We spent most of last year looking at the Sermon on the Mount. Today we are going to do it again in a few minutes. We are going to set a new land speed record. And actually, although the words in Luke are very similar, he says this is a sermon on a plain – on a level place. Is that a contradiction in the Bible? No, it simply probably means that Jesus gave similar teaching on more than one occasion.
Jesus went up a mountainside and called 12 men to be with Him. He would be their personal mentor to turn them into missionaries. This teaching follows straight on. They went down the mountain and joined a large crowd of disciples plus a great number of other people who had come to hear Him and to be healed by Him. So, there was the crowd. Within that there is a large number of “disciples” i.e. people who were following Jesus. Within that there was this little group who are being trained.
Luke says, “Looking at His disciples, He said…” This is teaching for disciples
This teaching is sometime said to be the Kingdom manifesto – Jesus’ teaching about the nature of the Kingdom of God. The first lesson is seen in what He did, before He taught. What is the first characteristic? (Read Luke 6:17-19)
God’s Kingdom is about power. Through the power of Jesus, lives were being transformed and restored.
Some time later, Paul wrote to the Corinthians saying that he was going to come to them and he would be able sort the arrogant from the genuine. Do you know how he would be able to tell the difference?
1 Cor 4:18-20 … I will find out not only how these arrogant people are talking, but what power they have. 20 For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.
Did you get that? I will be able to tell who are Kingdom people, because the Kingdom is about power.
Jesus’ ministry was characterised by power – power combined with compassion. It wasn’t just power to blow things up or power to manipulate people or power to get your own way. It was power to heal and restore. Where the Kingdom of God is present, God is working to powerfully change people’s lives.
Were the apostles later, and the early church, characterised by Kingdom power?
Acts 5:12, 15-16 12 The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people… 15 As a result, people brought those who were ill into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by.16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing those who were ill and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.
If Paul visited us would he find Kingdom power? We shouldn’t be too tough on ourselves. It might simply be that God is using us. We offer hospitality and people are surprisingly blessed by that. We ring people we are concerned about that they later report how much difference it made. We teach and we see understanding dawn on people. We share the gospel and people are converted. We pray for people and they are healed.
On the other hand, we shouldn’t justify ourselves if God intends for us to exercise more of this healing, restoring, creative Kingdom power. We need to pray for the power of God working through us because that is what the Kingdom is like.
Like Matthew’s version, it begins with the Beatitudes. Read Luke 6:20-26. What Kingdom characteristics do we see here?
Jesus turns ideas about happiness on their head. We expect the rich and the satisfied to be happy but Jesus says the poor and the hungry will be. We don’t think of those who weep as being happy, nor those who are hated, but Jesus says they will be. Then He approached the same thing from the other direction: woe to those who are rich and well-fed and who laugh and of whom everyone speaks well.
The values of God’s Kingdom are not the values of this world. It is an upside-down Kingdom. The apostles needed to understand this. They would be persecuted. They would not be rich. They would know hunger, but they would be happier following Jesus than they would be if they were rich. They could have rejected Jesus and pursued riches and popularity. Instead, having heard this teaching, they would make huge sacrifices but they would also receive huge rewards. It is about serving others. The result is joy.
Read Luke 6:27-36. What is the Kingdom characteristic here? Extraordinary love.
It is so counter-intuitive that we could conclude that it is just ridiculous – except that the apostles would see Jesus do just these things. He would let people abuse and kill Him. He would pray for those who killed Him. He would forgive the apostles after they ran away and Peter denied knowing Him. The apostles would see it in Jesus and they would imitate it because they were followers of Jesus and they were citizens of God’s Kingdom which is very different and much better. Jesus taught love, kindness, forgiveness, generosity. Don’t they make for a better world than revenge and selfishness? This is God’s kingdom. In God’s Kingdom people treat other people the way they would like to be treated.
In the world, people do good to those who do good to them. But in God’s Kingdom people go much further than that. There is no merit in doing only what the normal Joe Blogs does. Kingdom people show extraordinary and unexpected kindness. Kingdom people are unexpectedly merciful and gracious. Kingdom people go the second mile (although Luke doesn’t mention that image.)
Jesus promised two things to people who live this life of extraordinary goodness: their reward will be great and they will be children of God – because God Himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Kingdom people will be like the King.
So, so far…
- God’s Kingdom is characterised by power that makes broken people whole again
- In God’s Kingdom those who suffer and who give to others, are happy. The self-centred will be judged.
- In God’s Kingdom people love others in exceptional, selfless ways.
God’s Kingdom is about power, service, joy and love. And all of these things make people happy. What an amazing kingdom.
Read Luke 6:37-38. What is the characteristic? God’s Kingdom is also characterised by justice. Those who judge will be judged. Those who condemn will be condemned. Those who forgive will be forgiven. Those who give will receive – in fact will receive far more.
Of course, when God’s Kingdom comes in its fullness (in other words, in heaven) there will be no judging or condemnation. Jesus’ words must apply to how God’s people act now. The Kingdom is here in part. Be aware that God is just. Those who judge will be judged. Those who forgive will be forgiven.
That is the nature of the Kingdom. Then Jesus taught about the people of the Kingdom. Read 6:39-40
If you are going to be leaders (or even be helpful) you need to understand these things. The blind cannot lead anyone else. There is a whole lot of growing and learning to be done. The eyes of the blind are open. They see. They know. They understand. But, get this! The student who is fully trained will be like his/her teacher. “Let me train you,” Jesus says, “and you will be like me. If you want to be able to heal like this and to teach like this, let me train you.”
Read Luke 6:41-42.
If you want to be able to help people, make sure you have sorted out your own issues. You can see other people’s faults and needs? You want to take a speck out of someone else’s eye? Great, but first make sure you have removed the plank from your own eye. You want to minister in God’s Kingdom? You want to make a difference? Then let God first minister to you and deal with the faults and needs in your life.
Read Luke 6:43-45.
You can tell the quality of a tree by looking at the quality of its fruit. Only good people can produce good things. So, again, if you want to be useful to God’s Kingdom, then you must be a person whom God has refined. It is about the state of our hearts. What are we going to be able to produce for God? Good people bring good things out of the good stored up in their hearts.
Does our church reflect the kingdom?
Do you see how relevant this is to apostles in training? This is like their orientation the first day on the job. God’s Kingdom is very different. It is actually the direct opposite of the world. You will have to unlearn everything you know and learn a new way. God’s Kingdom is infinitely better. God’s Kingdom is characterised by transforming power, service, love, joy, justice. Compare that to the world of abusive power and powerlessness, selfishness, hatred and injustice. What is not to like about God’s Kingdom.
In the Kingdom of God, who makes a difference? Those whose eyes are open; those who know the things of God. That refers to our heads – our knowledge and understanding. Secondly, those whose character has been healed and made whole. Those who have allowed God to deal with their weaknesses and their faults. That is referring to our hearts. Then the result is the work of our hands. Good trees bear good fruit.
Can we have godly understanding all by ourselves? Can we be godly people all by ourselves? Can we produce good fruit all by ourselves? No. In fact, Jesus said, ‘Without me you can do nothing. (John 15:5). We can only do it as we let Jesus teach us and transform us. We can do it only as we let the Holy Spirit work in our lives but guess what. This is exactly the business Jesus is in. Jesus makes disciples.
“I will make you fishers of people. I will make you fruitful. You will be effective in the work of the Kingdom. The student (or disciple) who is fully trained will be like… Me!”
The key to being people of the Kingdom is in that training. Are you being trained by Jesus? Are you daily asking Him to teach you and to grow you and to use you – head, heart hands?
Central to the training is “Follow Me. Be with me”. Spend time with Jesus and with Jesus’ people.
The last image in this sermon is crucially important. Read Luke 6:46-49. The man who built on the sand is described as hearing Jesus’ words but not doing them. The man who built on the rock also heard Jesus’ words but did them. The difference between the two was quite simple and the conclusion of the sermon was clear. Some people will hear this sermon and do nothing about it. They might even love the teaching and enjoy discussing its meaning in small groups. Other people will live it.
The key to growth: spend time with Jesus and do what He says. Jesus’ promise is “Good trees bear good fruit. Good people bring good things out of the good stored up in their hearts.” Does that appeal to you – being one of God’s good people who make a difference in the Kingdom?