Kingdom of God
This week we begin a sermon series on the Kingdom of God, using Matthew 5:1-11 as our text. At the beginning of His public ministry, Jesus began to draw huge crowds at same time He was pulling together a group of followers that would carry on the work He had begun. As the crowds gathered around Him, He was far too wise to evaluate His ministry on their presence, nor was He interested in His disciples putting their sense of success or effectiveness on the number of people clamoring to see them. And so, he drew his disciples closer and began to unfold for them the characteristics of a new Kingdom. The crowds were more than welcome to listen, but Jesus was focused on planting the seeds of the Kingdom in the hearts of those who would carry on after He returned to His Father.
Joachim Jeremias, a 20th century theologian, wrote - “Jesus lived in the Old Testament. His sayings are incomprehensible unless we realize this.” In order for us to understand what He meant by “blessed” or “happy,” we must look first at the Hebrew origin of the word. When the Hebrew word for blessed or happy (ashr) is used in the Old Testament, it means to find the right path. In Psalm 1, we read - Happy (Ashr) are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers, but they delight in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night.” The psalmist is saying that in the midst of many confusing options and choices, finding the right path is blessed. This is different than the idea we carry of being blessed or happy. It is less about a feeling of well-being that is free from sadness and difficulty, and more about being where God wants us, and walking the path that he has before us.
This is the meaning that Jesus has in mind, when he he draws his disciples near, and begins to unfold for them the right path in the kingdom that His incarnation is introducing. In the midst of the crowd, which Jesus knows will be their best fans one day and worst enemies the next, Jesus invites them on a different, even counterintuitive path that, when found and embraced, leads to happiness. And that is the path we are invited to find as well in this series.
- When have you experienced the blessing of finding the right path?
- Can you think of a time when you sought happiness as the world defines it, at the cost to you of finding the right path? How have you recovered from that?
- Where do you see the kingdom of God diverging from the kingdom of this world in your particular context?