Jesus lived, and he lived in part to establish a kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. A kingdom that begins in him and is established in his death, and understanding the gospel in light of this, gives us purpose and reason for living today. Not only to give them good news that they could have an eternity with God, or as NT Wrights puts it, “life after death, after life,” but also the good news that his kingdom is here already and their lives can be changed in the present (not solely hope for the future). But let us return now, and take a closer examination of what Jesus was doing and how his life was in part a prince ushering in the kingdom of God.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” ( Matthew 5:3). Jesus beginning his ministry, gives his first speech and the Beatitudes as many of us call them, is what follows. Jesus opens his long discourse with an embellished statement. The poor, meaning, those who are beggars, to those who do not have, and to the lowly of the world. The poor in Spirit then is simply; those who have no confidence in their spirituality and are empty. Normally those who do have confidence, are living lives of moralism, and trust that their good outweighs their bad. Rather the poor in spirit are those, who have no confidence in their flesh, and are outcasts by those in spiritual power. They are seen as poor, for they are unable to adhere to all the strict laws that are yoked on them. And those in power most likely would be Pharisees, or scribes, or whoever else held position over the spiritually weak.
Jesus therefore delivers his first sermon to the crowd he came to help, that is to the sick, or those in need of a doctor. This kingdom that he begins to announce and usher in, is a kingdom that is for the desolate or poor in spirit. This kingdom is perplexing for its upside-down, and the king serves instead of being served. What does this kingdom look like? Well, we will begin to uncover this piece by piece, as we investigate what is seen in the beatitudes. Jesus begins painting with a broad brush what his kingdom is to be and what it is envisions. Jesus once again is reshaping the Shema around himself, by restructuring the Torah to its rightful condition and it’s original purpose. That is why Jesus says, “I have not come to abolish them(referring to the law and the prophets), but to fulfill them (vs 17)”. Part of that fulfillment is to establish a kingdom, and a kingdom that connects to God.
This is precisely why the kingdom of God is mysterious, it does not fit the understanding of what a kingdom is suppose to be. The least become the greatest, and the greatest the least. The ideology wrapped up on that statement is: as you draw closer to God through Jesus, you become more like him, and as you become more like Jesus, you end up being truly human. As I stated before, this true humanity is selflessness (once again NT Wright’s original thought). As you therefore, are wrapped up in a life free from selfishness, you become free to live and promote the kingdom of God. Therefore, poor in Spirit also becomes a statement for those encompassed in the kingdom of God, for they do not put confidence in the flesh, but in Jesus, and they are poor in the sense that they have given all for someone else. This is just the beginning of what it looks like to be in the kingdom Jesus was speaking of, and establishing.
I hope you are beginning to see the importance of understanding why Jesus lived, and how omitting his life when we share the gospel, really diminishes in part the power that the gospel holds. And as I have stated before and will again; focusing only on the death of Jesus, gives us hope for the future, but really no hope for the present. This gospel presentation we have been presenting, therefore is an empty eulogy, discussing a man’s death, but never reflecting upon his life. This misrepresentation, leads us to complacency saying my life is secured in the future, and my present matters only in a misguided life of moralistic behavior. This misguidance then becomes somewhat void in the present, solely waiting for a future kingdom to arrive. But as I have been demonstrating, this kingdom has already arrived upon Jesus life and established in his death, and this is why we must focus on why Jesus lived; to not only give hope, but purpose for the present.
To be continued…