I have good news!
Next week we will have donuts and bagels.
Now can I ask you something? Is it possible that you are a little bit disappointed that the ‘good news’ is only that we will have donuts here next week? I mean, how many of you were hoping to hear something a little more substantial? A little more profound?
You might be thinking, that’s just news. That just belongs in the news category- the fyi category – if you are going to walk into a room and start a sermon in front of a couple of hundred people by declaring you have some really good news, then you better deliver some really good news and not some pedestrian public service announcement, Right? Let’s reserve the category of “Good news” for something more substantial. And I agree.
Now keep that righteous indignation in mind as we read about Jesus and the way he preached. Because Jesus’ favorite way to start a sermon? “Gang, I have some really good news to tell you!” Scootch closer children, I have some good news I want to make sure you hear.
Check it out in Matthew 4, this is the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. The chapter begins with the temptation of Jesus. Then the start of his public ministry. Then he calls his first disciples. He gathers his first crowds.
Let’s take a closer look at this message – crowds are gathering and Jesus is telling them… 23 Jesus traveled throughout the region of Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom.
And so now we have the setting for Jesus’ most important sermon. He has announced good news and now he is going to tell all of us what the good news is…
And for us to fully appreciate the nature of this good news – let’s first capture the setting. Let’s not overlook who is listening to the sermon. Read these verses – these were the congregants listening to Jesus talk about his good news.
And he healed every kind of disease and illness. 24 News about him spread as far as Syria, and people soon began bringing to him all who were sick. And whatever their sickness or disease, or if they were demon possessed or epileptic or paralyzed—he healed them all.25 Large crowds followed him wherever he went—
5 One day as he saw the crowds gathering, Jesus went up on the mountainside and sat down. His disciples gathered around him, 2 and he began to teach them.
If you had one word to describe this crew, what word would you use? Hurting? Broken? bedraggled? The Sick? The set asides, pushed aside, overlooked? The exact words, the sick, the diseased, the demon possessed?
Sounds like a great church plant start up team? You should come to my church- people are like hacking and wheezing and lots of the people in my church are diseased. You’ll love it!
This was Jesus’ core team. he was about to preach the most important sermon anyone has ever preached in all of mankind – The Setting: Jesus is preaching to a group of people who didn’t have their ‘act’ all together.
There was very little place in religious life for these people. Declared to be unclean they were often ignored, rarely touched. They had little going for them. That’s the bottom line. They were spiritually bankrupt. No spiritual currency in the room.
Later we learn that also in the crowd were the morally bankrupt. The people who drank too much. Fooled around too much. People who couldn’t get their act together.
That’s the setting. It was a mountainside of people who didn’t have their act together. And Jesus showed up, gathered these kinds of people on a mountain and started his sermon with the words, “I have some really great news to share with you. There is room in God’s world for you. You fit in in the Kingdom of heaven. Right now.”
You know, right this morning I’d be willing to wager a bet that people drove by the school this morning and they saw our sign about a church meeting here, and I’m willing to bet that someone drove by and said to themselves – “when I get by act together, I’d like to go to church.”
Maybe that’s you. Maybe you know you don’t have your act together and you are just hoping you don’t run into someone who knows you don’t have your act together.
It’s such an interesting phrase – get my act together. Did you know that the word hypocrite was a greek word that means ‘actor’. It wasn’t a negative word at first, it was a theater word – I am an actor.
If you want to watch great acting in America you can jump on a plane and fly to New York and pay a fortune to watch some of the finest acting in the world. But frankly, if you want to see some really great acting, you could just go to church. Pick any church. You will likely find people putting on a show.
It was the same in Jesus day. All of these spiritually and morally bankrupt people – they thought they had to get their act together in order to fit in.
Can we just agree together this morning that you don’t have to have your act together to be part of Journey? Can we mentally, internally, agree that we are all a little bit of a hot mess? Can we be the kind of church that is patient with one another as and compassionate with one another as God renovates our soul from the inside out?
Jesus isn’t preaching to a group of people that have their life in order. He’s preaching to the island of misfit toys. And he wants them to know – good news. You fit in God’s world.
What’s the declaration of this sermon? Jesus begins the sermon with a declaration that even people like you are bless-able. No one is out of range. Even you are blessable. And the beatitudes – they are difficult to understand. Because at first pass they sound like a list of people who are blessed because of their attitudes, or their circumstances.
For example: v. 3 says that “God blesses the poor.” Well, if that’s all that it takes to be blessed by God is to be poor, then all of us should sell everything we have and strive for poorness. If allit takes to be blessed by God is to be poor, then why does Jesus go through all that He goes through on the cross in order to purchase for us the opportunity to be made new? It’s not salvation by works, it’s salvation by poverty.
Instead, it’s best for us to read the beautitudes as “Blessable are the poor.” or God blesses even the poor. He is preaching to the poor. And he is saying to them – I have some really good news. Even you can be blessed by God – even you can live a blessed life. Just as you are. Blessable.
Hey, good news you who mourn, a blessed life is available for you right now in the Kingdom of heaven – it’s available to even you.
This by the way, is NOT the message they had been hearing all their life. They had been hearing that they were cursed for their illness. They were told they were unblessable in their current state.
Jesus looks out at this coughing and hacking and diseased core team of humans and says, I have some really good news. You are blessable! Right now as you are. Let me be the first to welcome you to the life you thought was too good to be true.
After the declaration, Jesus moves to the vision of what these people can become. Jim talked last week about the importance of being able to envision the changed life God has in store for you – and Jesus now turns his attention to casting a magnificent vision for this rag tag team of quarantined hospital patients that he is preaching to on the Sermon on the mount.
And what does Jesus tell these folks? You are the light of the world. You regular joes. It is extremely important that we understand that these people thought they were excluded from God’s blessings, and left out of any kind of plan God had for them.
Jesus says, Good news – check it out – You are the ones who actually make the world work. And you are the kind of people that God is transforming to emit a certain radiance that shines love and hope and goodness into other people’s lives.
Do you know that you are the light in your work place? That God desires to make you the kind of person who lights up a room by the manner in which you love the people you work with and live near?
Do you know that Jesus says that you are the salt of the earth? You make life taste better to people in your world? Salt makes things taste better. You are the salt of life. You make life taste better.
Granted it’s not you, it’s God working in you and through you and Jesus walks with you day to day. Right? The blessed life is a life lived walking day by day with Jesus in His kingdom. And we, for now, live our life on this earth that is filled with people looking for evidence of God’s existence.
Jesus says, good news – you are that evidence. And the life you live will be the kind of life that others see as good and the result will be that they will have to face the truth that God is the reason. The world will see your good works, and glorify God as a result.
Just think about the power of that vision. That others might pray at night a small thank you that He has placed you in their life. Not glorifying us – they glorify God but thank him for having you in their life. That’s a powerful vision. Sounds audacious, right? Jesus said it, not me.
And it’s the kind of vision that can only come true if God makes us new kinds of humans.
This is the good news. Through faith in Jesus we can become different kinds of people. We can leave behind the idea that the world orbits around myself. And I can join in the work that Jesus is doing in the world in and through Jesus’ kingdom.
Will you give yourself permission to receive that vision of your life that Jesus has for you? You were built to count in this world. You are created for a purpose. You can become the kind of person who loves others naturally and easily – not for our glory but God’s.
Now – as we continue to read this sermon in Matthew 5 – and by the way, it’s important to understand that these sections follow each other on purpose. There is a reason it’s in the order it’s in.
After painting a picture of this new kind of humanity that Jesus is creating, Jesus is going to answer the question that these bedraggled believers are asking themselves, at least internally.
17 “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.
Why does Jesus say this? Because surely those who were listening to His sermon were thinking just this. That surely, Jesus is leading a revolt – a revolution against those legalists who had come in power in the religious world.
These professional religionists had taken God’s word in the Old Testament and twisted it around so severely that they had turned this energetic faith in and with God into this boring, rigid, game called “Don’t ever do anything wrong.” They had turned the dynamic joy of a relationship with God into a game called, “If you don’t ever do anything wrong, then and only then will you be right with God.”
And very very few were making the cut.
Here’s Jesus – out on a hillside with people the religious oppressors would describe as religious bums -and Jesus says, Good news, you made the team! You made the cut! Even you can stumble your way into the opportunity to become a new kind of human.
So of course, these people are thinking, the only way that it can be done is to throw out all of this religious stuff that has boxed us out of and kept us from God – throw it all out and start over.
So Jesus has to say – the problem is not the law. The problem is not the law.
Let me ask you, which of the old testament laws did Jesus break? None! Jesus is the embodiment of all of the old testament laws. He is what it would have looked like for a person to live out the old testament.
Sometimes people ask me, did God change – the old testament has all of these laws and the new testament is all about loving others. Jesus was the most loving, compassionate, kind human being who ever lived and he also happens to be the only person who ever perfectly embodied all of the law of the OT.
I haven’t come to abolish the law – I came to fulfill it. To show you what it looks like to love and obey God from the inside out. To not only follow the letter of the law but the spirit of it as well.
This is the biggest difference between Jesus and the religious heavy’s of the day. They were only concerned with keeping the letter of the law. And you know – if all you are concerned about is following the letter of the law, you can do that and be a pretty ugly person at the same time?
Jesus perfectly kept the law. The religious pharisees also perfectly kept the law. Then why is one so beautiful and the other so darn ugly?
The reason lies in the kind of rightness. Jesus is about to teach his followers a very important lesson. There is a beautiful kind of rightness. And there is an ugly kind of rightness.
Matthew 5:20 “But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!
Now I have to tell you, the first time I read this I was confused and discouraged. I used to just read right past this and do one of those, Hmmm, yes, profound! Such a riddle! What does he mean, I wonder, oh well, let’s just ignore this. Because certainly Jesus isn’t serious,
I mean, we are talking about a group of people who never did anything wrong. They lived almost flawless lives. They gave a tenth of not only their money, but they would like measure out their parsley and make sure that they gave away a tenth of their parsley – wouldn’t want to do anything wrong. Look how righteous I am! Chopping broccoli for Jesus!
So for Jesus to say that my righteousness has to be better? He might as well say, Unless you can beat Usain Bolt in a 100 meter dash you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Or unless you can beat Michael Phelps in a 50 meter freestyle swim, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. All right, here we go? I’d bend over and slap my arms a few times. and then I’d shoot him and technically I win.
And this is what that ugly kind of rightness does. It relies on technicalities. Technically, I did nothing wrong.
Jesus comes along and says enough of the technicalities. Enough of thinking that all you have to do to be right with God is to never do anything wrong.
This is the problem: A wrong kind of rightness.
Jesus says we need a different kind of rightness. One that’s not so ugly. So technically correct and so devoid of life. We need a new kind of rightness – one that surpasses the old rightness of “I didn’t do anything wrong”. It’s not enough because it leaves a persons soul untouched and unchanged.
You can live a technically right kind of life, and be a totally wrong kind of human.
And this is the promise: When we trust Jesus with our life, he will change us from the inside out into a different kind of human being.
And from this point in the sermon Jesus is going to start talking about what this new kind of human looks like as Jesus directly compares these two different kinds of rightness.
For instance – in the case of murder. The pharisee says I have never killed anyone therefore I am innocent. Jesus asks, ever wish someone was injured? Ever wish someone would just die? Ever wish harm on someone?
In contrast to just being technically right, Jesus offers a different kind of rightness. how about we allow Him to turn us into the kinds of people who treat other human beings with dignity and respect – and we become the kind of people who seek to encourage and lift up other humans, rather than trash them with our thoughts and words.
Good news for us – he can make us those kinds of people.
Then Jesus says, let’s talk about adultery. The legalist says, technically I have never committed adultery. Jesus says, okay, ever lusted after someone? Now if Jesus were adding more rules this one would crush almost all of us. Maybe one will escape. Not you though, right?
I mean, if lust were an olympic sport some of you would be in Rio right now, right? It’s okay, I’m not judging you. We all got something. But what I mean is, there are some who fight lustful thoughts all day long and you are feeling pretty good about yourself because thus far you haven’t ever acted on them, you haven’t technically committed adultery.
But Jesus is saying, there’s so much more than technically right. He wants to install a new kind of rightness inside of us that would cause us to see other people not as objects to mentally take and violate, but rather as a human being created by God, and we naturally will find ourselves not going there.
Isn’t that a wonderful promise? Isn’t that a wonderful vision? There is hope for you.
You can turn into the kind of person who does everything right and ends up being the worst kind of human. Angry, judgmental, hateful. Did you know that you can follow the letter of the law and be hateful at the same time?
Jesus comes to announce – good news – it is now possible to be a different kind of human from the inside out.
The promise: A new kind of human.
The Hope: That we might live the life we thought was too good to be true.
The Means: Through faith in Jesus and walking with Him daily in the Kingdom of heaven.