Reversal In The Sermon

Who is blessed in the Sermon on the Mount? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Eschatology has brought us to looking at Jesus as king in the Gospels starting with Matthew and we’re looking at the Sermon on the Mount. If Jesus is stating His role in this sermon as laying down a new way of living, then who is it that He is going to include? The fascinating idea here is that Jesus goes for the ones that society rejects.

There’s a funny little saying that speaks of God’s choice in the Jewish people and says, “How odd of God to choose the Jews.” It goes on to say, “But odder still are those who reject whom God chose.” In choosing the Jewish people, God did not choose a grand and prestigious people. He chose an old man who while rich did not have an heir and through him began His plan.

Like Father, like Son. When Jesus goes through and announces His citizens in the Kingdom, He picks the ones that are rejected. The rich and elite are not mentioned in this list. The Pharisees and Sadducees are left out. Jesus welcomes the ones that are even outcasts in Israel.

We see this in His life in the Gospels. Who does Jesus choose to hang out with? Prostitutes and tax collectors. Most of his apostles are fishermen and other common men including one of those tax collectors. We don’t know of any of them being part of the elite.

Actually, all of these people will also get what they want. Are you mourning? You’re going to be comforted. Are you hungering and thirsting for righteousness? You’re going to get it. Are you one of the downtrodden, the meek? You’re going to get the whole world.

This is a major contrast to the Roman Empire of the time who would want the best of the best in their kingdom. Paul’s commander who had him flogged said he paid a lot of money for his citizenship. The Roman Empire didn’t take being a citizen lightly. You had to show you had earned it. In Jesus’s kingdom, it’s those who know they have not earned it who are the most worthy.

Think you’re not good enough for the kingdom? You’re right. You’re not. Jesus welcomes you into the kingdom if you come to Him. You don’t have to really do anything to enter the kingdom except acknowledge that Jesus alone can get you into it and come to Him for that.

This part does culminate in persecution. I want to save that for another time. It requires its own focus, but for now, I simply want us to remember that God has a habit of picking those who the world rejects. He hasn’t changed.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Who Gives The Sermon on the Mount?

Who is it that is giving this sermon? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In looking at eschatology in the Gospels, one thing to establish is Jesus’s view of Himself as the king of Israel and yet also as the priest of Israel. I said last time that we would be looking at the Sermon on the Mount. Today, I am going to really start off by looking at that sermon.

Now the question of who gave it sounds like a no-brainer. Jesus gave it. If that’s all we’re really asking by the question, then this blog is pretty much done. The question though is more how did the person who gave it see Himself and also how is Matthew presenting Him?

Matthew constantly presents Jesus in a style that is very Jewish. His book is laid out in a fivefold format much like the Pentateuch would have been seen in. It’s split between teaching and acting. At the start, we have Jesus going to John the Baptist to be baptized going under the water. After going through the water, He enters the wilderness for 40 days and nights to be tempted.

Does this sound like any story a Jew would know? Definitely. It sounds like Israel passing through the waters of the Red Sea (In a miraculous way, of course) and then going into the wilderness where they were tempted for forty years. What comes in all of that? The giving of the Law. Lo and behold, what do we find in chapter five?

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

It might seem like a given to say He opened His mouth to teach them. What else is He going to do? Sign language? However, Matthew chose to point this out for a reason. What is that? To make us think about the Law coming from the mouth of YHWH in the Old Testament.

Jesus then gets up and He starts expounding the Law. He starts explaining what is meant by it. We can say this is consistent with Jesus because one thing historical Jesus scholars note about Him is that He never really pointed to anyone else’s authority aside from God Himself. Jesus did not need to address any other rabbis. If all you had was the Gospels, you wouldn’t even know other rabbis existed.

Jesus is treading on sacred ground. He is handling the Law and saying that He alone has the authority. He alone can go up on the mountain and deliver the law to the people. He is the new Moses leading His people. He is the new priest. He is the new king.

He will also speak as what He says has divine authority and if He really thinks that, then how does He see Himself? You could say that any prophet in the Old Testament would do the same, but Jesus never goes “Thus sayeth the Lord.” He says quite the opposite. He says “You have heard it was said…., but I say to you.” The prophets didn’t speak like that.

So as we go through the sermon, let’s remember this is the priest telling us how to live and this is the king looking at His subjects saying this is how my reign is going to be. What will it be like? Looking at the sermon in future installments will tell us.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Why The Sermon on The Mount?

What is the point of the sermon? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

When looking at eschatology in the Gospels, one of the main points to establish is really the kingship of Jesus. For that now, we start a look at the Sermon on the Mount. Many of us look at the sermon and see a great list of ethical principles. It is that, but it is so much more.

We are in an election year and so this year, our candidates for whatever office will be going around stating what things are going to be like if they win their election. Jesus is doing the same kind of thing in this sermon. He is not just telling people how to live. He is telling them what matters most in the Kingdom of God and how you are to live in the Kingdom.

The sermon ends with the people being amazed because Jesus spoke with authority. How? He is a king and He is speaking as a king and He is laying down the law. This is quite literal. Throughout the sermon, Jesus is doing something radical. He is speaking on the Law and declaring what is really going to happen.

What’s so amazing about that? Didn’t the rabbis speak on the Law? Yes, but they always pointed to another authority. Jesus doesn’t do that. Jesus is basically getting up and saying “I’m in charge and I don’t need anyone else to back what I say.” He speaks from His own position and authority.

It’s so startling that a Jewish scholar like Jacob Neusner looked at it once and said, “Who do you think you are? God?” Well, yes. He did. He thought He alone had the authority to speak this way.

Jesus’s Kingdom is a reversal of what most kings would give. This is not about how to build up the best army to go after Rome. If anything, the only time Rome is spoken of, it is of how one can better serve a Roman soldier or how one should retaliate from an insult from a Roman soldier or any demand from such a soldier. This is not what you expect from your Messiah.

Furthermore, if you seek to follow the ethical principles, you are falling short if you do not follow the king who gave them. As Lewis said, Jesus is not just coming claiming to be a good moral teacher. He’s claiming to be the King of all. Besides, as Lewis said, we have had a penchant of not listening to our moral teachers and if Jesus was the best one, all the more reason for us to not listen to Him.

So over the next few days, I plan to look over the sermon and see it from a kingly perspective. I hope you’ll join me.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

On Christianity And Guns

What are my thoughts on the shooting in Texas? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

So Sunday there was a shooting in a church. You might not have heard much debate about gun control because this one was stopped early on. There were at least seven people in the church who were concealed carry and I understand one of them was an elderly lady.

It’s kind of interesting to me that when a shooting takes place and no one is there to stop it, we ask how we can stop it. When it takes place and there is someone there to stop it, the message never gets out of “This is how you stop it.” Why not go with the method that works when it’s used? (Kind of like when abstinence is practiced, it works 100% of the time)

It’s also interesting that we also had this right after a rabbi was attacked and I saw people talking about anti-semitism immediately, and they should. However, when a church has a near mass shooting, did you hear anyone talk about the concerns of anti-Christianity? Yeah. I didn’t either.

So Monday I’m browsing on Facebook and see people talk about this and the question is asking how Christians should handle this. The shooter in the church was shot by a Christian. Is this the right response for those who follow the Prince of Peace?

To begin with, let’s talk about who is really destroying peace in these situations. In this church, Christians were going forward to take Communion which should be an especially sacred time in a church service. The peace was interrupted by a man who was bent on evil and he was not open to listening to reason.

Some people might say that Jesus turned the other cheek, but Jesus is talking about receiving a personal insult there in a private setting. He is not talking about anything that is life-threatening. Do we think Jesus could say today, “If anyone shoots your son, give him your daughter to shoot as well. If anyone kills your wife, give him your mother to kill as well.”

Where I have been debating this, I have had someone quoting all of Matthew 5:38-42 to me. In wanting to find out how much they take this seriously, I have brought up that Jesus says to give to anyone whatever they request of you. I then say I request you give all of your money to my ministry. I have yet to see any major deposits yet.

But doesn’t Romans 12 tell us to live in peace? Yes, if it is possible. Sometimes it isn’t. We all know people, sometimes sadly family members, that we just have to avoid. Romans 12 also says to not seek revenge. How does this apply? Let’s consider the movie Joker for an example.

The character who becomes the Joker, Arthur, is on a subway at one point getting beat up by these three Wall Street prep people. Suddenly, he pulls out a gun he has and shoots and kills two of them. The third one is wounded. At this point, Arthur chases after him as the man is trying to flee. He then shoots him again to finish him off.

I contend that the first two deaths in that scene were self-defense. The third one, was not. This was a man trying to get away and it was a kill that was done just for revenge. Sure, he had been doing evil earlier, but at this point he was no longer a threat.

But doesn’t 1 Peter 2 tell us to bear up under unjust suffering? Yes, if we are slaves who cannot do anything against our masters. That doesn’t say anything about real harm being done to innocents that puts them in a life-threatening situation.

But aren’t we told also repeatedly not to cling to our lives? Depends on the situation. If you take it in this hard and fast way, then if you have a terminal disease, it is wrong to seek treatment. If so, then shouldn’t Jesus have condemned all those people who came to Him for healing?

Some people might be concerned about the idea of good guys with guns. Keep in mind that apparently this church had several regular members who had concealed carries. This was the first instance we have heard of violence taking place in that church.

It’s also interesting that so many secularists keep telling me about how good man is and how far we have progressed, and yet at the same time don’t think your average man can carry a gun without wanting to shoot everyone. Now I fully believe that man is a fallen creature, but I also think, as well as I understand Aquinas did, that most of what we do in our lives is not sinful. Most of us do not live in fear of our fellow man constantly. Maybe some fellow men, but not all.

In the end, I contend that Christians ought to be able to defend the innocent from those who want to hurt them. I have often said that if someone wanted to physically assault my wife in any way, the only way they would be able to do so is literally over my dead body. I have a sworn vow to protect her from harm and intend to follow it through.

And if you are concerned about the evil within, well do something about it. I hear Christianity has a great system of repentance set up to deal with evil. Maybe give it a try?

In Christ,
Nick Peters