#291 – THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN (22/2/21)
Matthew 5:10. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Those who are in the kingdom of heaven will live in accordance with the attitudes of the kingdom of heaven as set out in The Sermon on the Mount. The first Beatitude, and this last one, affirm the identity of a Christian - someone who follows Jesus - as a citizen of the 'kingdom of heaven’.
The Jews of Jesus time had a false notion about the kingdom. They had a limited vision of the kingdom as a geographical plot of land with a human descendant of David on the throne, imposing the principles and practices of the Mosaic covenant (the laws by which Gods people should live) - Jesus turns it on its head. The kingdom is much more than a geographical location. The King is more than a human descendent of David, the King is God himself, and the values of the kingdom of heaven are not external, geographical dominance but internal changes of heart and allegiance.
John 15: 18-25. ’If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: They hated me without a cause.’
Jesus comes into the world and speaks to them and us the truth about the Kingdom of Heaven. He comes and demonstrates the power and activity of the kingdom. In this Jesus is reflecting the history of Israel under Moses. God spoke to Israel through Moses and this was recorded in the scriptures. God performed miracles of deliverance and provision in the desert as a sign of His presence. Jesus is saying in this passage in John that He is speaking Gods words and performing Gods miracles. He is saying I am the God that spoke to Moses and I reveal people’s sin. Sin is not believing in and following Jesus. He is saying that he is bringing a new allegiance - one that is to Jesus and not the Law.
Philip Greenslade, (Voice from the Hills), writes,
“the invasion of the kingly rule of God is a threat to all other claimants to human allegiance and terrifies the powers that be”
We are being reminded that a person who follows Jesus, is not someone who just follows some good teaching but belongs to a completely new administration - a new Kingdom- with new allegiances and new attitudes.
COMMUNITY GROUP STUDY - BLESSED ARE THE PERSECUTED
It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.
Can you remember a time when you were wrongly accused of doing something?
Introduction - please share in your group
This week we are finishing the Beatitudes with the final one.
Please read Matthew 5: 10-12.
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
In many ways, this is perhaps the most challenging Beatitude. It is hard to imagine how being persecuted is a sign of being blessed.
In finishing with this, Jesus brings the Beatitudes to a close. He concludes as he started by reminding his hearers and us that it is those who are followers of Jesus - those who are now in the 'kingdom of Heaven' should expect to be persecuted. Jesus emphasises that this is “You”.
These verses highlight 2 reasons for the persecution of people in the kingdom of heaven.
1. Righteousness sake: a great cause
Gods righteousness and justice - a life shaped by the Beatitudes is one that, turns the world's values on its head. When you but up against a different value system - you are going to face opposition
2. On Jesus account: a great name.
Please read John 15:20-21.
“Remember the word that I said to you: A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.”
The world, the flesh and the devil will attack those who are active citizens of the Kingdom of God. Our response is to be one of peacemaking, gratitude to God, prayer and love, even for our enemies! We are to respond by keeping our eyes on the 'reward' that we will receive.
1. Did God speak to you about anything in particular from Sunday's message or the blogs this week?
2. How, and from whom, could we expect persecution?
3. Jesus says our response to persecution is to “rejoice and be glad”. What makes it possible for a Christian to do this?
4. What other verses can you think of that link joy and persecution?
5. How can these help you and others?
6. What could your response be to the fact that Christians face persecution?