to God. Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ over sin, we are ushered into new life. (See Romans 6). We have been transformed and we are now under the rule of God. Because of Jesus and by the Holy Spirit, we can live a life that looks more like Jesus, every day.
Before this transformation, we only had one possible course of action: rebellion, and we received the fruits of living that way. “For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.”
“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” (Romans 6:20-22, emphasis mine)
So, no we are not expecting too much when we embrace the words of Jesus in Matthew 5.
Even so, we also realize that there is a daily process that has begun. That process demands our attention. For a few very clear reasons we have to plan on maturing. It doesn’t just happen.
First, if we are to grow in distinguishing good from evil as the writer of Hebrews says in Hebrews 5:14, we must learn to recognize our flesh. That part of us, left over even after our death with Jesus, is battling daily against the new person in the core of our being. The Holy Spirit lives there and is influencing us into good, into the life of Jesus. Satan on the other hand is looking to use the world and our inattentive moments to entice the flesh into evil.
Second, we must embrace the many warnings in scripture. One of the most compelling are Paul’s words, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” If there were no danger, there would be no need for us to think about it beforehand. Upon reflection, I am made acutely aware of the danger of my flesh, and the place of protection: put on the Lord Jesus Christ, daily!
Third, time with God in His word everyday is the safest place to live. Let no one deceive us. There is a cost. We give up other things to set a daily rhythm into our lives where we spend time with God in His word. This is the needed emphasis. I am not trudging through time in the Bible. I am expecting to meet my Heavenly Father every time I open His word. The Holy Spirit will help me understand, but my objective is to meet my Father.
These kinds of people, and only these kinds of people, enter into God’s kingdom. It makes total sense. For only these kinds of people want God’s kingdom and want God to rule over them.