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Happy are the Sad

Sermon on the Mount  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Intro to Sermon on the mount

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Matthew 4:23–5:11 ESV
And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan. Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. 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. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called 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.
Matthew 4:23–5:10 ESV
And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan. Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. 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. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 4:23–5:12 ESV
And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan. Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. 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. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called 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. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Question: What makes you happy?
Matthew
We’re starting a new bible study on the sermon on the mount - Jesus’ first and longest sermon - the best sermon ever preached. And I am greatly indebted to a book by David Johnson and Tom Allen called, ‘Joy comes in the mourning’ for their exposition on the beatitudes, which are the first part of the sermon on the mount.
We’re starting a new bible study on the sermon on the mount - Jesus’ first and longest sermon - the best sermon ever preached. And I am greatly indebted to a book by David Johnson and Tom Allen called, ‘Joy comes in the mourning’ for their exposition on the beatitudes, which are the first part of the sermon on the mount.
And this sermon is jam packed with amazing truths and nuggets of pure gold that we need to hear and learn if we want to be disciples of Jesus.
The sermon on the mount is in the book of Matthew and chapter 5, but we’re not going to start there in our study - we’re going to start in chapter 4, because we need to see the context of the sermon.
In chapter 4 Jesus starts his ministry - he starts his preaching ministry in verse 17 when he says...
Matthew 4:17 ESV
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
And then by verse 23 he has also chosen some of his disciples - the key followers that he will train and mentor into people who will continue his work when he leaves the Earth.
Matthew 4:23–25 ESV
And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.
Matthew 4:23-
Now, we need to understand the context of what’s going on here to understand the sermon on the mount.
Jesus has preached that the kingdom of heaven is at hand - he preaches in verse 23, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease as well.
So to onlookers, the kingdom of heaven comes with it divine healing - being a part of this kingdom comes with it either healing or the power to heal - cos Jesus is a living example of it - hence the fame that spread through all Syria and the great crowds that followed him from Galilee, Decapolis, Jerusalem and Judea.
In other words, people were following Jesus quite possibly looking for a piece of the action. ‘I want to be part of this kingdom of heaven cos I want this amazing power to heal,’ and so on.
You can imagine it - someone offering entrance into God’s kingdom which comes with a Spiritual power like never before - power over demons and sickness and even death - SIGN ME UP!
So there was great fame and great crowds following Jesus, as you would rightly expect. But Jesus...
Matthew 5:1 ESV
Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
Now, this seems counter-productive. Jesus has a captive audience, you’d think he would capitalise on it and tell everyone this amazing sermon on the mount - you think that he’d preach it to the crowds…but he doesn’t. Jesus sees the crowds and takes himself up on a mountain with his disciples.
Pause
Now, some questions for you…and they all have the same general answer...
When Moses received the 10 commandments, where was he?
When Jesus took Peter James and John, he went somewhere, and Moses and Elijah appeared to him, where was he?
What is Zion?
These are all mountains.
Jesus went up a mountain - like Moses went up a mountain to meet with God and receive the 10 commandments.
This would have been significant to Jewish readers - don’t forget that Matthew is writing to the Jews, primarily, here.
And on Mount Sinai, Moses received the law - the 10 commandments that sealed the covenant with God and his people. In Matthew, Jesus is all over the law - but he shows the law up for what it is - a means to get to Jesus.
So going up a mountain is significant. So also, is sitting down. Verse 1 says that Jesus sits down. Rabbis would sit to teach - that was the Jewish custom, and so by Jesus sitting, he is showing his status as a rabbi - a teacher. And Matthew’s readers would immediately realise that Jesus is more than a regular man (I mean they would sus that out from the fact that he can heal every disease and so on) but they will realise that Jesus is one that they can learn from.
Pause
What’s also significant is that Jesus has attracted a large following - that’s like many minister’s goal - to have a large congregation following Jesus. But with Jesus it’s not about the numbers…When Jesus sees the crowds he takes himself off and goes up a mountain - somewhere that’s not terribly easy to follow, and he takes his disciples with him.
Now, these are the close disciples - not the crowds following him, although at the end of the sermon in chapter 7 the crowds seem to have caught up with him.
But as Jesus is about to speak, imagine what must be going through the disciples minds - he’s just done all these amazing things - healing every disease and proclaiming the good news about the kingdom of God. Maybe he’s going to let us in on his secret...
Then Jesus opens his mouth and speaks...
And let me read some words from Dave Johnson’s book...
Read bottom of page 13 and page 14.
What the disciples may have expected is to get the secret to all these things - to be taught the secrets of heaven and the angels.
Instead what Jesus does is he takes these young guys up a mountain and he teaches them about life - about living in God’s kingdom. He teaches them the realities of life - about anger, lust, divorce, swearing, retaliation, giving, prayer, worrying and judging.
And this is why this sermon is so important to us, cos it teaches about how we live OUR lives as citizens of God’s kingdom. Many times Jesus attacks the current religious culture of doing things and turns them on their heads. And we’ll see this as we go through the study. Jesus is not letting things continue the way they have been - he’s bringing a new kingdom and a new way of living within that kingdom.
And he does it with the beatitudes…Blessed are the...
Cos look at the beatitudes for a second and see the pattern...
First of all the word Blessed can also mean happy, but in the way it’s stated here it’s more emphatic - Jesus is saying, Oh the blessed happiness of those who are poor in spirit. As a commentator puts is, ‘the beatitudes are NOT simple statements, they are exclamations.
He also states that the beatitudes, “are not pious hopes of what shall be; they are not vague prophecies of some future bliss; they are congratulations on what is currently happening.
the beatitudes are not pious hopes of what shall be; they are not glowing, but vague prophecies of some future bliss; they are congratulations on what is. The blessedness which belongs to Christians is not a blessedness which is postponed to some future world of glory; it is a blessedness which exists here and now.
In other words the blessedness which belongs to the poor in spirit, “is not a blessedness which is postponed to some future world of glory; it is a blessedness which exists here and now.”
Pause
So let’s take the first beatitude for the rest of our time.
Look at the verse there in verse 3...
Matthew 5:3 ESV
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Ma
Now, the Greek word for poor is the word ptochos - and we need to look at that for a second.
There were many different classes in Jesus’ day, due to the Roman occupation of the land.
Right at the top there was the Emperor, below him were the senators - the governing body.
Next were the equestrian , then there were the aristocrats, then the merchants / soldiers, then the manual labourers, the freed slaves and then, right at the bottom were the slaves.
Then there were the aristocrats, then the merchants / soldiers, then the manual labourers, the freed slaves and then, right at the bottom were the slaves.
And in terms of poverty, there were different greek words for poor - but the word ptochos was reserved for those RIGHT at the bottom…the slaves - the ones with no rights, with no money, who were fully dependant on their masters for food, and for life - THEY were the ptochos.
And the word Ptochos means ‘reduced to begging dependance’. And while Jesus doesn’t say ‘poor’, but ‘poor in spirit’ - it is these poor people who ARE the poor in spirit - their spirit has hit rock bottom.
Pause
Now, back to my question right at the start - about what makes you happy… Look at these things you said… [mention some]
Nobody said that they are happy when they are sad. Nobody said they are happy when they are miserable. Nobody said they feel happy with they are rock bottom. Strange, isn’t it.
This is counter-intuitive and counter-cultural.
And the word blessed is not just a mundane happiness, but an incomprehensible happiness of those who participate in God’s kingdom.
And again, notice the present tense - theirs IS the kingdom of heaven. It’s not theirs WILL BE the kingdom of heaven. This is a present reality for the poor in spirit.
Pause
Now verse 3 is the first sentence that comes out of Jesus’ mouth in this sermon - this is the headline news here. This sets up the rest of the sermon. And I can imagine half the people not listening to another word that Jesus says cos they’re still trying to work out what this means. How can the sad be happy? How can the miserable be blessed? How can God’s kingdom and all this power and ability that comes with it be for those people?
What about the rich? What about the middle-class? What about Joe-normal who is doing ok? Do they not get to enter the kingdom of heaven?
Pause
What I liked about this book as I was studying this that there is an example of the different types of poverty that we can experience.
There is the poverty that exists where you rummage around the scrap heap, or the rubbish bins at the back of a restaurant looking for scraps of food that have been thrown away. It’s practically rock bottom, but not quite. It’s close, but not quite rock bottom, because you’re STILL looking for something and you’re able to come away with scraps and feed yourself - even though it is a tremendous struggle.
But then there is the poverty where you can’t even muster the strength to rummage in the dust bin - you are SO TERRIBLY weak that you can barely lift your head. You don’t have the energy to get up and look for scraps of food - you’ve actually HIT rock bottom. It’s the type of poverty where you’re lying in the gutter waiting…longing to die.
As a result you are completely and utterly dependant on someone else coming along and feeding you out of grace and mercy.
Pause
And this is Jesus’ message in this sermon.
You see, the Jews had their laws and customs and religious duties and all this stuff that they had to do - all these hoops to jump through for forgiveness of their sins and to be made right with God. And the burden of these things were immense.
And many people tried to jump through the hoops and do what they could do. But others couldn’t - others couldn’t AFFROD to…the literal poor couldn’t afford to jump through the extra hoops that the religious leaders imposed on them.
Remember when Jesus clears the temple and drives out the traders? The reason for the traders was to made money on the temple sacrifices.
So a poor family come to the temple with their best lamb for a sacrifice and someone would come up to them and say, “WOAH THERE… you can’t bring THAT to God for sacrifice - look at it…that’s NOT what God would want. That’ll never do for your forgiveness. What you need is THIS…THIS is the best sheep and will make sure that God is super happy with you.
And the poor family get fleeced (pardon the pun).
That’s one of the reasons why Jesus was furious when he raided the temple and drove everyone out.
Because the VERY POOR couldn’t afford what these guys were selling so they were essentially excluded from coming to worship. They were excluded from getting to God - and the poor represented a lot of the country.
And now, Jesus comes and he flips the who system on its head. It’s these VERY PEOPLE who can have access to God - the one with nothing left to give are the ones who HAVE TO - HAVE NO OTHER CHOICE TO take what Jesus is offering them...grace and mercy.
They are utterly dependant on someone coming along and giving them what they need out of grace and mercy - and that’s what Jesus gave them. That’s why he spent his time with the down-and-outs - the ptochos.
Pause
Remember on Sunday morning, when I was talking about fully entering into a new way of life with Jesus - about this baptism of repentance… If you do, you might remember that I said that Jewish thought was that if they were born into a Jewish family and they were circumcised and didn’t reject the law then they were saved.
And then I said that in the same way there are people in our churches who don’t think they need to fully enter into a new way of life because they don’t think they’re sinners. And that coming to that realisation is the first step on the way to fully entering into this new life.
And so Jews wouldn’t want to be baptised because they didn’t think they were dirty. They were born into a Jewish family, they were circumcised - they were saved. And in the same way there are people in our churches who don’t think they need to fully enter into a new way of life. - a life of repentance for the forgiveness of sins - because they don’t think they’re sinners. They were born into the church, even baptised - so they think they’re saved - and they aren’t AWARE that they need to repent of sin .
Well, that’s what Jesus is talking about here and in the rest of his sermon on the mount. What he’s doing here is bringing people to the realisation that without Jesus they can’t enter the kingdom of heaven - cos keeping the law won’t cut it, cos it’s impossible to do.
And what we’ll see in later weeks is that later in the sermon Jesus takes a few of the laws of Moses and raises the bar to the impossible...
For example, Let me ask you all a question - now, bare in mind that your answer may have consequences...has any of you committed murder?
Then let me ask you another question - has anyone ever been angry with someone? Have you ever called someone a fool, or even thought that someone was a fool?
Can someone read ...
someone read ...
Matthew 5:21–22 ESV
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.
Coming to that realisation is the first step on the way to fully entering into this new life - and on Wednesday night I’ll be looking at that as we start our series on the sermon on the mount.
Now, what’s Jesus doing here?
What he’s doing is he’s taking the commandment - do not murder - and he’s raising the bar.
Then let me ask you another question
Cos everyone here can say they haven’t murdered and so they aren’t guilty of breaking the law. Great! Feel good about yourself for a second. But then Jesus comes right back at you with this - but if you’ve called someone a fool then you’re just as guilty as if you DID kill someone.
Now you might be thinking - oh COME ON!! What chance does anyone have then?
EXACTLY!!!
Now, let’s take THAT thought and also the concept of being poor in spirit, and apply it to our salvation...
Now let’s take THAT and being poor in spirit, and apply it to our salvation...
Cos someone who thinks they’re ok cos they haven’t committed murder is like the person rummaging in the rubbish bin looking for scraps - they’re saving themselves...
But someone who realises that because they get angry almost every day and is destined for the fires of hell is like the person who can’t muster the strength to find scraps in the rubbish and is TOTALLY RELYING ON SOMEONE TO COME ALONG AND SAVE THEM.
In other words, our salvation is NOT OF WORKS - it’s a gift, a free gift by God’s grace, through our faith in Jesus.
And Jesus raises the bar to make keeping the law impossible to show us that we CAN’T save ourselves, and to bring us to our knees in begging dependance on Jesus to come along and save us.
Pause
Now, let’s apply this to our sanctification and service. And do to that, turn with me to ...
Matthew 26:31–35 ESV
Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.
Peter is being all brave and bravado - ‘I’ll never leave you, Jesus. I’ll fight to the death. Everyone else might desert you, but I’m with you all the way!’
And Peter is relying on his own human ability to serve Jesus. Peter’s saying, I’ll never fail you, Jesus.
And it’s like Jesus is saying to Peter - Peter, yes you will fail me. But it’s OK - I need you to fail me before I can use you. I’m going to build my church on you, but I need you to know your place in my kingdom - and to do that I need you to fail. I need you to realise that YOU don’t have what it takes to build my church - but I do…and I can only use you when you realise that. But I’ll be with you when you fall.
Pause
Do you see the significance of this?
Do you see how
Do you see how radically different it was to Jewish law and customs?
Do you see how radically different it is to our own culture of religion and religiosity?
We’re going to stop here and pick it up next week with the next beatitude.
Any questions?
But this sermon is amazing work by Jesus so I’m glad we’re looking at it in a bit more depth.
Any questions?
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