READ Matthew 5:1-12
Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is probably the most well-known and influential part of the entire New Testament. Scholars tell us that Matthew recorded this sermon to give us an epitome, or summary, of Jesus’ teaching. It’s a place to start to learn what it means to be a follower of Jesus and it’s a place to return time and time again to make sure we are on the right track. Jesus’ introduction to his sermon (known as “TheBeatitudes”) shows us his favorite topic – the blessed life. The word ‘blessed’ is hard to translate into one English word but the word that best captures what Jesus is talking about is “flourishing”. The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ portrayal of what it means for us to truly flourish.
WHERE WE LOOK FOR FLOURISHING PEOPLE
When Jesus began his sermon by saying, “Blessed are…”, the crowds were familiar with this kind of teaching. Other teachers and moral philosophers painted a picture of the “good life” in the same way. These descriptions were meant to cause the listeners to say, “Yes! That’s the life I want!” “That’s where flourishing people are found!” But Jesus’ description was not what anyone expected. If Jesus’ version of the blessed life is right, then we are looking for flourishing people in all the wrong places. In order to see how completely Jesus flips upside down our standard vision of the flourishing life, it’s helpful to see the beatitudes “in reverse.”
Where we look for flourishing people: Blessed are…
• … the self-sufficient, for they don’t need anything or anyone.
• … happy optimists, for they are never sad.
• … the assertive and aggressive, for they get what they want.
• … those who have arrived, for they can enjoy life & stop trying to change.
• … the comfortable and safe, for they don’t have to deal with the broken.
• … the outwardly successful, for they receive the approval of others.
• … the winners, because they end up on top.
• … the popular, because everyone likes them.
THE PLACES WHERE FLOURISHING PEOPLE ARE FOUND
If flourishing people aren’t found where we expect, where are they? Jesus gives us four places to look for them.
• At Life’s Low Points – Those who hit rock bottom, realize their spiritual poverty and reach out to God with empty and desperate hands -theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
• Lamenting Loss – Those who grieve the pain and loss of life without feeling the need to put on rosy glasses - they will be comforted.
• Among the Looked Over- Those who don’t become aggressive in asserting their rights no matter what the cost - they will inherit the earth.
• With Those Who Lack Righteousness and don’t fake it or feed their hunger and thirst with the wrong things – they will be satisfied.
THE PLACES WHERE FLOURISHING PEOPLE ARE FORMED
The next four beatitudes are less passive and more active in nature. They show us where flourishing people are formed:
• In broken places and with broken people, they are showing mercy.
• In the struggle with hypocrisy, they strive for alignment of their inner and outer lives.
• Through conflict, they become peacemakers like the Father.
• By being mistreated for doing right, they take hold of the joy of living for what is right, not what is popular.
HOW WE FIND FLOURISHING
Jesus’ beatitudes are not commands. They don’t tell us what to do. Instead, they pronounce God’s blessing on the places where flourishing people are found and formed. But these are the last places we want to be found and to move toward! We spend so much energy avoiding and moving away from these things! The only way we can find the blessed life of flourishing is by first looking to Jesus (who perfectly lived and embodied this list). As we follow Him into these places, we find him bringing us blessing in places and in ways we never would have expected.
1. What about the sermon most impacted you or left you with questions?
2. The UN Happiness Report 2017 reported that the U.S. has fallen from 3rd to 19th in reported levels of happiness. In a special section on the U.S., the report said, “The United States can and should raise happiness by addressing America’s multi-faceted social crisis—rising inequality, corruption, isolation, and distrust—rather than focusing exclusively or even mainly on economic growth… In sum, the United States offers a vivid portrait of a country that is looking for happiness ‘in all the wrong places.’ The country is mired in a roiling social crisis that is getting worse. Do you agree that our country is in a social crisis? Do you think it’s related to looking for happiness “in all the wrong places?”
3. What is your response to the beatitudes “in reverse?” Is this your version of the blessed life? Do you think it is our culture’s version of human flourishing?
4. Which of the four “places where flourishing people are found” most describes where you are at today? Instead of seeing this as something to be moved past or ignored, what might it look like to see it as a place where God is teaching you to truly flourish?
5. Read over the four places where flourishing people are formed. Have you experienced blessing by moving into any of these places? Do you sense God moving you into one of these places? How so?
6. Martyn Lloyd Jones said he would never talk to anyone about the specific moral teaching of the Sermon on the Mount if they weren’t first living in the beatitudes. Why would we need to be living in the beatitudes in order to be able to hear and obey Jesus’ teaching on anger, conflict, lust or worry?