Our Good Crisis #2: Background for the Beatitudes

As I continue to read and think about the Beatitudes, I am fascinated by the context and structure of the scripture in Matthew. Matthew actually records 5 sermons that Jesus preached (Mt. 5-7, 10, 13, 18, 23-25). The one we call “the Sermon on the Mount” is the first of those five. And it is typically called “the Sermon on the Mount” because Jesus taught sitting on a mountainside.

Jesus was intentional about everything He did and said. Exodus 19:3 says, “while Moses went up to God, The LORD called him out of the mountain, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel.” Some scholars suggest this is why Jesus chose a mountainside. The overarching purpose of the Sermon on the Mount was to bring the old law into New Covenant light.

Meg Bucher, 5 Things You Didn’t Know about the Sermon on the Mount

Jesus begins his ministry after being baptized, being tried in the wilderness. From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” He proclaimed the good news of the kingdom while teaching in the synagogues, healing people He met along His way, healing all sorts of illness, sickness, paralysis. Large crowds followed Him. It was these people, the fisherman, the recently healed that were gathered at the mountainside when he preached this first sermon.

Interestingly the kingdom is mentioned in the Sermon on the Mount several times! We know Jesus is KING but they didn’t. Had they noticed, they might have realized He was preaching a kingly message. But this is not what the Jewish crowds were looking for in a Messiah, in their coming King. In fact His message wasn’t at all what they might have expected.

It presents a radically different agenda than what the nation of Israel expected from the Messiah. It does not present the political or material blessings of the Messiah’s reign. Instead, it expresses the spiritual implications of the rule of Jesus in our lives. This great message tells us how we will live when Jesus is our Lord. In the first century there was little agreement among Jews as to what the messianic kingdom would be like. One very popular assumption was that the Roman yoke would be shattered and there would be political peace and mounting prosperity.

Commentary, Mt. 5:2, David Guzik

The structure that supports this kingly message are the bookends – the idea that the kingdom of heaven has come is noted in Chapters 4 and 9!

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 

Matthew 4:23

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.

Matthew 9:35

What’s cool is the Beatitudes themselves are bookended by the same idea – proclaiming the good news of the kingdom!

” for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 5:3

 “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 5:10

Notice that the verb tense indicates this is already present and true! Curiously the Beatitudes in between the first and last are all future tense! It will be fun to dive into each statement in the coming days! The fact that the present tense clause is repeated indicates that the blessedness of the kingdom of heaven is operational now! The future tense in the remaining statements indicates that the kingdom is also a future hope.

God’s future is arriving in the present, in the person and work of Jesus, and you can practice, right now, the habits of life which will find their goal in that coming future. 

NT Wright, After You Believe 

Actually this relates well to the season of Easter that we are approaching. Easter reminds us that Christ is risen from the dead. This is a picture of our present position – the scripture says we have been raised with Christ already! It also pictures our future reality when Christ returns!

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 

Colossians 3:1-3

We, too, will be raised to a new life in God’s new heaven and earth, His new world! At Easter we anticipate our future vocation, being kings and priests, having developed the habits of kingdom people while here on earth. Our study of the Beatitudes is one step in understanding our present position in the Kingdom, and our future hope – habits we anticipate to be fully present in our future!

O for a heart to praise my God,
a heart from sin set free;
a heart that’s sprinkled with the blood
so freely shed for me:

A heart resigned, submissive, meek,
my great Redeemer’s throne;
where only Christ is heard to speak,
where Jesus reigns alone:

A humble, lowly, contrite heart,
believing, true, and clean,
which neither life nor death can part
from him that dwells within:

A heart in every thought renewed,
and full of love divine;
perfect and right and pure and good —
a copy, Lord, of thine.

Thy nature, gracious Lord, impart,
come quickly from above;
write thy new name upon my heart,
thy new best name of Love.

Charles Wesley, 1742

I am preparing to read Our Good Crisis by Jonathan Dodson … I invite you to join me!

Dodson, J. K. (2020). Our good crisis: Overcoming moral chaos with the Beatitudes. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, an imprint of InterVarsity Press.

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