Summary: Christ explains the new rules of the Kingdom of God.
The Unveiling of the Kingdom
Sunday, June 18th, 2005
As we continue our walk through the Book of Matthew, we are going to pick up at the tail end of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. For the last several weeks, we’ve been looking at different parts of this sermon, as Jesus lays out the new laws for His kingdom and begins to reveal the purposes behind His coming and give the first hints at just who He really is. The people that surrounded Jesus on the mountainside that day were hearing, for the first time, a teacher who spoke with power and authority, but balanced it with love and compassion as He cast a vision of God’s Kingdom on Earth that was unlike anything that their Jewish faith could offer them. He had begun with the beatitudes and explained what those who were esteemed in this kingdom would look like. Traits like meekness, mercy, and purity would be the standards that all men would be held up to, replacing the outer trappings of religion with the inner issues of the heart. From there, he began to lay out the new laws of the kingdom, again focusing on the heart, on what was on the inside. He looked at murder, adultery, divorce, how we treat our enemies, and explained to the stunned crowd that the act was simply a reflection of the inside and that in His kingdom, because it was the inside that counted, it wasn’t the act that condemned, but the mere thought, even if not acted upon. He is letting them know that no amount of sacrifice, no amount of outward piety, can change the condition of man at his core, we are sinners. That’s why He came!
He continues to look at the inside and addresses the secrets of the Christian life, how we give, how we pray, and how we fast. All things that are to be between us and God and not to be done on the street corners with much fanfare to make sure that everyone can see how spiritual and holy that we really are. It’s in this section that Christ introduces the idea of the “secret closet” of prayer that Richard Burr elaborated on so powerfully last week. A place where there are no distractions and you can fall on your knees before God and receive strength and direction for the coming day.
Things looked pretty bleak for those listening. If they are to believe this teaching, then they certainly would recognize their guilt and shortcomings before a Holy God. But Jesus begins to show what God’s plan is in all of this. We talked a few weeks ago about worry and how Jesus tells the people that even though they are sinful, even though they fall well short of God’s standards, God will care for them, God will provide because in God’s eyes we are the most valuable of all Creation. God will give us a way into this Kingdom. In this passage we have before us today, Jesus unveils the Kingdom and let’s the people know that this will be an equal opportunity kingdom, with the doors flung open wide for all who would believe to enter and to enjoy all of the blessings that God has in store for His children.
When I was young, I thought that I had things pretty good in my life. I used to take advantage of the circumstances that I was born into and use my father’s position of authority to my benefit at any chance I could. I was the stereotypical pastor’s kid, in my limited view of life, my father owned the church, and that meant that I was untouchable. I tested my Sunday School teachers, I tested the children’s church workers. My feelings of privilege extended into other things as well. My grandfather was the district superintendent in this district when I was very young. The DS lives in Rome, NY in a home that borders and overlooks Delta Lake Camp. Every year there was a group that rented out the campgrounds for a week. They brought in all of their own equipment and that included some boats, canoes and kayaks and things like that. I can remember watching them use the boats and really wanting to try one of them, so my friend and I decided to use my lofty position to our advantage. We walked down to the waterfront and asked if we could try a canoe. When they said no, I pulled out my ace and told them that my grandfather owned the camp. I didn’t know that this was completely untrue, I figured that just like my dad owned the church because he was the pastor, my grandpa must own the camp because it was part of the district. It worked, they let us take out a canoe for the afternoon to avoid the wrath of the owner of the camp.