Summary: It is better to prize what the world calls undesirable than to have what the world calls desirable.
About six months after Jesus began his public ministry, he called his growing number of disciples to himself and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles (Luke 6:13). Jesus chose the apostles to be with him in a ministry internship so that he could equip them to carry on his mission after his departure.
After he chose his apostles, Jesus came down from the mountain with them and stood on a level place, where a crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases (Luke 6:17-18a).
Until now, this was perhaps the greatest crowd of people to whom Jesus ministered. Luke recorded Jesus’ sermon for us in what is known today as “The Sermon on the Plain,” or what commentator Kent Hughes calls “The Sermon on the Level.”
Jesus’ sermon was about the kingdom of God. He drew a contrast between two ways of life. He explained the difference between those who belong to the kingdom of God and those who do not belong to the kingdom of God. Jesus began his sermon by teaching about the blessings of those who belong to the kingdom of God, which is the focus of our study for today.
So, let’s read about these blessings, also know as the beatitudes, in Luke 6:20-23:
20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.
22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets." (Luke 6:20-23)
Jesus’ sermon is about the kingdom of God. Jesus spoke constantly about the kingdom of God. In fact, there are 53 references to the kingdom of God in the four Gospels. He talked far more about the kingdom of God than we usually do.
Jesus never said to anyone, “Receive me as your personal Lord and Savior.” Instead, Jesus routinely urged people to enter the kingdom of God.
In John 3 Nicodemus came to Jesus by night and learned that in order to be saved he needed to be born again. But why did Nicodemus need to be born again? He needed to be born again in order to enter the kingdom of God. In fact, Jesus said it twice in his meeting with Nicodemus.
In John 3:3-5 Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” So Nicodemus said to Jesus, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”
So, what is the kingdom of God? If the whole point of being born again is to enter the kingdom of God, what is it?
Tim Keller answers that question as follows:
Now the kingdom of God can best be understood if we think about what happens when anybody comes into power. When a new president or a new king or a new governor or a new mayor or a new CEO – when anyone comes into power – that person’s new power is expressed through a new administration. The new administration is a new set of priorities and a new set of policies and a new set of strategies, and if the policies and priorities and strategies are wise, if they meet the needs, what happens is there is (I guess the catchphrase today is) “improved quality of life,” and that’s good!
Jesus Christ, though, is the supernatural and ultimate King; and when he comes into power, his power is expressed through a new administration called the kingdom. A new set of priorities, a new set of powers, and a new set of strategies. The effects are far greater than anything we might call “improved quality of life.” The effects are more comprehensive and radical than we can imagine.
To enter the kingdom of God means to submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It means that we submit to his authority and leadership and kingship over every area of our lives.
And when we enter the kingdom of God and Jesus reigns as king over us, we learn that the values in Jesus’ kingdom are totally different than the values of this world.