Good morning and Happy New Year, Journey Church. My name is Phil Human and I’m so glad to be here today preaching the good news about Jesus and the life he has come to bring us through faith in Jesus.
We’ve been in a series we are calling the Real Jesus, because we truly believe when you discover the real Jesus you are going to find him impossible not to want to follow.
And today we’re talking about the message that Jesus taught everywhere he went. We studied his birth and his mission. So today and for the six weeks we’re going to dive into the core of his teaching. When he sat down to teach people – what did he teach them?
Now if you were to read the book of Matthew – one of the other three books in the bible that detail Jesus’ life – you will find Matthews version of the sermon that Luke records for us in Luke chapter 6. There are some differences – one of the clearest differences is that in Matthew Jesus gives this introduction to his teaching on top of a mountain. So it’s commonly called the sermon on the mount.
Now all of the gospel writers talk about how Jesus travelled and everywhere he went he preached to crowds – and so – Luke records a time that Jesus covered much of the same material at a different place – this time he has just descended from a mountain – and so – it’s called the sermon on the plain. Plain. Not plane.
What’s very interesting though is not only is the material that Jesus covers similar – it’s striking how much the audience looks alike as well.
Can I read from Matthew first – who says in Matthew 4, setting for both of these sermons
23 Jesus traveled throughout the region of Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. 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—people from Galilee, the Ten Towns, Jerusalem, from all over Judea, and from east of the Jordan River.
Here’s the crowd that Luke describes in Luke 6. Again – different location – different time – but notice how the crowd still looks the same!
17 When they came down from the mountain, the disciples stood with Jesus on a large, level area, surrounded by many of his followers and by the crowds. There were people from all over Judea and from Jerusalem and from as far north as the seacoasts of Tyre and Sidon. 18 They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those troubled by evil spirits were healed. 19 Everyone tried to touch him, because healing power went out from him, and he healed everyone.
Behold – Jesus’ church. If you had one word to describe this crew, what word would you use? Needy? Broken? bedraggled? Desperate?
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!
How would you feel about going out of here today and telling people – you should come to Journey Church with me – the place is teeming with needy, broken, desperate, hurting people. How’d you feel about that?
You have no idea how much I we want you to be able to say – you’d love that. We hope that you are the kinds of people who would say – that’s exactly the kind of faith community that I want to be a part of.
Because we’re describing 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. It’s super important we understand the setting of this sermon – otherwise it’s not going to be all that great news.
Then and Now – there was very little room within religious institutions for the broken, the weak, the hurting. 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 around him 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.
Why is this? Well – Jesus is going to lay it out for us in this passage exactly why churches have a tendency to struggle with acting. And we’ll jump in a moment – but first…
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.
So now we have the scene. What’s his message to these poor souls? I’ll read through verse 26 and then come back and dig deeper.
20 Then Jesus turned to his disciples and said,
“God blesses you who are poor,
for the Kingdom of God is yours.
21 God blesses you who are hungry now,
for you will be satisfied.
God blesses you who weep now,
for in due time you will laugh.
22 What blessings await you when people hate you and exclude you and mock you and curse you as evil because you follow the Son of Man. 23 When that happens, be happy! Yes, leap for joy! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, their ancestors treated the ancient prophets that same way.
24 “What sorrow awaits you who are rich,
for you have your only happiness now.
25 What sorrow awaits you who are fat and prosperous now,
for a time of awful hunger awaits you.
What sorrow awaits you who laugh now,
for your laughing will turn to mourning and sorrow.
26 What sorrow awaits you who are praised by the crowds,
for their ancestors also praised false prophets.
What’s happening here? Jesus is addressing an important question – who is blessed? Who is blessable?
This week I went on twitter and searched for photos of people who tagged their photo with the word Blessed. Hashtag Blessed? What pictures do you think people posted with the word #blessed?
Shoes? Presents? Tesla? Stimulus Check? far and away it was photos of people! Like this cutie!
Know what I didn’t see? I didn’t see anyone standing in like to apply for jobless benefits or welfare or subsidy. I didn’t see anyone taking a photo of a meal they eat alone – no family to celebrate with – few friends. I didn’t see any old junker cars barely hanging together with the hashtag blessed.
What if you can’t afford new shoes? What if your car is broken down? What if you lose a job and then your car and house? What about those who have no family to be able to take a picture of? Are these people blessed?
Jesus’ message Jesus redefines what #blessed looks like.
Jesus calls out the four characteristic traits of what the world views as necessary in order to be blessed – Jesus calls out this worlds pre-requisites for blessedness. This world defines blessedness in terms of
Power (verses 20,24)
(Poor vs wealth is as much about power versus weakness as anything)
Comfort (Verses 21,25)
Jesus compares those who are hungry now, versus people who are fat and prosperous
Success (Vs 21, 25) (Laughs now is a HAHA laugh – I won and you lost laugh- it’s a gloating kind of laugh)
Recognition (22, 26) People either exclude you, or praise you
Then and now – if you possess power or comfort of success or recognition – then you are going to be viewed in the eyes of the world as blessed.
And yet here’s Jesus preaching to a crowd that his little if none of these things. And Jesus says – the good news is – that he has come to establish a new kingdom – or I should say more accurately – he has come to open the doors to the one true kingdom – the kingdom of Heaven/God/Light/Christ.
And guess what – you don’t need to have any of these things to be blessed in His Kingdom.
All who enter into this new Kingdom of God through faith in Jesus become blessed. And what does blessedness look like in the Kingdom of Heaven?
It looks like this – it’s not by power/comfort/success or recognition – blessedness in Jesus’ kingdom is defined in five words.
“I am with you, always.” Immanuel – God with us. The blessedness that is available to all through faith in Jesus is the assurance that no matter what happens to us – no matter our circumstances. No matter the pain. No matter the grief. We fear no evil because thou art with us.
No matter how powerlessness – no matter the pain – no matter our level of success and recognition in this life we live – we can live a blessed life because – Immanuel – God with us.
I was speaking to a friend this week and he and his family are going through the wringer this year. And especially these past two months. Lots of tough stuff. And you know what he said? He said – Phil – I’ve heard you talk anough about memorizing and meditating on Psalm 23 so much that I eventually decided to give it a try. And so I work through that psalm once a day – when my head pops off the pillow in the middle of the night – I pray it. And he told me – that he said I’ve come to see Psalm 23 as the most beautiful chapter in the bible.
He understands what blessedness looks like – no matter the difficulty of the path set before him – he knows that he knows that he knows – The Lord is my Shepherd – I lack nothing. I fear nothing – because thou art with me.
Blessed are you through faith – who are poor and powerless – who lack comfort, who lack success, who lack recognition – blessed and blessable are you.
But he also goes on to give something of a warning to people who already have power – comfort, success and recognition. And he give a warning – sorrow awaits you.
Now we touched on this last week – but it’s important enough to cover again – Jesus is not preaching here salvation through poverty. One is not automatically blessed because they are poor. And one is not automatically in trouble because they are rich.
There are many poor people who refuse to enter the Kingdom of Heaven through faith in Jesus. And likewise, there are plenty of people with money, and comfort, and success and recognition, who have entered this alternative Kingdom of Heaven through faith in Jesus.
But Jesus is giving a clear warning here – that very often power/comfort/success and recognition insulate us from hearing the good news.
I remember when I was going to school to become a pastor back in 1990 – I signed up to do this thing that sounds really weird. One Friday a month we drove into Atlanta and we walked around the streets talking to people about faith and about God.
We’d walk in groups of two or three and we’d see some people and ask them – hey we’re out here tonight sharing about our faith journey and just wondered if you wanted to talk.
I clearly remember coming upon a group of four people – two couples – dressed very nicely – casually walking toward us – and so I just asked – not trying to bother you – but we’re out here talking to people about God – just wondered if you had any thoughts about God or maybe you have something we can pray for.
And boy – these four people they really had fun with us. Oh boy! Please tell us about God. And they just mocked us and snickered and laughed – now generally I don’t blame them one bit for that – it comes with the territory if I’m just going to start talking to strangers – I didn’t take it personally.
I share it only to put in contrast the conversations I had with the powerless, those who lacked comfort/success/recognition. many were living on the streets. We’d bring sandwiches and food to hand out too. And when we asked them if they wanted to talk about God and faith – well, by and large – the differences were striking. Openness. Listening. There was receptivity to the message of the good news of Jesus.
Now – this is only anecdotal evidence. But it would in many ways shed light on what Jesus is talking about here. In God’s Kingdom the weak are made strong. God’s power is made manifest in weakness.
See – the joy – the benefit and the joy of living in the Kingdom of God is that if we ever enter into a season – or a valley – of weakness, or powerlessness, or discomfort, or grief, or exclusion – these things don’t destroy us.
See, in the kingdom of darkness – people spend incredible amounts of energy and resources in an effort to keep powerlessness, discomfort, grief, weakness of any kind away from them! Like they are rocky shoals that will sink their ship. And the reality is that many a person who placed their faith in power/comfort/success and recognition have been shipwrecked when they lose it.
We don’t have to worry about any of that. I heard one person say recently – the best thing about becoming a Christian is that it turned money into only money. It turns comfort into only comfort. Not life’s most important goal. It keeps success and recognition from ruining me.
Because I know that my identity, my purpose, my worth as a human being is no longer tied to something that can be burned or stolen or sullied. I’m blessed by God because I know he is with me. And together we’re at work to bring salt and light to our broken world.
Blessedness no longer depends on power/comfort/success/recognition.
No – the blessings of the “With God” life – is that I’m perfectly blessed even when weak, when grieving, when excluded and mocked. I’m perfectly blessed and blessable in the Kingdom of Jesus.
We don’t seek weakness/powerlessness/ we don’t seek grief. But when they come along – as they surely will – we can allow them to be used by God to do their work inside of us that only it can do, knowing that our good shepherd – our living heavenly father – is with us.
And he is working within us, from the inside out – to become different kinds of human beings. And a different kind of community. the Salt and Light of the world.
Does this sound like good news to you? Are you ready to enter the Kingdom of Heaven? It’s wildly available through faith in Jesus – who kicked open the doors to that kingdom through his work on the cross.
You can pray a prayer that sounds like this. Lord – I’m beginning to understand the differences between the kingdom of the world and the Kingdom of God. I want to be part of your kingdom.
Thank you for dying for me. Thank you for forgiving me. Thank you for restoring a right relationship with God for me. Teach me to follow you.