Monday, November 04, 2013

Sermon on Matthew 5:1-12, for All Saints' Day, "Blessed are..."

Sermon Outline:
·         The Beatitudes—describes the highest blessing, each begin with “blessed are…” Observations—place and role in the Gospel: opening words of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, perhaps most famous, after the Lord’s Prayer. Addressed to Jesus’ disciples. Kingdom of heaven—is not just a future reality, but present-future. Tension between the now and not yet. (epistle: “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared” 1 John 3:2). Sense of being, but still becoming something greater. Jesus in early chs of Matthew is the King of this kingdom of heaven, created through His teaching. Visit of wise men, gifts for king, John’s preaching: “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”, and then Jesus preaching the same, preceding opening of Sermon on the Mount, and Beatitudes.
·         9 Beatitudes. Simple structure: Blessed are_____, and why are they blessed. 1st & 8th form bookends around the first 8. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” And “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Only repeated blessing, and the only one in present tense—theirs is. All other blessings are future tensethey shall… What does this mean? Present and future aspects of kingdom of heaven. Here now, and ours in Christ Jesus, but many blessings are yet to come. Show what life is like for followers of Jesus in the kingdom now, and what the future reality will be like, especially how they stand before God. One more note: first 8 are “they” (3rd person), the 9th, concluding one switches to “blessed are you”—driving home the point that these beatitudes are spoken to the church, to the believers in Jesus.
·         Purpose? Is it the “program” for us to follow to build the kingdom of heaven? List of moral goals to shoot for? If so, progress hangs on us. If so, failure to reach these high expectations means watching the kingdom slipping away from us. Test: who here is pure in heart? “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Furthermore, the beatitudes about persecution are not something we can seek out for ourselves, but they come upon us. No, this view won’t work—the coming of the kingdom can’t hang on us; our attaining this perfection.
·         Rather, as Jesus had said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The kingdom of heaven hangs on Jesus Christ. He creates it by preaching His Word. We are the recipients of that word and that blessing. So what are these descriptions, and how do they come to apply to us believers?
·         You know how people complain about someone looking at the world through “rose-colored glasses?” Well, the Beatitudes are far from that. They don’t picture a rosy sort of life, but rather that the believer may even face more than their share of difficulty. The Beatitudes, though, are Christ-colored glasses, through which the believer sees their own life in the world in light of Jesus Christ and who He is, and what He has done for us. So put on those Christ-colored glasses and view the kingdom of heaven from Jesus’ perspective.
·         Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Poor in spirit doesn’t mean weak in faith, or running short of the Holy Spirit, but rather means having a humble and sorry heart. That we are not proud, vain, or arrogant. This is the life of Jesus. He was humble and not self-promoting. He assumed our poor and lowly condition as humans, and most fully in His death, so by His poverty, He could make us rich—not in material wealth, but the blessings of His kingdom. He pours out humility in spirit upon believers, and our present blessing is that we belong to this kingdom of heaven.
·         Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. There are many things that cause us to mourn—losses, death, loneliness. Jesus experienced all these, and more, and mourned for His friend Lazarus who died; mourned for His people Israel who rejected Him; mourned for their blindness as they hung Him on the cross to die as a criminal, even while He was saving them in this very act. Jesus pours out His blessing and His comfort on all believers who mourn, because in Him we have the future hope of eternal life. A hope that overcomes our tears and brings us joy once again. Yet even now He sends His Holy Spirit, the Comforter upon us in all times of fear, loneliness, or loss.
·         Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. When Jesus said “take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls,” He identified Himself with the meek. The world looks upon this as weakness, but the weakness of God is stronger than men. Jesus was gentle and patient, and so He desires us to be as well. He grants the earth to the meek—though men lay claim to it by power and war.
·         Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Jesus longed for the justice of God to be revealed. He longed to fulfill all righteousness and do the will of the Father—and He succeeded. The righteousness the believer hungers and longs for is that righteousness we spoke of last week—the spiritual righteousness given to us by faith in Jesus. It’s God’s gifted righteousness that satisfies our longing, our need to be right with God. A righteousness that we can’t supply, but that God pours out in full measure through Jesus’ death on the cross.
·         Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Mercy is a fitting description of all Jesus’ life, as He healed and cared for the sick, the outcast, the forgotten and the lost. God is rich in mercy toward us, by forgiving us all our sins, and He pours that mercy into our lives as well, so we can be merciful to others. God’s intention in forgiving our massive debt of sin before Him, is that we would become agents of His mercy, carrying it toward others.
·         Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. This also requires little explanation, as the perfect description of Jesus. Pure and honorable in heart, He was divided by no false motives, no greedy or lustful intents, but only to carry out the will and teach the word of His Father. Pureness of heart is not something we can produce in ourselves, but as our reading from 1 John 3:3 says, “everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” Putting our hope and trust in Jesus is how we are purified—as the OT says, God gives us a new heart of flesh, and cleanses us for Himself. God grants us this purity of heart by Jesus Christ, so that one day in heaven, we may see God. What a sight and what a day!
·         Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Jesus’ use of the word peace would take us beyond the scope of this sermon, but He promised that He did not come to bring a worldly peace, but gives peace unlike the peace this world knows. And He spoke that peace to His disciples as He gave them authority to spread the word of His forgiveness. Just as Jesus calls us to be agents of His mercy, He also calls us to be agents of His reconciliation, so that we go into the world with Jesus’ own message of forgiveness, and the power of His Word to repair lives and heal wounds and relationships, by making peace with one another. This is such a difficult and honorable work that Jesus calls such peacemakers, “sons of God.”
·          “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Here, with the 8th and 9th, you could say it becomes personal. It turns from blessed are those to blessed are you. And nowhere is the life of the believer so closely tied to and identified with Jesus as in persecution. When we share in the righteous sufferings of Jesus—suffering not for the wrong we have done, but for the good  which Christ has done, and we are in His service—then we are most greatly blessed. Persecution is the ultimate example of the believer bearing their cross and following Christ.
·         And when we see our own lives through these Christ-colored glasses, we see a picture of the kingdom of heaven—already here, but not yet revealed in its full glory. In fact, so far from the appearance of glory, the believer sees that right now, our life in the kingdom of heaven is humble, scorned, and oppressed by the world. And yet hidden beneath this is the promise of God’s greatest blessing, for those who follow Jesus. The world will never “get” the shape of Christ’s kingdom, which is so contrary to everything the world seeks after and glories in. But the believer who hears the Beatitudes sees their own life hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3), and realizes that the trials and sufferings we endure now do not mean God’s promise has failed. Rather, His promise is true—even in preparing us for these crosses—and His blessing is already stretching from the future to grasp our hands and hearts now. And for those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, He spreads before us a meal of the true body and blood of Jesus, that satisfies us for the forgiveness of our sins, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
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  1. Who was Jesus addressing with the Beatitudes, in Matthew 5:1-12? “[The Beatitudes] are descriptions both of Jesus and of those who have been joined by Jesus’ Father to His kingdom” –David Scaer
  2. How are the marks of believers contrary to those things the world values or praises? How is one “poor in spirit?” Psalm 51:17; 34:17-18; Isaiah 61:1ff(!) How are these qualities true of Jesus also? Matthew 11:29; 2 Corinthians 8:9. How does Jesus bring these blessings to those whom He describes? Isaiah 61:1ff.
  3. How did Jesus mourn? Isaiah 53:3-4; John 11:35; Matthew 9:36; 23:37. For what reason do Christians mourn? How is their mourning different from the mourning of unbelievers? 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14. How are they comforted? Psalm 126:6
  4. How is Jesus meek? Matthew 11:29. What kind of “righteousness” did Jesus hunger and thirst for? Isaiah 61:8-11; Matthew 6:33; 12:20; Romans 3:21-26. How does our soul hunger or thirst for relationship with God? Psalm 42:1-2; 84:2; 107:9; 119:20, 40, 81-82, 123, 131, 174. How is that hunger filled in Christ Jesus? Romans 3:21-26
  5. How does Christ show mercy, and how are we to as well? Matthew 18:15-35; 9:27; 15:27; 17:5. How do we receive mercy from God? From others in the community of believers?
  6. How can we be pure in heart? cf. Proverbs 20:9; Ezekiel 36:25-28. How will we be able to see God? 1 John 3:2-3; Revelation 22:3-5.
  7. What kind of peace did Jesus bring? Isaiah 9:5-6; John 14:27; 16:33. What kind did He not bring? Matthew 10:34. How is the believer one with Jesus Christ in enduring persecution? How are we blessed in this?

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