READ | SERMON NOTES
Summary l Our Lord Jesus’ teachings on the kingdom of heaven began with the Beatitudes.
Nature of the Kingdom
Jesus declared that the kingdom of heaven is here and now in the present. (v2, 10) The ‘kingdom of heaven’ was, however, quite different from what many Jews were expecting. They had been oppressed and harboured messianic hopes. They wanted and dreamt of a powerful political and material empire which would liberate them.
Jesus was, however, preaching something else — not what they wanted to hear. When Jesus was charged with wanting to be the king, he explained to Pontius Pilate and that His Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom … is not of this world. (Jn 18:36) This warns us against being Christians with an agenda, like the Jews who were seeking a selfish, political and secular kingdom. We must not apply the world’s measure and standards in our interpretation of what grace, peace, anointing and the abundant life is.
Jesus was speaking of a spiritual Kingdom, where hearts and minds are turned over to God’s rule and domain. Jesus’ teaching to seek first His Kingdom, refers to obedience and submission to God’s will. “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Jesus encourages us to turn to God and change the way we think and act, because the Kingdom of heaven is near! The nature of the Kingdom is spiritual. It starts with a change in our hearts toward loving and seeking God.
Blessedness in the Kingdom
In the Beatitudes, the word blessed is repeated nine times. The word beatitude is from the Latin word for blessedness. The blessing extends to all the citizens of the Kingdom, who uphold kingdom values. When we turn in faith to Jesus, we are blessed because God approves, receives and grants us grace. We need not work for blessedness, approval and salvation. But because we are blessed, we, in gratitude and love, offer ourselves in service before the Lord. We love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
Blessedness is a quality of God. (Ps 66:20, 72:18) We imperfect and sinful people are blessed because God communes with and is for us. Even when we are persecuted because of the name of Christ and face the worst in the world, we are blessed because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on us. (1 Pet 4:14) We can rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven. (Mt 5:12) We are blessed because our names are written in heaven. We have God’s acceptance.
Advent of the Kingdom
Jesus stressed that the Kingdom of heaven is here and now! Kingdom values are counter-cultural to the secular world. It is not about me, my wants and agenda but about God and others. Jesus brings about heaven on earth when we fulfill these values. The Kingdom of Heaven is here and now when we:-
- hold a contrite spirit, are convicted of our spiritual poverty and learn to trust in God alone.
- know what sorrow means and empathise with our neighbour when he is in sorrow and going through loss.
- learn to be humble and lowly before God, and because of this are gentle toward others, don’t hold grudges and are not resentful of their mistakes or betrayal.
- have a passionate desire for goodness and for God.
- learn to care for others and offer kindness, love and grace to our neighbor.
- are utterly sincere and true in our heart, and are uncluttered by what the world may give.
- try our best to cooperate with others, instead of competing or fighting with them. We proclaim the gospel of peace.
- face opposition for the cause of the good or for goodness or in obedience to God.
Jesus says the Kingdom of Heaven occurs whenever and wherever we uphold Kingdom values and live them out. It is in line with the prayer “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”. While the ideals in the beatitudes may seem humanly impossible in an evil world and given our sinful nature, Jesus shows us it is possible even in a broken world. God became human to show us His glory that the Father shares with his only Son, a glory full of kindness and truth. (Jn 1:14)
Today, we can live a new life by turning to Jesus in repentance and obedience. When we receive Christ and the Holy Spirit into our lives, turn from our old ways and embrace the beatitudes — this is how the kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven.
PONDER | REFLECTION QUESTIONS
- In what ways have Christians, today & in the past, pursued the Kingdom of Heaven in this worldly terms?
- What message of ‘blessedness’ can you offer to a young Christian who has terminal illness or who is faced with a great crisis?
- How has my neighbour seen the advent of the Kingdom of Heaven by my words & deeds?