The Beatitudes and the Kingdom of God

Today we end our journey together through the beatitudes. When Jesus taught them, he had the disciples at His feet and the crowd pressed in behind them, listening in. Even though we have looked at each of the eight beatitudes one by one, Jesus taught them all together in one long sermon that covers three chapters in the book of Matthew, and you think my chapel talks are long. We have looked at all eight of them separately but now I want to step back and make three last points about the beatitudes as a whole.

First, the call to live out the beatitudes is a call to living out the kingdom of heaven here on earth. What Jesus says about living out the kingdom of heaven on earth looks radically different than what everyone else is doing with their life. It is a battle between living for the kingdom of self, where you and I try to be kings and queens of our own life and the kingdom of heaven, where Jesus the risen Lord is king. If we strive to live out the beatitudes, we will be blessed. The literal English translation of blessed is happy but the word happy in our day has really lost its meaning. Happy to us is a feeling. A smiley emoji. A red balloon. A warm puppy. This is not what Jesus is talking about. Psalm 1 says,

Blessed is the man

Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,

Nor stands in the path of sinners,

Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;

But his delight is in the law of the Lord,

And in His law he meditates day and night.

He shall be like a tree

Planted by the rivers of water.

Being blessed is having a deep, intimate relationship with the creator of the universe by knowing Him through His Word. In a familiar benediction in the book of Numbers it says,

“The Lord bless you and keep you;

The Lord make His face shine upon you,

And be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,

And give you peace.”

The blessing of the Lord is that His beautiful face will shine on you. He will lift his countenance to you. Countenance means his face and the expression of his face, another way to say it is God will look up and smile on you. The light that takes away all darkness, that brings warmth, that light will come to you and bring you peace. That is what it means to be blessed. This blessing comes to those who seek first the kingdom of God.

Second, living out the beatitudes requires you to declare spiritual bankruptcy. What is bankruptcy? It happens when you keep trying to borrow so much money that you get into so much debt that there is no way you can pay people back and you go to court and go before a judge and ask for mercy. You have no other option otherwise you will face terrible consequences for your actions. The disciples that Jesus is calling to live out the beatitudes are ones that know that they are bankrupt of heart and have empty hands. They are begging for mercy. You cannot live out the beatitudes and be used for the kingdom of heaven, if you hand is holding onto money, wealth, material things, and you cannot be used by God if you hold in your hands a list of things God needs to do for you. The call for kingdom living means you come to God with empty hands. And tell Jesus not my will but yours. We say it every chapel, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. It is all about Jesus, His kingdom, His will, it’s not about me.  

Last, when do we start living for the kingdom of heaven? We know that there are blessings to come, but when can we start living out the beatitudes? At what age does Jesus want people to start living for the kingdom of heaven and living out the beatitudes? If you are a child of God, your responsibility to living out your Christianity starts now.

Douglas Wilson wrote, “Young men (and women) have to learn their responsibilities as part of the kingdom. The kingdom of God is not divided (between young and old). The basic responsibility of all remains the same, to worship God. Everything that breathes has an obligation to praise the Lord, no exemptions have been granted for…boys (or girls).”

The call for kingdom living that Jesus is teaching to His disciples is for all his disciples. Of all ages. Right now. You are to be humble, meek, hungering for righteousness, merciful and peacemakers. Not when you get to high school. Not when you go to college. Not when you get married. Right now. Today. And every day for the rest of your life.