SOTM: Reflecting on the Beatitudes

SOTMBy now, it should be clear that these aren’t commands. Jesus isn’t telling us to be persecuted to earn blessings. He’s not telling us to be among the anawim. We aren’t to seek out insults.

Rather, he is declaring —

* The Kingdom promised by the prophets is about to appear.

* The Kingdom will be for those people that society overlooks, even despises — the poor in spirit, the anawim, and the persecuted. The last shall be first.

* God will bless the subjects of the Kingdom in ways that the world cannot defeat and that will more than compensate for today’s sufferings. Continue reading

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SOTM: Matthew 5:10 (Persecution)

SOTM

(Mat 5:10-12 ESV) 10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

These two Beatitudes are essentially one. Jesus promises the persecuted not only the kingdom of heaven but also great rewards in heaven. In fact, this is the first time Jesus promises more than the blessings available to all who are part of the Kingdom. The persecuted will be rewarded with an extra measure. Their suffering doesn’t earn them salvation, but it does earn them a greater reward in heaven. Continue reading

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SOTM: Matthew 5:9 (Peace)

SOTMThe final group of three Beatitudes speaks to those who create peace —

(Mat 5:9-12 ESV)  9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11  “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

We need to start with a definition of “peace” or shalōm. In the OT, peace is not merely the absence of conflict. It’s the presence of right relationships. Continue reading

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SOTM: Introductory Lesson (Audio)

SOTMSo I was teaching the college class at church about the Sermon on the Mount, and the campus minister told me he’d recorded me. So I wasn’t planning on this, but here’s the Bible class.

The first couple of sentences are cut off. The lesson begins with this passage –

(Mat 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.  24 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, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them.  25 And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.

I ask the class to define “gospel” — which they do in terms of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. I then ask how Jesus could be teaching this before these events happened — at a time when he wasn’t yet ready to be announced as Messiah.

Download: SOTM Introduction January 11, 2015

Listen:

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SOTM: Matthew 5:6-8 (Righteousness, mercy, purity in heart)

SOTMMcKnight organizes the nine Beatitudes into three groups of three. The second group is those who pursue justice and righteousness —

(Mat 5:6-8 ESV)  6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

“Righteousness” can refer to God’s declaration that someone is righteous by grace or to this actual conformity to God’s will. In Paul, “righteousness” is usually a product of grace, that is, imputed righteousness. But in Jesus’ vocabulary, speaking to Jews, he usually demands obedience to Torah, especially the great principles of Torah. As McKnight explains,

Continue reading

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SOTM: Matthew 5:5 (The meek shall inherit the earth)

SOTMJesus paraphrases Psa 37:11 when he says the meek shall inherit the earth. But this is not just a proof text showing that prophecies come true. Rather, Jesus is declaring the entire context of v. 11 as coming true —

(Psa 37:1-11 ESV) Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers!
2 For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.
3 Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
4 Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.
6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.
7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!
8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
9 For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.
10 In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
11 But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.

Notice the themes:

* Patience in waiting for the Lord’s justice. Justice will prevail, but perhaps not as quickly as we’d prefer. Continue reading

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SOTM: Matthew 5:1-4 (Poor in spirit; Those who mourn)

The SOTM begins with the Beatitudes. Contrary to much teaching, the word is from the Latin for “blessed,” not a contraction of “be attitude.”

And the Beatitudes are not commands. This is not a list of rules to live by. Rather, exactly as it appears at first reading, it’s a listing of people who should consider themselves blessed by God at the coming of the Kingdom. Continue reading

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Regarding Site Policies and My Penance

I’ve been dealing with various ailments and distractions lately, not to mention trying to get my Sermon on the Mount posts up on time, and so I haven’t paid sufficient attention to the tone and content of the comments.

I owe an apology to any number of commenters who’ve been sinfully insulted and belittled. By way of penance, I’m going to be more diligent in moderating the comments, even if it means skipping a few days of posting. And I really enjoy posting, and really hate playing moderator. So this it truly penance.

Here’s how it’s going to be — Continue reading

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SOTM: Background, Part 5 (Exodus in the Background)

SOTMAs is true of much of the NT, the early portions of Matthew closely parallel the Exodus. We’ve already seen in the recent series on 1Co how Exodus informs our understanding of chapters 8 – 10.

There are also fascinating parallels with Moses himself in Matthew.

Consider —

* Both Jesus and Moses were threatened by death as infants from a wicked king.

* Both Jesus and Moses spent their early years in Egypt, although Moses stayed much longer.

* Jesus began his ministry being baptized in the Jordan. Moses began his mission to the Promised Land crossing the Red Sea. (Paul makes the comparison between the Red Sea and baptism explicit in 1Co 8.) Continue reading

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SOTM: Background, Part 4 (Ethics)

SOTMScot McKnight explains that, unlike any other teacher of ethics,

Jesus “did” ethics from four angles: Ethics from Above, Ethics from Beyond, Ethics from Below, and then setting each of these into the context of Jesus’ messianic ethics designed for the messianic community in the power of the Spirit.

Scot McKnight, Sermon on the Mount (The Story of God Bible Commentary; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013), 8.

Ethics from Above

Jesus spoke with the authority of God himself. Unlike Moses, who received the Law from God, Jesus speaks of his own authority. Over and over, he says, “I tell you” or “But I say to you” — as though his words carry an authority far above that of the rabbis and scribes. Continue reading

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