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Matthew 5:1-12, Week 1

What is the blessed life?

Sermon Notes + Quotes

We study through books of the Bible. If you wanna lift up your hand for a paper copy, someone will bring one around to you so you can follow along with the text this morning, and we are gonna survey a few different texts. So it would be good if you had one in front of you today. 

So for today, and for the next two weeks, we’re gonna give particular attention to what we in our English Bibles call The Beatitudes as we just heard read. The Beatitudes which comes from the Latin word beatus which means blessed or happier, the condition of blessedness, not happiness in the narrow way that we might think or use that word today, but rather think of it this way, a heart or a soul that is flourishing. A heart or a soul that’s flourishing. 

And I’m so grateful that The Beatitudes were just beautifully read for us by several of our fellow TVC’ers and we’ll hear a few more next week. This series of statements that we call The Beatitudes serve as an introduction to perhaps the most famous sermon in all of history, the Sermon on the Mount and what a gift it is that we by opening up this Book this morning, we in this room and those who are joining us online can sit at the feet of King Jesus and learn from Him as He teaches His disciples and through them us what His kingdom is like and what kingdom people are like. And we have the opportunity to respond to the gracious invitation to live as those who belong to that kingdom. 

This morning will be a little bit different in that we’re gonna begin with a brief bird’s eye overview of the Sermon on the Mount as a whole. And then later we’ll zoom in a little closer to those Beatitudes that introduce the Sermon on the Mount. Sometimes like a piece of art, it can be helpful and instructive to give a look at the whole, to see how all the pieces fit together before we’re able to savor the individual parts of the whole. 

So, speaking of artwork right here on the screen, this is an engraving from 19th century French artist, Gustav Dore. And I show this detail of his engraving to situate us, to locate us in the text that was just read, the text says that Jesus left the crowds. Did you hear that? He left the crowds and He went up the mountain, interesting. Kings of this world, politicians of this world, some religious celebrities would go towards the crowd, go towards the more followers on social media. Jesus goes up the mountain, away from the crowds, at least for a season. And He begins to teach His disciples. And by the time we get to the end of the Sermon on the Mount, which we’ll study in a few weeks, chapter seven of the book of Matthew, the text says the crowds were with them again. So Jesus and His disciples go up the mountain and the crowds apparently follow and it says that they were astonished at this teaching. So we can speculate that the crowds followed them up on the hillside. And it’s likely some of the figures that you see here on this engraving, Gustav Dore, the ones that are in the brighter light are likely the disciples that the text speaks about. At least most of them. And then a few that are in the dimly, more dimly lit would be the crowds. And you’ll notice that some are closer to Jesus. Some are further away from Jesus. And the text also said that Jesus sat down to teach as this image shows us. And that would be the posture of a great teacher, of a legislator who has something important to say. It’s a little bit different than today. Today if somebody has something important to say they would stand up, but in that time, they would sit down. Cause there was something important. 

We don’t know the exact location of the sermon, but the text does indicate that it was on a Galilean hillside, but they call a mountain near where His ministry began, which we studied last week. And it likely would’ve been a beautiful scene and I’m speculating a little bit here, but perhaps as He’s teaching, as He’s on the hillside, He’s looking over Lake Tiberius or what they would call the sea of Galilee. And this is a picture of the sea of Galilee that I got to take when we went with TVC a few years ago and that’s on the Western side looking towards the East, which again, I’m speculating, but perhaps Jesus was looking over this beautiful scene with that view in particular looking towards the East. 

What an honor and a privilege it is we have to mine the treasures of Jesus’ teaching. I hope we have ears to hear this morning. I hope I have ears to hear. So let’s pray and we’ll get started. 

Lord, as we’ve already heard your word read, as we continue to study it this morning, help us to indeed ears to hear that we may truly understand, and that understanding we might believe and believing we might follow in all faithfulness and obedience following you and as we come to follow you, and to know you, may we know with know you with such intimacy as we just sang that our ears are tuned to your voice. And that Holy Spirit would empower us to walk in faithfulness and obedience. In Jesus name we all said, Amen. 

Several years ago, maybe 15 or 16 years ago, I was invited to serve on a ministry event. It was a cruise in the Caribbean, a Christian ministry event in the Caribbean. And I really had to pray about it. I thought it was a pretty big sacrifice, but this kind of a ministry event, maybe you’ve been on one. We went out of Florida and we went to several different Caribbean islands. And in between the ports of call and in the evenings, you would have worship services and you’d have guest teachers and guest Bible teachers. And it was a really cool event. The distinctive about this particular cruise though, was that it was a mother daughter cruise, women only. And so it was me and a couple of other guys on a boat of 2,000 women. And, of course, the employees on the boat and it was a great trip, but believe it or not, I actually was kind of bored because my wife and I were not yet married and so she couldn’t join me on this trip. So there wasn’t someone to share this experience with. So one day I just decided I’m gonna get up in the morning when we get to this island and I’m gonna rent a car and I’m gonna explore the island on my own. I’m gonna see this place. So I get off the boat and we get to the port and I get the car, put my seatbelt on and I pull out and I get on this little small highway. And then I noticed and I distinctly remember this thought popping to my head. I noticed these cars pulling over and they’re waving at me wildly. And I distinctly remember thinking, “Man, these folks are friendly. This is a very, very friendly island nation. You know, I could see myself here.” Well, after a couple of minutes, after many people were pulling over and waving wildly at me I realized that I was driving the wrong direction on the wrong side of the highway. Thankfully I pulled over and I got to see the rest of the island, but hopefully not with that much drama, but maybe you’ve had some similar experience when you’ve been to another land, a foreign country. If you’ve been to England or California or the nation of Texas. There’s something, when we leave our home and we go to a new place, the air is different. Sometimes the roads are a little bit different, the food might taste different, sometimes better. Sometimes not quite as good. When we’re away from home, the land that we’re in, the vernacular is not quite the same. The accent is not quite the same. We’re not home. 

When Jesus sits down to teach His disciples on that Galilean hillside, Jesus begins to unpack the shape of what His kingdom looks like. He’s showing His disciples and us what His kingdom looks like. If you would turn into chapter five of the gospel of Matthew, we’re gonna look just real quick at verse two, I’m gonna be reading from the English standard version, just verse two. “And He opened His mouth and He taught them.” 

The same mouth that spoke the world into existence. Let there be light. That word made flesh Jesus Christ begins to answer some of the most fundamental questions that philosophers, accountants, woodworkers, fishermen, plumbers, and everyone in between have been asking throughout all of history. And we’re asking it today. How can I be happy? What is the good life? Roman philosopher Cicero would pose this question. What is the summum bonum? What is the ultimate good? Or what is the highest good? Our culture persistently attempts and we know this, attempts to throw some of these questions. Here are two current bestseller book titles that I think reveal at least a little bit of our culture, and how we try to approach these questions today. First book title, “The How of Happiness” subtitle, “A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life That You Want”. The second book title, “The Happiness Equation”, subtitle “Want Nothing Plus Do Anything Equals Have Everything”. First of all, I have no idea what that means. And I don’t wanna disparage these two. That will is actually a number one international bestseller there, “The Happiness Equation” I don’t wanna disparage them. There might be some good common grace there, but it’s indicative of how we are approaching these questions today. A scientific approach to happiness equation, each one of us in one way or another have asked or are continually asking these kinds of questions, where do I go to find meaning, where do I go to find purpose, happiness, or as Jesus would put it and we heard it read, how do I have a blessed life? 

We recognize these longings, of course, from our lived experience, but recent statistics, I think also help reveal the damage that is caused by some of the conclusions that we come to in our culture when we’re trying to answer these questions, the National Alliance on Mental Health, NAMH says this, 19% of US adults, that’s almost one in five, have had an anxiety disorder in the past year. (That’s in 2019 and 2020.) The second leading cause of death for people between ages 10 and 34 is suicide. That doesn’t count attempts. Over 70,000 drug overdose deaths occur in the US annually, every year 70,000. The pornography industry’s annual revenue is more than the NFL, the MLB, the NBA, and the MLB combined. Not to mention that we in the West live in the most materially wealthy, prosperous, safe, have more access to information than at any time in history, yet we still ask the question, how can I be happy? And don’t hear what I’m not saying, we should never oversimplify the reasons for much of the damage that we’re doing to ourselves, but we certainly can recognize in this room today that our hearts are longing for something. And the hashtag #blessedlife that the world has on offer is coming up empty over and over and over again.

So if you remember last week in the study of chapter four, Jesus’ first words of preaching were what? Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. That word repent is an invitation to follow Him in this blessed life that He begins to describe in His great Sermon on the Mount. Jesus begins to teach, not simply as a philosopher, although there’s never been a better one, but as one with the authority of heaven, His teaching is not just another salad bar choice for us to consider in our quest for the hashtag blessed life. It’s a radical call to turn around and follow Him. Repentance, metanoia, means to turn from where we were going and go the other way. The other direction of the highway. The call to repentance that Jesus begins with His ministry; here is an invitation to come home to His kingdom. 

Saint Augustine, you may have heard this quote before said it this way in his book “Confessions” you have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they find the rest in you. 

And we don’t need stats to prove that, but I think it’s helpful for us to see how we’re approaching these questions today. Matthew, the gospel writer is an accountant and he’s a brilliant writer and he’s very careful in how he arranges and he puts together his account of the life and the ministry of Jesus. The Sermon on the Mount spans what we call chapters five through seven of the 

Gospel of Matthew. And although there is some debate as to whether this is a single sermon or whether it’s a summation of many of Jesus’ teaching, the text does seem to situate the sermon in a particular place with a particular people. So if you would open up your Bibles, we’re gonna look just a little bit before chapter five at 4:25, and then we’re gonna skip ahead. 

So, chapter 4:25, just to set this up, and great crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis and from Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan. So these are the crowds where Jesus started His ministry of teaching, of preaching and of healing. And they follow Him in verse one of chapter five, “Seeing the crowds, He went up on the mountain. And when He sat down, His disciples came to Him.” 

Now, skip ahead if you would a couple of pages to chapter seven, we’re gonna go to the very end of the Sermon on the Mount, 7:28. “When He finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at His teaching for He was teaching them as one who had authority and not as their scribes.” So again, we see the crowds, Jesus goes up the hillside with His disciples and apparently the crowds follow Him. So the text does seem to indicate, it locates this sermon in a particular place with a particular people. It seems to. And I tend to lean towards John Stott and other Bible teachers who think perhaps this sermon was given as a kind of a hillside retreat or a school for his disciples, a session for His disciples, the best semester of “Greenhouse” that there ever was. And we trust and we’re grateful for the Holy Spirit’s work, a superintendent, the writings of Matthew. So again, to give us the context, the Sermon on the Mount, if you remember, comes after the temptation of Jesus in His 40 days and 40 nights of fasting in the very beginnings of His ministry of teaching, of preaching and healing. And as He climbs up this Galilean hillside, we can certainly recognize parallels to Moses who went up on another mountain, Mount Sinai, many years before to receive the law of God for God’s chosen people,

Israel. And Jesus, far greater than Moses, goes up on the Galilean hillside to teach, not as a substitute for the law, but for its fulfillment. And we’ll see that time and again, through the Gospel of Matthew and not just for Israel, not just for Jews, but Jews and Gentiles alike. Every tribe, every tongue will be represented in the Kingdom of Heaven. 

So in other words, this Sermon on the Mount is for you. And it is for me today. As we’ll study in more detail in the coming weeks, the Sermon on the Mount touches every sphere of life. And here are just a few examples: 

  • It teaches us how we relate to God (ch, 5-7) 
    • That’s throughout the entire sermon 
  • How we relate to one another. (5:21-6:4, 7:1-6) 
    • Jesus has very explicit teachings on lust, on retaliation, on greed, 
  • How we should pray. (6:5-14) 
    • This is where the gospel of Matthew teaches us or Jesus, rather, in His sermon teaches us the Lord’s Prayer. 
  • How we should steward our resources (6:1-4, 6:19-24) 
    • Storing up our treasure in heaven 
  • How we should handle anxiety, worry, and fear. (6:25-34) 

The Sermon on the Mount will touch every sphere of life. In other words, Jesus lays out for all of us, a new way to be human. Maybe you could even say it’s the old way. The way things were intended before our sin disordered the world, rebellion against God and His ways. 

A Bible scholar, Scott McKnight says it this way,

“The Sermon on the Mount crystallizes what Jesus gave to His disciples as a new way of life, the kingdom way of life in a world surrounded by the power brokers of empire.” Remember this is the Roman context, the Roman empire here. “From the mountain, the posture of Moses Jesus utters forth God’s will for kingdom people. And as Jesus descended, he gave those who heard the option of following and the same option stands before every reader of the Sermon.”

Scott McKnight

And that’s you, and that’s some me today. If you would, I invite you to, again, turn to Matthew 7, or you might already be there, but seven, we’re gonna go up a little bit, 7:24, And we’re gonna read how Jesus concludes the entire Sermon on the Mount. This conclusion will be instructive in how to approach the teaching as a whole. So, this is how Jesus concludes His Sermon: 

“Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock and the rain fell and the floods came and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand and the rain fell and the floods came and the winds blew and beat against that house. And it fell and great was the fall of it. When Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at His teaching.” 

We’re very familiar with that story. Maybe you even know the song from Sunday school. We read this conclusion of Jesus’s sermon as way of reminding ourselves, that this Sermon is for us

today. Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock, that is king Jesus. Now we should acknowledge this. It can be tempting to read many parts of the Sermon. Like, for example, that was read earlier, blessed are the pure in heart. And it could be tempting to say, “Well, I’m out. I know my heart’s not pure.” It could be tempting to say that, and you might even think this sermon is for someone else or this sermon is for another future time, or it could even lead you to despair. But the good news of who Jesus is and what He has done for us and we’ll see this unfold in Matthew’s gospel as we continue to study. Jesus’s gospel reveals to us at least two things, one, we are all the foolish man building our house on the sand. But two, Christ king Jesus has come precisely for foolish people like me and perhaps like you to call us to repentance, to turn to Him, to follow Him in a new way of building life. All of us are the foolish man until we come to the end of ourselves and realize that we are, as Jesus would put it, poor in spirit, spiritually bankrupt. And we’re in desperate need of the provision of our savior King. As the Hymn writer, Augustus Toplady wrote so beautifully and we sang it just a little bit ago. 

Not the labors of my hands 
can fulfill the law’s demands; 
could my zeal no respite know, 
could my tears forever flow 
all for sin could atone. 
Thou must save, and Thou alone

-Augustus Toplady “Rock of Ages” 

In other words, all of my striving to build this house, ultimately on sand, all of my tears, all of this cannot atone for my spiritual bankruptcy. Thou must save and thou alone. 

The entire Sermon on the Mount is a description of obedience of faithfulness and holiness. Things that cannot be achieved naturally, but for those who come to Him with the empty hands of faith, recognizing their desperate need, this is precisely when Christ calls you blessed. 

Now, let’s look at the beginning of Jesus’ sermon. If you would turn back to five, we’re gonna read this together. It’s already been read for us, but I think it’ll be good for us to read aloud as well. This is the very beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, The Beatitudes. I’m going to read verse two, and then we’re going to read together verses three through six aloud. 

And He opened His mouth and taught them saying: 

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.

(Matthew 5:3-6 ESV) 

We’ll get to the other ones later. What does the word “blessed” mean in this text here? The Greek word uses mercarius, a rich word that certainly includes happiness, but it’s not the flimsy happiness that we think of in this world based on circumstances and happenings. To be blessed in this sense is a recognition of a heart that is flourishing. A life of wholeness, of right relationship between the king and other kingdom people. The Old Testament way of expressing it would be Shalom. And there are eight or nine Beatitudes depending on how you break them up. And we’ll continue to study this over the next two weeks. And there’s a pattern to the Beatitudes, I don’t know if you noticed this, but there’s a: 

  1. Pronouncement of blessedness. 
  2. Condition of heart. 
  3. Reward or benefit 

Notice, it’s not a condition of behavior in the beatitudes. So there’s a pronouncement of blessedness, there’s a condition of heart and then a reward or a benefit. Blessed, number one, are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. The condition of heart, what’s the reward? That they will be satisfied. The first and the last of the Beatitudes are similar in that they both have a present tense reward. Did you catch that? Theirs is the kingdom of heaven. At the first and at the last. And that parallel indicates to us that from start to finish, these Beatitudes are to be taken as a whole. These don’t describe different people. Some people don’t have the gift of meekness and some the gift of purity and the gift of hunger and righteousness. No, this is a summation of what the hearts of everyone who’s a part of the kingdom should and can look like as they grow in holiness following Jesus, not perfectly. Don’t hear me say that. Cause we’ll see the disciples undulate in their faithfulness and obedience. None of these descriptions of authentic Christian character are natural. They aren’t something that we can work up on our own. They are a gift of transforming grace and that is on offer for us in this room today, where you’re sitting, where you’re watching from home. The gospel writer, John, would describe it this way, to be born again. If Apostle Paul would use another description, he would tell the church at Corinth: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, and he meant it. A new creation, as a new creation in the blessed kingdom and is by grace that my affections changed. My values changed to conform to the values of the King. And I keep returning to that well of transforming grace that continues to renovate my heart. So I can begin to live as someone who belongs to the kingdom. If you follow Christ this morning, do you believe that’s true? That you are a new creation? I hope you do. 

The Beatitudes are not an entrance requirement for salvation, they are a result of the gift of salvation. It’s so important to look at what comes first in the list of Beatitudes. If you look there at verse three, the first one, blessed of the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. What does that mean? The Greek word tocos as we translate in English as poor, it describes someone who is crouching, who is begging, who is destitute. Put another way. Blessed are you when you come to the end of yourself, and you realize that you are spiritually bankrupt, penniless and are in need of outside help. It is the starting point of Christian faith, my friends. It’s also something that followers of Christ since a child or maybe for 80 years, will return again and again and again to this Beatitude to reorient ourselves to the King and to His kingdom and His kingdom values.

To paraphrase Luther, all of life is repentance. But it’s at this starting point in the beatitudes when the Lord lifts our eyes, it’s right there at that point, when we realize our need to be spiritually impoverished, where Christ says yours is the kingdom. It’s good news. 

C.S. Lewis said it this way,

“It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present in us, it is a very sign of His presence.”

-C.S. Lewis

The order of the Beatitudes are important. We can’t properly mourn the fallen condition of our own heart. Blessed are those who mourn. We can’t mourn the disorder of the world if we don’t start at the beginning. We aren’t meek, we don’t hunger for righteousness until we come to the beginning of the Beatitudes. Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are those who realize that they bring nothing to the table. The first Beatitude is the gate through which all the others flow because it’s recognition of our need and the provision of grace. It’s like the prodigal son we read about in Luke’s Gospel. The parable Jesus taught. This son foolishly spent all of his father’s inheritance that he received and fell so far. He fell so far that he longed to be fed the food that his pigs were eating, the pigs that he was tending and he recognized his need. And he returned home with nothing in his hand. Nothing but need. His hope is that he might become a hired servant in his father’s household. Instead his father, in an overflow of his love, wraps his arms around him. And he says, let us eat and celebrate for this my son was dead and he’s alive again. He was lost and now he’s found. 

So put another way. Blessed is my son who came home with nothing in his hands for his is the kingdom. The first Beatitude is not an entrance exam for us to merit our way into the kingdom, it’s an invitation to receive grace. And it’s on offer to all of us in here today. And I hope you hear that. It’s an offer to everyone who’s rebelled in foolishness to all those who have tried to build a 

house on the sand, and that’s myself, and all those who are driving on the wrong way of the highway, and that’s myself, figuratively and literally, all those who realize they’re spiritually impoverished. Christ says, blessed, yours is the kingdom. 

I only have one formal sermon point this morning. (Many of you’re celebrating.) How does the blessed life begin? 

The blessed life begins with need. 

The Sermon on the Mount is the answer to the question. What is the summum bonum? What is the highest good? And it’s a person, King Jesus. He is the way, He is the truth. He is the life. He is the rock on which to build a life on, the Sermon on the Mount is an in to come to Him in repentance and faith. And what do you need to bring? Nothing but need. The Beatitudes, the introduction to the Sermon of the Mount are invitation to this blessed life ordered around the king and ordered around kingdom values, meekness and righteousness, mercy and peace. And listen, sometimes these kingdom values are gonna seem paradoxical. You probably already noticed that there’s a tension there. The way up is the way down. The way to true fulfillment is to deny yourself. The way of blessedness will lead to persecution and suffering. Did you see how the Beatitudes ended? But then it says rejoice. The teaching of Jesus is a loving invitation from our King to enter His kingdom. And we can come with nothing in our hands, but need, when we repent and turn towards Him, we are given a new way of being human. One rooted in who I am now as a new creation, as a person who belongs to the kingdom. Who belongs to the King, who is a beloved child of the king. It’s an invitation to come home. Let’s pray together. 

Lord, this morning we acknowledge our need. And we come to you today, grateful that you have provided a way for us to belong to you and to your kingdom, Hallelujah, what a savior. We pray Holy Spirit, that you would continue your work of cultivating this kind of authentic faith in each one of us, remind us of who we are and who we belong to, Lord. Let us find our rest in you. In Jesus name, we all said. Amen.

(Edited for Reading)

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