By Brooke Holt
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:3
In the fifth chapter of Matthew, Jesus gives his first sermon about the kingdom of heaven in what we know as the Sermon on the Mount. In it, Jesus taught about the new kingdom and how to live in it. This new kingdom would not be about the external following of the law but rather about the internal transformation that happens within God's people. Tim Keller calls this the "inside-out kingdom."
The Sermon on the Mount begins with the Beatitudes. Beatitude comes from the Latin word meaning "blessed"; thus, each beatitude begins with "blessed are." In the Greek, blessed is the word makarios which describes a serene and untouchable joy – a sustainable joy because it supersedes earthly life and circumstances; this joy comes from the Lord.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" begins the list of beatitudes. This statement shocked the Jews. They believed wealth was an indication of blessing from the Lord. How could the poor be the blessed ones? Jesus did not address earthly riches, though he certainly will later. Instead, he addressed one's spirit. Many of the Jews, especially the Jewish leaders, problematically considered themselves rich in deeds and righteousness. Little did they know that their outward performances did not please the Father in heaven.
Jesus called his followers to recognize their sin and inability to follow the law. Those who saw their sin and were broken because of it would be the very ones who experienced his kingdom and its blessings. The poor in spirit realize they stand bankrupt before a holy God. They know they can do absolutely nothing to earn God's love and approval. By his grace alone can they hope to enter the kingdom of heaven. Those, poor in spirit, would receive Jesus and his gospel proclamation. As the Gospel of Matthew continues, we see it is the tax collectors, the prostitutes, and the notorious sinners who received the kingdom of heaven. Jesus commends them for their faithfulness, much to the chagrin of the religious leaders who shunned such sinners.
Jesus truly did turn religion upside down and inside out with his teachings. He still does today. While our world focuses on external appearances, Jesus looks on the inside. He looks for the broken, for those who recognize their sin and their need for his salvation. When we acknowledge we come to the Lord with empty hands, then we, too, will be blessed and given the kingdom of heaven.
Are you a middle-class Christian, one who thinks you are doing okay with your faith in this world? Or are you willing to be honest about the depths of your sin and inability to please God on your own, to realize that you are bankrupt before a holy God? Can you take some time this morning to come to the Lord with empty hands and an open heart? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Christmas is the festival of rejoicing at Christ’s first coming—the beautiful, unlikely start of our salvation! As the season ends each year, we pack up the decorations. Advent, on the other hand, is a bigger celebration—one we can’t box up and store in the attic. It celebrates the grace of Christ’s first coming, and then it reaches with restless anticipation for the fuller grace of his second appearing and the completion of our salvation! For 28 days, celebrate Advent. In Prepare the Way, join with St. Paul, King David the Psalmist, Zechariah, Gabriel, Mary, Elizabeth, and John the Baptist, along with the crowds as they rejoiced in the good news of Christmas, and then look beyond it for the holiday that never ends!
To see all of our Advent resources, click here.
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