Today: [Matthew 5] The Sermon on the Mount: In Matt. 5 we find the first recorded teaching of Jesus in the first gospel written by Matthew. In His remarks Jesus speaks about divorce, swearing of oaths, and how his disciples should conduct themselves in court proceedings. It is a teaching emphasizing humility and the benefits and blessings that come upon the person who chooses to go low in times of challenge and temptation rather than living a life filled with hatred and resentment. Just what is the kingdom of heaven? How do we inherit it? These questions are answered in today’s study.
[Mat 5:1-48 KJV] 1 And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: 2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, 3 Blessed [are] the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed [are] they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed [are] the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. 6 Blessed [are] they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. 7 Blessed [are] the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. 8 Blessed [are] the pure in heart: for they shall see God. 9 Blessed [are] the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. 10 Blessed [are] they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are ye, when [men] shall revile you, and persecute [you], and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great [is] your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. 13 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. 14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. 17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach [them], the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed [the righteousness] of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. 21 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: 22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. 23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; 24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. 25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. 26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.
Thus far Matthew records that Jesus was baptized of John in the Jordan and endured temptation by the enemy after a time of fasting in the wilderness. Upon His return He called Peter and Andrew and James and John. He takes these four disciples on a tour of Galilee, performing healing and deliverances to the point that a great multitude of people have gathered after Him to receive their miracle. In verse 1 on chapter 5 Jesus sees the multitudes and takes those closest to Him, His disciples to a mountain location and began to teach them. It is interesting that Jesus apparently didn’t notice the multitudes at first. He was so focused on the individual needs of these immediately before Him that the sheer number of people coming around Him in the hundreds at first goes unnoticed by Him.
Then, when He sees the crowd He apparently withdraws with only a few of His disciples. Up to this point in Matthew that would only include four people: Peter, Andrew, James and John. Isn’t it unusual for Him to act this way. If it had been anyone else provisions would have been made to capitalize on the magnitude of the crowd as a public speaking event, but Jesus was always focused upon the individual and those closest to Him.
Having gathered these few around Him, Jesus begins to teach the iconic message known as the Sermon on the Mount. He begins with “blessed are the poor in Spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…” Notice that He doesn’t say “blessed are the poor” because 2 Cor. 8:9 says He became poor so that we could be rich. If being poor was a virtue, then we would have to conclude that Jesus’ substitutionary work in His earth life would have included dying and suffering to take an alleged virtue such as poverty away from us which we know would not be consistent with the gospels or His character.
Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. What does this mean? Many want to split hairs over some perceived difference between the “kingdom of heaven” and the “kingdom of God” but a preponderance of the references to these phrases will reveal to any honest scholar that they are used interchangeably. What does it mean to be poor in spirit? The word poor there means “to crouch”. The word for spirit is “pnuema” meaning a current of air, or the life principle resident in the deepest part of man. What do we do when we crouch down physically? It is the act of going low.
In both the Old and the New Testaments, the original language word for “humble” in Greek and also in Hebrew means literally to “go low”. So Jesus isn’t suggesting that when we live in deprivation we should consider ourselves blessed. What He is saying is that when we deliberately go low and live life from a perspective of humility and self-effacement it opens the kingdom of God up to us in ways it is not available otherwise.
What is the kingdom of heaven and why would we be advantaged to lay claim to it? The word kingdom here is the Greek word “basilea”. It is a word that implies kingdom or rule that arises from a deeper meaning of “foundation of power” or literally “foot”. The word picture then is of the function of the foot or feet as the foundation of stability that makes a person able to stand upright. It is also connected with action. The kingdom of God is not expressed nor accessed through conceptual reasoning. The kingdom of God is motion activated, as Jesus stresses in Luke 17:20-21 – the kingdom doesn’t come with observation, you have to do something, as James declares, faith without works is dead. The thought conveyed is that if you are poor in spirit, or approach life from a posture of humility that God puts a foundation under you that will cause you to stand upright and access the heavenly realm from a position of power and authority.
The word heaven there is a noun describing the expanse of heaven that originates in a verb meaning to elevate or rear up, like a horse rearing up on its hind legs. So, the thought conveyed in verse 3 is not that impoverished suffering people are blessed because it will be better for them after they go to heaven to sit on a cloud and play a harp for eternity. Jesus is saying that blessed are those who walk in humility for in so doing God’s response will be to put a foundation under them that will cause them to come to promotion and authority over every obstacle.
27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: 28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. 29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast [it] from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not [that] thy whole body should be cast into hell. 30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast [it] from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not [that] thy whole body should be cast into hell. 31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: 32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery. 33 Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: 34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: 35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. 36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. 37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil. 38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have [thy] cloke also. 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. 42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. 43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more [than others]? do not even the publicans so? 48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
In verse 27-33 Jesus makes comments about divorce and remarriage that have been misconstrued and perverted by many to such a degree as to suggest that divorce and remarriage is essentially unpardonable because the couple doing this would be living in a constant state of adultery as long as they continued to be married one to another after subsequent divorce of one or both of the marriage partners. These verses demonstrate for us why we need to read the scriptures and statements in the scripture in context. The point that Jesus is making is not specifically about marriage or divorce, but these statements are part of a larger point Jesus is making regarding the law of Moses that begins in verse 17 and emphasized in verse 20 where He declares that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees you will in no wise enter into the kingdom of Heaven. What is the point? The point being made is that the Law as Hebrews 10:1 cannot make anyone perfect or sinless. Jesus is stressing in His discourse the universality of sin because in the religious thinking of the day was that it was possible to obey the Law and thereby make oneself better than others and thus in a position to pass judgment upon those that fell short. The law was not given to perfect men, but as Gal. 3:24 states rather it was given as a schoolmaster to convince us of our sinfulness to the degree that we would come humbly and exhausted to the Cross and declare willingly and fully that we need a savior.
Jesus goes on to deal with anger and offenses that mean have one with another. He declares in verse 22 that if we look upon our brother or sister and declare them to be a fool that we are in danger of hell fire. The word fool there means “worthless fellow” or the deeper meaning, one whose worthlessness silences him to the point of having no recourse of forgiveness from God. In other words, if we fail to deal with people, all people around us in our perspective and actions toward them in a redemptive manner we are opening ourselves up to destruction and consequences that are both devastating and with eternal consequences. The alternative and the solution offered then by Jesus is rather than consigning others around us to the ash heap of life we should take the position that no one is disposable and everybody counts. We should agree with our adversary. This doesn’t mean that we mentally assent with someone who chooses to make themselves our enemy. The word agree there means to “give one’s self wholly over to” your adversary. In the context Jesus is saying that no matter how others treat us we should always be found moving toward them in love because in so doing we escape the torment and imprisonment that awaits us if we choose rather to return hate when we are hated and become bound by chains of our own forging of unforgiveness and offense.
Jesus begins to summarize the Sermon on the Mount in verse 44 exhorting us to love our enemies, to bless those that curse us, to do good to those that hate us, and to pray for those that despitefully use or persecute us. We all have people who deal with us in these ways at one point or another as we go through life. Jesus is reminding us that the Father rains upon the just and upon the unjust. The very breath by which your enemy curses you is given to that hateful person by a determinate act of God’s grace. They might use the gift of God, the gift of ongoing life to make you miserable, and you can’t do anything about that. The question is what are you going to do with the breath of life, the gift of life that God gave you? Are you going to live your life hating others back for hating you? Or are you going to be perfect as your Father is heaven is perfect by responding in love, walking in humility and thereby inheriting the kingdom of heaven that you might come to promotion and blessing as God intended?
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