Matthew summarizes the entire message of Jesus in a single verse. Check out Matthew 4:17:
From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” — NIV
The “Kingdom of God” is the message of Jesus and the theme in the gospels. Its referred to at least 126 times!
Dallas Willard defines the Kingdom of God like this: “The range of God’s effective will: where God wants done, is done.”
I’ve defined it as a life in the presence of God and under the power, rule and reign of God.
On the heels of announcing the kingdom, Jesus then starts giving personal invitations for people to follow Him.
One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, FOLLOW ME, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him. —Matthew 4:18-20 NLT
They immediately left everything and began to follow Jesus. They became his disciples, apprentices and followers. Verses 21-22 says that the same thing happened to a couple of brothers named John and James (Matthew 4:21-22).
As Jesus gathers his core followers he continues to preach his core message in Verse 23:
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. —Matthew 4:23 NIV
What’s the message? What’s the good news? That the kingdom has come! The “range of God’s effective will is on display. Life in the presence of God and under the rule of God is now possible.” But this time He does more than preach. He takes action. He basically says, “Let me SHOW YOU what the kingdom looks like” and He began to heal the sick and release people from demonic oppression.
News about him spread as far as Syria, and people soon began bringing to him all who were sick. And whatever their sickness or disease, or if they were demon possessed or epileptic or paralyzed—he healed them all. —Matthew 4:24 NLT
This is the setup for the Gospel of Matthew — Jesus ANNOUNCING the KINGDOM OF GOD and then DEMONSTRATING it!
Matthew 4, 8 and 9 are all about ACTION — what Jesus DOES. Sandwiched between those chapters — Matthew 5-7 — is what Jesus SAYS — what he TEACHES.
It’s like Matthew wants us to know that the kingdom of God isn’t one or the other. We need both Jesus’ ACTIONS and His TEACHING.
In Matthew 5-7, Jesus ZOOMS IN and gives us a high definition of what life lived in the presence of God and under the rule and reign of God looks like.
Great sermons have a great intro, and the Sermon On The Mount is no different. It begins with something we call “The Beatitudes”. The name comes from the Latin word for “BLESSED” which is the FIRST WORD of eight RADICAL, UPSIDE DOWN statements Jesus makes.
The word “blessed” is an incredible word, but it’s a really misused and overused word in 2018. It has almost become cliché. But in the Bible, “blessed” is a powerful word! It means something! It describes a group of people who’ve experienced something we all long for.
Blessed — MAKARIOS — blessed, happy, blissful, fortunate, flourishing...
“...the kind of person we envy or want to be like... The person who is our hero...” —Iain Duiguid
“experiencing sacred delight” —Max Lucado
“Blessed” isn’t about the possessions you own, but about [the person God is creating you to be] and the person you are becoming.
In other words: “Blessed” isn’t necessarily about the cash in your bank account, but the character and quality of your life.
So, how do you live “blessed”?
1. Admit you have a need.
We’re spiritually bankrupt and totally dependent on God. That’s the gist of the first Beatitude… God blesses those who are poor…
Poverty is cruel. It breaks people. It’s horrifying. It makes you feel absolutely and completely helpless and hopeless. You crave dignity and dream of some kind of breakthrough. But Jesus isn’t just talking about actual poverty, He’s talking about SPIRITUAL POVERTY.
God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven… —Matthew 5:3 NLT
To be “poor in spirit” means I admit I’m desperate for God! I don’t have anything to offer God. I’m “betting the whole farm” on grace!
2. Accept your brokenness over the pain you’ve experienced and the damage sin does.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. —Matthew 5:4 NIV
“Mourn” is a pretty inclusive word that covers every aspect of mourning. But there is a specific kind of mourning implied here. The Amplified Bible hints at it…
Blessed [forgiven, refreshed by God’s grace] are those who mourn [over their sins and repent], for they will be comforted [when the burden of sin is lifted]. —Matt 5:4 AMP
It’s when we mourn that the Holy Spirit comes to counsel and comfort us.
3. Cultivate humility by relying on God’s strength and not your own.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. —Matthew 5:5 NIV
The word “meek” actually means, “power under control.” It's the opposite of rudeness, harshness and self-assertiveness.
The word for “meekness” is literally the picture of a “horse that has been broken and now under control.” Jesus said, “You’re blessed when you stop relying on your own power, strength and ability, and start relying on God!”
4. Passionately pursue God – His purpose, plan and presence more than anything else.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. —Matthew 5:6 NIV
When a person is really hungry or thirsty, they can’t think of anything else except food and water. Hunger and thirst are compelling... When a person is really hungry and thirsty they are totally and singularly FOCUSED.
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are totally FOCUSED on righteousness, for they will be filled. God is going to give them what they long for and dream about!”
5. Live out the love, forgiveness and kindness you’ve received from God.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. — Matthew 5:7 NIV
The word “mercy” means sympathy that expresses itself in ACTION. We might call it empathy. Jesus says, “You’re blessed when you feel another person’s PAIN and take some action to relieve it. When you give love, forgiveness, mercy and kindness, you are going to receive it... It’s reciprocal.”
6. Keep your motives and attitudes pure.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. —Matthew 5:8 NIV
The word “pure” means unadulterated, unalloyed — not mixed with any foreign substances. In other words, blessed is the person who is completely devoted to God. Who doesn’t have a divided heart. They’ll see God.
7. Build bridges and tear down walls.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. —Matthew 5:9 NIV
Jesus says you’re blessed, not just when you avoid confrontation, because that can ultimately be damaging. You’re blessed when you pursue peace, wholeness, healing and health in your relational world.
8. Don’t give up when you get push back.
You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom. Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble. —Matthew 5:10-12 MSG
Remember: “blessed” isn’t about the possessions you own, but about the person you are becoming.
So, ask yourself…
• Am I completely dependent on God?
• Am I broken over the damage sin does?
• Am I relying on God’s strength or my own?
• Am I totally focused on pursuing God? His purpose, plan and presence?
• Do I feel the pain of people and take action to meet their needs? Am I showing people the love, forgiveness, mercy and kindness I’ve received from God?
• Am I building bridges and tearing down walls?
• Am I committed to making a difference, even if it brings push back?