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The Greatest Sermon Ever Told | The Blessed Life
September 17, 2023
1Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
2And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
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.
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. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
To discover and experience Jesus Christ in our midst
To cultivate mutually encouraging relationships
To participate in God’s mission to the world
God of radiant light, shine into our lives, and disperse the darkness that dims our vision; shine into our world, and cast out the fears that long have chained us; shine into our worship, that we may be a people of your hope and promise. Amen.
Responsive Prayer—Isaiah 61
The Spirit of the LORD God is upon me,
Because the LORD has anointed me
To bring good news to the poor;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound
To proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor,
To comfort all who mourn;
To grant to those who mourn in Zion—
To give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
The garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
That they may be called oaks of righteousness,
The planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.
Summary and Connection
Last week we began a new series focused on the Sermon on the Mount titled The Greatest Sermon Ever Told. In our previous discussion based on Matthew 5:1-4, we looked into the first four Beatitudes in order to answer the thematic question of the series: How does the Sermon on the Mount capture Jesus’ vision for the good life? How does a sermon preached over 2,000 years ago carve out the path to true human flourishing? How does the Sermon on the Mount offer a whole new way of being human, and thereby answering our deepest existential question: What does it mean to be human?
This study is based on Matthew 5:5-12. We have already learned that the Beatitudes are objective descriptions and commendations of the good life a Christian already possesses. In other words, Jesus begins his Sermon on the Mount by offering and inviting his audience, and by extension us, into “the way of being in the world that will result in their true and full flourishing now and in the age to come.” The first four Beatitudes describe who the Christians are in relationship with God and the rest of the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:5-12) enumerates how we ought to live in response to God’s relationship with us. To put it simply, the first four Beatitudes capture the vertical aspect of our relationship with God, and the rest capture the horizontal aspect of our relationship with others.
In the Beatitudes we see three characteristics of the blessed or flourishing life of a Christian. 1) We see that a truly blessed or flourishing life is a paradoxical life. In the Beatitudes Jesus deliberately presents the good or flourishing life as ironic, paradoxical, and future oriented hope. 2) True blessed life is progressive. The good life according to Jesus is not a future goal one attains based on their performance. It is not a conditional blessing that is attained by living in poverty, hunger, or by virtue of suffering and persecution. The good life or a blessed life is a way of being—truly flourishing in the present, in the midst of and even in a mysterious way because of injustice, suffering, and persecution, because of one’s union with Christ. Furthermore, the good life is also about how we live in light of who are—the blessed ones. Jesus appeals to find fullness by reorienting our lives towards a certain way of being in the world. 3) This passage emphasizes the power of the blessed life. We learn a vital truth about Christian life on earth: The power to live the blessed or flourishing life does not come from us, rather it is located in Christ, and we receive it from Jesus—the true and perfect blessed one—who enables us to lead the blessed life.
1. Looking at the Bible
What does the text say? Who are the main characters in this story? What according to you is the theme of this passage?
- Who are the ‘meek’ and how do they ‘inherit the earth?’
- What does it mean ‘hunger and thirst’? What kind of righteousness does Jesus have in mind here? And how will we be satisfied when we hunger and thirst in such a way?
- What is ‘mercy’ and who are the ‘merciful’? Can we merit mercy? How do the ‘merciful’ receive mercy?
2. Looking at Jesus
At Central we believe that all of Scripture points to Jesus. In other words, Jesus is the theological center of the Bible. Every passage not only points to Jesus, but the grand narrative of the Bible also finds its fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus.
- The weightiness of the Beatitudes compels us to confess our insufficiency in flourishing as the blessed ones, and our powerlessness in living out the blessed life. How do the Beatitudes point to the sufficiency of Jesus as both the blessed one and the source of power to lead the blessed life?
3. Looking at Our Hearts
The following are personal application questions based on the stages of growth in Christian faith.
- One of the characteristic qualities of being ‘meek’ is contentment—to be filled up and not puffed up. In what ways have you been finding contentment in your walk with Christ? In what ways do you tend to be discontent?
- Talking about the Beatitude of mercy, Anglican theologian John Stott writes: “Nothing moves us to forgive like the wonderful knowledge that we ourselves have been forgiven. Nothing proves more clearly that we have been forgiven than our readiness to forgive.” How have you experienced God’s mercy this week? Have you received forgiveness from someone you sinned against? Or have you forgiven someone who has grieved you by sinning against you?
- As Christians we are called the children of God, and as the children of God we are called to be ‘peacemakers.’ Does peace characterize your life at present? If yes, how? How does this passage help you to receive peace, and to be a peacemaker?
4. Looking at Our World
- How do the Beatitudes offer you hope and confidence to flourish as a Community Group, as a church, and most importantly as Christians in New York?
God’s word is a lamp to our feet. Christ’s teachings are a light to our path. May God’s word take root in our lives. May Christ’s love nourish and sustain us. Amen.
View Study Guide Notes
Question 1a. Emphasize the fact that the ‘meek’ or the humble are flourishing because they are the true inheritors of the world. It is not a conditional blessing. Here Jesus is showing the paradoxical nature of the good life by describing and commending the state of blessedness of the ‘meek.’ The Greek adjective praus means ‘gentle’, ‘humble’, or ‘considerate.’ To be meek is to exercise self-control by being selfless. Meekness, in other words, is the controlled desire to seek the other person’s interests ahead of one’s own. Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones sums it up admirably: “Meekness is a true view of oneself, expressing itself in an attitude and conduct with respect to others. The man who is truly meek is the one who is truly amazed that God and man can think of him as well as they do and treat him as well as they do.” Think about the implications of this paradoxical nature of being. We live in a self-seeking —‘survival of the fittest’ culture where only the rich, powerful, and the influential people are expected to thrive and flourish. Look at Jesus’ radical claim that cuts against the grain of our understanding of what it means to flourish. In Jesus’ kingdom it is meek—selfless and humble—who are the ones who flourish and reign by inheriting the earth.
How exactly do the meek inherit the earth? The meek or the humble followers of Jesus inherit the earth as they know what it means to live and reign with Jesus. They have an unshakable eternal perspective in Jesus that enables them to enjoy and even ‘possess’ the earth which belongs to Jesus. The future hope of living and reigning with Christ further humbles us—to be filled up with contentment, and not be puffed up with pride or discontentment. Christians are freed up to serve, to seek the well-being of others knowing that they already possess the true treasure in Jesus, who is the Lord of heaven and earth.
Question 1b. It is vital for us to understand that to ‘hunger and thirst’ is to order our lives—thoughts, words, and actions—in conformity to God’s will. Jesus is talking about our spiritual hunger which is a distinguishing feature of all God’s people. Notice the paradoxical nature of Jesus’ statement here. We live in a materialistic culture where people hunger and thirst over the latest gadgets, luxury cars, fancy clothes, or jewelry. These things offer counterfeit satisfaction that is transient and utterly insatiable. In contrast, the ones who are hunger and thirst after righteousness are flourishing because they are satisfied by all sufficient God himself.
Emphasize the fact that ‘righteousness’ in the Bible has at least three aspects:
- Legal righteousness—justification by faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone. It is a right relationship with God.
- Moral righteousness—has to do with the righteousness of character and conduct which pleases God.
- Social righteousness—striving for justice for the oppressed, and integrity in business and honor in home and family affairs.
When we hunger and thirst after righteousness, we strive to conform ourselves to God’s will for our lives. A Christian’s pursuit for righteousness is so life-giving that he or she hungers and thirsts more for it. The more a Christian pursues conformity to God’s will, the more attractive the pursuit becomes. This is how a blessed or flourishing life looks like on earth, irrespective of the circumstances.
Question 1c. It is important to understand the distinction between ‘mercy’ and ‘grace.’ We often use these terms synonymously; however, there is a vital distinction between the two. Grace is a demerited favor. It is a loving response when love is utterly undeserved. Whereas mercy is a loving response prompted by the misery and helplessness of the one on whom the love is to be showered. One commentator sums it up beautifully: “Grace answers to the undeserving; mercy answers to the miserable.”
Can we merit mercy? Absolutely not! The misery and the helplessness we experience are the direct result of sin, and as sinners we can’t stand in the presence of the holy God, demanding for mercy. Who can receive mercy? Only the ones who are fully aware of their own spiritual bankruptcy, and who in turn mourn over their sin, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, all the while depending on their all-sufficient Savior for grace and mercy. The unmerciful are unaware of their own spiritual bankruptcy. By contrast, the merciful are aware of their wretchedness, and are enabled to be merciful toward the wretched. In being merciful, the Christian is also shown mercy. Those who show mercy, live out the life of mercy that is theirs in Jesus.
Question 2: The Beatitudes emphasizes a vital truth about Christian life on earth: The power to live the blessed or flourishing life does not come from us, rather it is located in Christ, and we receive it from Jesus—the true and perfect blessed one—who enables us to lead the blessed life.
The Beatitudes point us to Jesus, the true and perfect blessed one who was poor in spirit, humbling himself as a servant, becoming obedient to death on the cross, carrying our sins. To Jesus belongs the kingdom of heaven, and we receive it from Jesus, by virtue of our union with him. Jesus as the victorious suffering servant on the cross, truly inherits the earth. When we display Christ in our humility, we are enabled to possess the earth.
Jesus as the true and perfect blessed one hungered and thirst for righteousness. He fulfilled the righteous requirement of God by his perfect obedience of the law. He satisfied the justice of God by his sacrifice on the cross. Jesus is our righteousness. When we hunger and thirst after Jesus, we are satisfied by Jesus himself.
Jesus as the true and perfect blessed one is also the merciful one who reconciles sinners to God, securing forgiveness by his substitutionary death on the cross. As the redeemed sinners who are recipients of God’s mercy, we are enabled to show mercy and offer forgiveness freely.
Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus is the pure one who is called Emmanuel—God with us. He is God incarnate who dwelt among sinful people (John 1).
Jesus is called the Prince of Peace—the ultimate peacemaker. He makes peace between man and God by removing sin. He makes peace between human beings by forgiving sin and by bringing human beings into a right relationship with God. We display Christ when we act as peacemakers.
The prophet Isaiah describes Jesus as the suffering servant who was persecuted for our sins as the lamb that is slaughtered. Jesus was pierced for our sins. He was crushed for our shame. He carried the punishment that brought us peace. By his wounds we are healed. We flourish when we endure persecution and suffering because we are united to the suffering servant who has saved us from the greatest persecution of sin and death. This strengthens us to rejoice and be glad, knowing that suffering, persecution, and even death cannot separate us from the love of God in Christ (Romans 8:31-39).
Question 3: All three questions in this section are application questions. Encourage the members to spend some time thinking and sharing. As a leader you can foster vulnerability by sharing your personal thoughts on these application questions.
Question 4: This is a personal application question. During this time, encourage the group to apply what they have learned from the discussion. The scope of the application includes your Community Group, Central, and your vocation.