The Kingdom of Heaven

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January 27th, 2019

Text: Matthew 5:1 (Introducing the Sermon on the Mount)

Introduction: 

“The Sermon on the Mount is probably the best-known part of the teaching of Jesus, though arguably it is the least understood, and certainly it is the least obeyed.” ~ John Stott.

Main Idea: Jesus is the fulfillment of the entire Biblical story, who declares and displays the Kingdom of Heaven in the Sermon on the Mount. 

I. A Greater Prophet (1:1-4:16)

The Gospel of Matthew serves as a perfect “bridge” between the Old & New Testament. He is concerned about how Jesus has come to “fulfill” all that has come before in the story. 

Matthew 1:1: “The book of the genealogy (lit. “genesis’)” that connects Jesus into the promised royal lineage of David and the Father of the Israelites (Abraham) who was to be a blessing to all of the families of the earth (cf. Gen. 12:3). 

 Matthew’s greater concern in chapters 1-5 seems to connect Jesus’ story to Moses. There was messianic expectation concerning a prophet and redeemer who would come in the same way as Moses had (cf. Deuteronomy 18:15-19).

Similarities between Moses & Jesus:

  • Birth stories (Matt. 2:16-18/Ex. 1:15-2:10)

  • Traveling to Egypt (Matt. 2:13-15/Ex. 4:18-20)

  • Baptism & “passing through” the waters (Matt. 3:13-17/Ex. 14)

  • Led by the Spirit into the wilderness to face temptation (Matt. 4:1-11/Ex. 16)

“Like Israel, Jesus has a lengthy period of wandering in the desert. The Spirit leads him into a dry and barren place, in which he has to trust God for the provision of bread, resist evil, and stand on the testimony of Scripture. The specific temptations echo those that unraveled Israel: grumbling about the lack of food, testing God by demanding a miracle, bowing down to false gods, and seizing his inheritance before it was time. It is no coincidence that in all three of his temptations Jesus quotes Deuteronomy, the sermon Moses preached to remind Israel of their need for obedience. But Jesus succeeds where Israel failed. For all our familiarities with the exodus story in Scripture, we have never seen this before. The all-too-familiar biblical melody of failures has been transformed and turning into a song of hope.” ~ Andrew Wilson & Alastair Roberts

  • Going into a land that was promised (Matt. 4:13-16)

  • Jesus going up the mountain to teach from God’s Word (Matt. 5:1/Ex. 19)

What’s the point of all of this? Jesus is the continuation and the fulfillment of the whole Biblical story up to this point. 

Jesus, as the greater Moses, is leading the captives into freedom. Moses came to rescue Israel from the bondage of physical slavery in Egypt, but Jesus comes to rescue his people from their bondage to sin & Satan (cf. Matt. 1:21). We are in need of this redeemer and this rescue if we are to live out The Sermon on the Mount. 

II. A Greater Kingdom (4:17-5:1)

The summary of Jesus’ mission and ministry is found in 4:17: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Jesus announces that at his coming, the Kingdom of Heaven has broken in; the first step for us is to recognize that we are unfit to enter it.  

“The life of heaven - the life of the realm where God is already king - is to become the life of the world, transforming the present earth into the place of beauty and delight that God always intended. And those who follow Jesus are to begin to live by this rule here and now. That's the point of the Sermon on the Mount… [it is] a summons to live in the present in the way that will make sense in God's promised future, because that future has arrived in the present in Jesus of Nazareth. It may seem upside down, but we are called to believe, with great daring, that it is in fact the right way up” ~ N.T. Wright 

The Sermon on the Mount presents a holistic picture of what life in the Kingdom looks like as we await its arrival in fullness. The Sermon focuses on: 

  • True Flourishing 

  • True Righteousness

  • Practical Concerns

The Lord’s Prayer (6:9-13) sits at the center of the sermon intentionally. “The Lord’s Prayer stretches from the Father at the beginning to the devil at the end, from heaven to hell, and in between in six brief petitions everything important in life.” ~ Jonathan Pennington

The invitation extended to all of us is to move from being a part of the “crowd” to being a “disciple.” In this, we must acknowledge the feeling of condemnation the Sermon can bring, while simultaneously recognizing that it points to the source of power as we are drawn further into this life in the Kingdom. 

 “After nineteen hundred years the Sermon on the Mount still haunts men. They may praise it, as Gandhi did; or like Nietzsche, they may curse it. They cannot ignore it. Its words are winged words, quick and powerful to rebuke, to challenge, to inspire. And though some turn from it in despair, it continues, like some mighty magnetic mountain, to attract to itself the greatest spirits of our race, so that if some world-wide vote were taken, there is little doubt that men would account it ‘the most searching and powerful utterance we possess on what concerns the moral life.”~A.M. Hunter