Summary: Jesus declares a range of blessing on those who become his followers.
I wonder did you see or hear all the discussion on Australia Day about what it means to be Australian. We have a quite a few people here who didn’t grow up in Australia. I wonder what they think it is that makes up the Australian Character? You might like to ask them later over lunch. It’s interesting to think about what makes Australians different from those who grew up in other places - Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa. But we’re not going to do that today. We’re going to think about what makes us different as members of the Kingdom of Heaven. Here in Matthew 5 Jesus outlines the sorts of characteristics that are to be found among those who are members of God’s Kingdom.
But first notice the setting. At the end of ch 4 we have a picture of large crowds coming out to hear Jesus and to be healed by him. He’s surrounded by these people. Ministry opportunities everywhere. But then in ch 5, Matthew tells us that when he saw the large crowds he withdrew to the top of a mountain and his disciples came to him. That begs the question, doesn’t it, why does Jesus leave centre stage and withdraw with just his disciples? Why give up the opportunity presented by this huge crowd and limit himself to a few disciples? Well, the answer is that he isn’t on about the centre stage. He’s come to prepare a people to live in God’s kingdom. He knows that this small group of disciples are capable of changing the world if they get their lives on track.
So Jesus withdraws, just far enough away that only those who really want to hear what he has to say will follow. Matthew points out that he goes up a mountain because he wants us to recall Moses going up Mt Sinai to receive the law. The law taught the people of Israel how to live and now Jesus is teaching his disciples how to live.
So Jesus begins to teach them not just how to live if you belong to the kingdom of heaven; but in fact the sorts of lives that become possible as the kingdom of heaven breaks in.
Well the passage we’re looking at today sets the ground work for how to live in God’s kingdom. I’ve divided this into 2 sections: “The Benefits of the Kingdom” and “The Behaviour of the Kingdom.”
1 The Benefits of the Kingdom
Vs 3-6 outline for us the benefits of being in the kingdom. Here we find the kinds of people that the Kingdom of heaven is for.
First of all there are the poor in spirit. Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. So who are the poor in spirit? Let me suggest that they’re those, first of all, who are poor and are weighed down by it. Notice he isn’t saying there’s something intrinsically good about being poor. He isn’t talking about those who choose a simple lifestyle because they think it brings them closer to God. These are those who are brought low by their circumstances. This includes those who suffer from depression, those who feel like failures, those who don't have the spirit to do the sorts of things that the rest of the sermon on the mount calls for. And what does he say about such people? Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven! Isn’t it interesting that Jesus begins this list of blessings with this ultimate statement of the grace of the gospel. Those who feel like they’re failures, who are weighed down by circumstances, who are powerless to help themselves, are the very people who belong in the Kingdom of heaven. If you asked a non-Christian what they’d say to God when they get to heaven, they’d most probably say something like this: “I’ve been a good person. I’ve done the right thing. I’ve always tried to please God.” But notice that that’s not the sort of person that the Kingdom of Heaven is for. The Kingdom of Heaven is for the poor in spirit: those who are failures, those who can do nothing else but cry to God for mercy.
And it’s also for those who mourn. Why? Because they will be comforted. Just as the poor in spirit are welcomed into God’s kingdom, those who mourn can expect God’s comfort.
Well, who are those who mourn? You know people mourn for many different reasons. We mourn the loss of loved ones. That’s obvious. But we mourn other things as well. There are probably some here who are mourning the loss of youth. That’s how I feel whenever I go to the gym these days and realise how much harder it is to lift weights or bend my knees. Others mourn the state of the world: with good cause. Some mourn the state of the human heart, others the state of their own heart. In Jesus’ day the Jews mourned the state of their nation, their subjection to Rome. In some parts of the world today Christians mourn for the suffering caused by persecution. But what do you do when you’re mourning something? Who or what do you turn to? Jesus is saying here, turn to God. Look to his kingdom, because that’s where you’ll find true comfort. Comfort because you know that Christ has overcome death. Comfort because you know that God has promised you a new body that will never wear out, a new heaven and a new earth, where Christ will reign in peace and justice. Comfort because even though your heart may be tainted by sin, Christ has removed that taint through his death on the cross. Comfort because you know that even if you’re suffering here on Christ’s behalf, he has a great reward stored up for you in the Father’s presence for all eternity.