Sermon by Rev. Lance Filio
The Sermon on the Mount is the teaching and preaching of our Lord Jesus Christ that belongs to the first of five parts of Matthew. It is the manifesto of Jesus and probably preached several times during his entire public ministry. In Matthew’s gospel, he placed this entire section right after he was baptized and before John the Baptizer’s ministry reached to a close. This is the reason why the sermon of Jesus is important for us to know, understand, and live by.
There are three important questions we need to answer as our preliminary way of studying this subject. Who is Jesus? What is the kingdom of heaven or kingdom of God? And who belongs to this kingdom and how do they enter it?
These questions will be answered in part by our first sermon and fully as we proceed with the rest of this series. Our first sermon aims to partially answer the questions raised and it is divided into two points. 1) The King and His Kingdom; 2) The Subjects of the Kingdom.
The King and His Kingdom
Jesus is the Mediator of the new covenant. He is our final prophet, priest, and more importantly as emphasized in our texts for our preaching today, he is the king of his kingdom.
The movement of Matthew’s account from chapters 1 and 4 points to the identity of Jesus as the Son of God who become the Savior of his people. The first portion of Matthew 1 traces his lineage to David pointing to his royal heritage line. At the end of Matthew 1, Jesus receives his name and it means “savior”. Matthew explains the purpose of his name and wrote”for he will save his people from their sins (verse 21)”. Now in Matthew 2, Jesus was portrayed not only as the savior of his people but the Lord of all nations and Matthew 3, Jesus was inaugurated into ministry by identifying with his people through the baptism from his cousin, John the Baptizer. At this point, Jesus’ divinity was clearly depicted when the persons of the Trinity seals his ministry with their presence. The Holy Spirit was seen as a dove and the Father was heard speaking “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. (verse 17)”. Finally in Matthew 4, Jesus first was tested, tempted, and then confirmed again in his identity as our mediator when he overcame the devil in the wilderness. Then at the end of this chapter, Jesus began his public ministry by teaching the crowds and calling his disciples to follow him. He confirms his message by the demonstration of his healing power. Clearly, Jesus is the Son of God who came into this world as a mediator of his people and ruler of God’s kingdom.
Jesus is the preacher, bearer, and bringer of God’s kingdom. Central to his message was “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 4:17).”
What is the kingdom of heaven? Simply put, God’s kingdom is new creation. It is new heaven and new earth. As pointed out by teachers before us the terms “heaven” and “God” bear no difference. Heaven is the realm of God’s kingdom. It is present when God is present. Where God rules, heaven is there.
So in a sense, God’s creation is his kingdom as well. The goal of God’s creation was to bring to its fuller expression of God’s new heaven and new earth. But because of sin, creation plunges into ruin. The purpose of God’s redemption then is to bring glory to his name by single-handedly bearing the responsibility for it and taking it upon himself to bring it to completion – new creation. Jesus lies at the center of it fulfillment. He is the bearer and bringer of God’s kingdom here on earth. It is through his person and work as a mediator that God’s rule is inaugurated and eventually consummated.
Before proceeding to our second point, I would like us to notice two peculiar elements about Jesus’ message.
First, Jesus calls God’s people to repent. Repentance means to acknowledge your sin and change your ways. It is a call to change your direction from sin to God. The call to repent is disorienting to his original hearers and even to his own disciples because the Messiah they were all expecting was supposedly the bringer God’s heavenly rule to the kingdoms of this world. God’s people was expecting to honor their king, rejoice at his coming, and conquer the earthly kings and rulers of their time. They were expecting rewards not repentance. Yet the message of Jesus kingdom comes with a call of repentance. This is the reason why the later they reflected the kinds of people mentioned his beatitudes.
Second, Jesus refers to his kingdom as being “at hand”. It is inaugurated. It was present with them then and it is present with us now. The prospect of Jesus bringing God’s kingdom to them while increased the anticipation of the crowd, confused his disciples. The message of Jesus about the kingdom did not meet the expectation of an earthly kingdom established with David and Solomon.
Yet even with this, Jesus’ public ministry grew in popularity. His message came with power and authority as explained by Matthew at the end this section, “And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes (Matthew 7:28-29).” No one understood yet that time but no one questioned his authority. His identity and ministry brought division in his own country. Jesus brought God’s kingdom to them yet little do they know then that he was also the bearer of God’s new creation.
Again, Jesus is the mediator and king of God’s kingdom. He is the bearer and bringer of God’s new creation.
The Subjects of the Kingdom
God’s people are the subjects of God’s kingdom. Christian believers are the receivers of God’s new creation in Christ. In context, the message of Jesus, while heard by a multitude of crowds following him, was directed towards his disciples. “Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him (Matthew 5:1)”. Jesus is preaching to his church, his disciples, to us as God’s people.
Before proceeding with the message of the beatitudes, let us qualify them first by pointing out several important reminders.
First, this means in particular that the eight beatitudes we will hear preached to us is not applied to everyone without exception. It is meant for God’s people only. Therefore, any attempt to universalize or democratize, even externalize the virtues portrayed here is a gross misunderstanding its message. Anyone who appears to be poor, meek, mourning, and persecuted is not automatically Christian even when they deny Christ or his atoning work. Liberals take these virtues to mean this way and sometimes as Christians, we perceive it this way. These are kingdom virtues and only those who belongs to it surely possess it.
Second, each individual beatitude is applies to each individual Christian. They are not fulfilled in parts or even in increasing degrees, but applied wholly to every individual members of God’s kingdom. The message of the Sermon on the mount is for every Christian here on earth. It portrays for us what it means to live under God’s rule. It demonstrate for us the new way of living in God’s kingdom, his new creation.
This lead us to a very important point in reading and understanding the beatitudes. They were given to us its members. These virtues are not acquired to merit membership. Instead, God grants them to those whom he choose.
There are two important observations in our text that reinforces this conclusion. First, the form of the sentences and second, the conclusion of the eight beatitude. Each beatitude is expressed as a statement of fact. It is in passive voice and indicative in mood. The subject of each beatitude describes a person who receives every benefit from an actor who is assumed in each sentence namely, God in Christ. It is God who blesses God’s people and grant them the virtues of his kingdom. This is why are called blessed. Jesus declared “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3 and10).”
Blessed means being in a state of blessedness. It is to possess the blessings that God himself bestows. While blessed in Scripture means as an act of praise or giving thanks to God, it also means like in our text, a state produced and given by God’s grace. Psalm 32 refers to such blessing: “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.” So in this sense, blessed are those who receives God’s grace and mercy.
This leads us to the beginning of our exposition of the beatitudes. We briefly introduced our topic by making general comments and qualifications. Next week, we will go deep on each beatitude but in the meantime, let us hear the entire section, reflect on them, and hear them as God’s Word for us. Jesus calls us to his kingdom. Those who hears it enter by way of faith and repentance.
Christian, listen. This is who we are in Christ:
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.
ZCRC(Imus), Jesus is the bearer and bringer of God’s kingdom, God’s new creation. And as citizens of his kingdom, we are called to bear his name and his according to his ways. May the Lord continue to rule over our lives. Amen.
Rev. Lance Filio is a minister of the Word and Sacraments at Zion Cornerstone Reformed Church (Imus). He finished his Bachelor Degree in Electronics Engineering at Mapua Institute of Technology and He is currently taking his Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS) at MINTS. He lives in Taguig City, Philippines with his wife and three children.