Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sermon on the Mount-1

Well, I just started with my Sacred Space series and I’ve already decided to interrupt it. Oh well, what can I say…I have a lot on my mind. While I’ve been working through my thoughts on Sacred Space, I’ve been pushed in another direction—the Sermon on the Mount. We’ve begun studying the Sermon on the Mount (hereafter, The Sermon) in our church and as we begin to work our way through this passage it has become apparent that many people miss the point that Jesus is making. People seem to think that Jesus is giving us and ethical program to follow or that he’s telling us what His conspicuously “Jewish” millennial kingdom on Earth will look like after some supposed “rapture” and “great tribulation” period. I’m sure there are other ideas that vary somewhat, but The Sermon is usually categorized as a teaching for the Jews concerning their Kingdom at some future point in time (as opposed to the Kingdom that Christians are a part of now), or it’s an ethical imperative that Jesus is giving to those who believe in Him so that they can obey it and thereby be pleasing to God—or a combination of both! But was that Jesus’ point?

Matthew takes great pains in the chapters leading up to The Sermon to show his (mostly) Jewish readers at the time that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, the King that they had been looking for. The prophets had spoken clearly that God’s plan of redemption called for the coming of the Son o David to reign as King on the throne of God in fulfillment of His promise to David in the Davidic Covenant. The coming of this King is also the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant, where God promised Abraham a Seed (typologically fulfilled in physical, national “Israel”) in which all the nations of the earth would be blessed. This “seed” (which is also the fulfillment of the promise in the Garden that a Seed would be born of the woman who would crush the serpents head and reverse the curse) was to be the point of the revelation of God and His redemption to all the people of Earth. The earthly, physical (national) “kingdom” of Israel failed to be God’s Covenant Son, they were not Abraham’s “true” seed (as expected, since “Israel” was only typological); but in its failure, it prophesied of the True Seed to come—the King and His Kingdom. As we read in Galatians (and really, all throughout the NT), Christ is the True Seed of Abraham and the recipient of the promise. He is the Servant and the true “Israel” of which the prophets spoke (especially Isaiah). And all those who have been joined to Christ by faith, all those who are in Christ share in His inheritance as the True children of Abraham—and thus, only in Christ are the Davidic and Abrahamic Covenants fulfilled. We who belong to Christ are the partakers of the promise!

Matthew begins his declaration of Jesus as King by recounting the genealogy of Jesus in three sets of “fourteen” generations. These “generational” markers are designed to show a “macro” view of the movement of redemptive history that culminates in his own generation with the birth of Christ. Matthew’s genealogy reminds his readers of the promise of a King (in Abraham), the emergence of the (typological) king (in David), and the destruction of the king and kingdom (in the deportation), which he then uses to link to Christ. These generational markers, “from” and “to”, have a forward momentum that Matthew uses to take his readers “from” promise “to” fulfillment.

Matthew begins with Abraham to recount for his readers God’s promise of a King and Kingdom. He then establishes the typological fulfillment of that promise in David; but he reminds his readers that the Davidic kingdom wasn’t ultimate by immediately linking David “generationally” with the Babylonian captivity. His readers knew their history, they knew their Scripture. His readers were aware that God cursed David’s line, but that He also re-iterated His promise to Abraham in His promise to David, that He would establish David’s kingdom forever. The Davidic Covenant is the means by which God will ultimately fulfill His promise to Abraham. So in linking David with the Captivity, Matthew focuses his readers again on the promise of God. And by linking the Babylonian captivity with Christ in the last “generational” marker, Matthew suggests that this promise of God is finally and fully fulfilled in the Person of Christ.

At the very beginning of his gospel, Matthews takes his readers back through their Scripture to the promise of a King and His Kingdom, and suggests that this promise in now being fulfilled with the coming of Christ. He then continues his presentation of Jesus as the promised King by recounting His birth and the events surrounding this occasion. Matthew continually stresses the fact that the Scripture is being fulfilled. In Christ’s birth, in the story of the Wise Men, in the story of His flight into (and out of) Egypt, in the effort of Herod to kill Him, and even in His residence at Nazareth; in all of these episodes, Matthew is making his case that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Scripture, that Jesus is the “true” Israel, that this Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah and their King.

Even before he brings John the Baptist into the equation, Matthew is determined to present Jesus as the King. And with the entrance of John onto the scene, the people should have been fully aware that the Messiah has arrived. The people knew that immediately before the revealing of the Messiah, His “forerunner” would come to “make ready the way of the Lord, (to) make His paths straight”. The ministry of this “forerunner” was singularly-focused—to announce the coming of the King. What was John’s message? “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

John is announcing the arrival of the King and His Kingdom by calling the people to repent. Remember, the people have been looking for their Messiah/King for generations. They have not lost this hope. They believe their Scripture. They know that God has promised to set His King on the throne of David and to establish His Kingdom forever. The prophets stressed over and over again that God would fulfill His word and restore the Kingdom. The people rightly hoped in and looked for the coming of their King and His establishment of the Kingdom.

The prophets even spoke of this restoration in the language of Cosmic Renewal; that the entire Creation would participate in this Redemption and Renewal when the Servant / Messiah / King comes and sets up His Kingdom. They didn’t necessarily foresee an “age” in which this Kingdom would be “being built” in a “spiritual” manifestation before it consummates in a Universal and Cosmic renewal; but they did “comfort” the people with a message of hope. God was faithful and He would keep His word. He would send the Servant / Messiah / King as the true “Israel” and establish His Kingdom.

Matthew presents John as the forerunner who prepares the way for the coming of the Lord. John’s message of repentance was for the purpose of causing the people to re-think their understanding of the Kingdom. They rightly hoped for the coming of the King and His Kingdom, but they were looking for an earthly “savior” who would re-establish the earthly kingdom of Israel (does this remind you of anyone?) so that they would no longer be oppressed by the nations around them. The people were looking for a deliverer to remove the yoke of Rome and to establish Israel with the glory it once had under David / Solomon. They didn’t properly understand the nature of the Kingdom that their Scripture spoke of and promised. This is why John (and then Jesus) found such fault with them: they rightly believed their Scripture that God has promised the Kingdom; but they misunderstood what this Kingdom would be like. They rightly hoped in the coming of the Messiah, but didn’t understand their Scripture and therefore didn’t recognize Him when He came. John, and Jesus after him, called for the people to repent, to re-think their Scripture and its promise of the Kingdom otherwise they were going to miss it!

Throughout the first four chapters, Matthew is establishing the fact that Jesus is the long-awaited King. I’ll begin the next post with the Baptism of Jesus and we’ll see how here and in the Temptation (and even previously with Jesus’ flight to Egypt) Matthew is showing how that Jesus is not only the promised King, but that He is also the true “Israel”. Matthew understands the Scripture. He understands that all the Scripture is prophetic and testifies of Christ. He understands that even the nation of Israel itself was prophetic, that it was typological and spoke of a true “Israel” to come. Matthew shows us how Jesus fulfills “Israel” in His recapitulation of Israel. The point he is making is that their hope for the Kingdom is found only in the One who is the embodiment of “Israel”. Their own hope of being the people of God is fulfilled only in the One who is the true Israel of God, the true Son of God.

We’ll explore this important understanding next time. Right now, it’s important to see that Matthew spends four chapters stating his case before he records Jesus’ words in The Sermon. And he does this so that The Sermon would be understood by his readers. The Sermon is Jesus’ Gospel of the Kingdom. The Sermon is designed to lead the people to repentance. Jesus’ message, like that of John, was, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”, and The Sermon was Jesus’ repentance call.

8 comments:

thekingpin68 said...

The coming of this King is also the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant, where God promised Abraham a Seed (typologically fulfilled in physical, national “Israel”) in which all the nations of the earth would be blessed. This “seed” (which is also the fulfillment of the promise in the Garden that a Seed would be born of the woman who would crush the serpents head and reverse the curse) was to be the point of the revelation of God and His redemption to all the people of Earth. The earthly, physical (national) “kingdom” of Israel failed to be God’s Covenant Son, they were not Abraham’s “true” seed (as expected, since “Israel” was only typological); but in its failure, it prophesied of the True Seed to come—the King and His Kingdom. As we read in Galatians (and really, all throughout the NT), Christ is the True Seed of Abraham and the recipient of the promise.

I appreciate the overview. Jesus Christ being of the line of David, his virgin birth, his supernatural ministry, and resurrection, are four very important points that demonstrate he is the fulfilment of the Messiah of the Hebrew Bible.

Of course there are other points as well.

You mentioned my satire and theology blog in thekingpin68 comments. Lately, the satire site has become slightly more academic and I think I will continue this trend, but there will still be plenty of humour. If you wish, I will link reciprocally with you there as well. Both of my blogs basically deal with the same material, but the satire site will be an easier read.

Cheers, GGM

Great Googly Moogly! said...

Thanks Kingpin,

Yes...there are many points that "point" :-) to Jesus as being the Messiah. I will be bringing a couple more of those points up in subsequent posts as I attempt to show that Matthew is insisting upon this very thing as he introduces Jesus to his readers. Of couse, as I stated, my goal in showing Matthew's insistence on Jesus' Messiahship (Kingship) is so that we can better understand Jesus' purpose in The Sermon. If we don't know what Jesus is trying to accomplish in The Sermon, then we can come away from it not just (at best) simply missing His point, but (at worst) with an "anti-Gospel".

Having just recently stumbled upon your blogs, I realize that you have quite a bit of material already posted. I appreciate you linking me to previous articles of interest even as I comment on your current posts.

I don't seem to have very many readers at this time (which is fine with me at the moment since my present schedule doesn't always leave me much time to respond), but since I also enjoy Satire and Theology I will certainly be glad to add it to my list as well.

GGM

thekingpin68 said...

Thanks, GGM.

Networking should help us find more readers, and I now shall add you to satire and theology links.

Russ:)

Abbey said...

Thanks for the post, Jason. Maybe I won't have to read the notes now. And then again, maybe I will. So many people misunderstand The Sermon - I know I did - but even with PC's introduction, I feel like I could guess what's coming. Don't hold me to it, though... I still sit during church, aghast at some statement he has made, and thinking, "Yeah right. Show me." :P

Russ is a great person to be linked to. I've gotten a lot more readers since I've been linked. They never comment, but with google analytics, I know they're there. Yup, utilitarian me.

See you tonight.

jeleasure said...

GGM,
First, I must ask you to sincerely appreciate this second attempt to send this comment. I typed this out once before, and upon pressing the 'publish' button, Blogger announced it was unavailable. So, my comment was lost.
Second, You may thank Russ' Blog Promotions, LLC. for this comment.
GGM stated,
"that the entire Creation would participate in this Redemption and Renewal when the Servant / Messiah / King comes and sets up His Kingdom. They didn’t necessarily foresee an “age” in which this Kingdom would be “being built” in a “spiritual” manifestation before it consummates in a Universal and Cosmic renewal..." And earlier you mentioned that all nations would be blessed from this seed of Abraham.

I had written on this topic God Created Man for the need to explain what you have explained in stating, "They didn’t necessarily foresee an “age” in which this Kingdom would be “being built” in a “spiritual” manifestation..."

In stating what you have stated above, so many people who get their understanding from the occassional mention of such topics from the pulpit, would not fully understand a passage such as II Samuel 7:13. And be capable of understanding what you have written above as being the same event.
“He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” (II Samuel 7:13 KJV)
People would say, "O.k., what son of David would this be? Oh, Solomon built the Temple. So, it must be Solomon's throne that will be establish his kingdom forever"
So, I am glad I have come to your site to find there are people attempting to eliminate the lack of knowledge and understanding among Christians.
A statistic I have been responding with my "Love One Another" blog, state: "Only six percent of all people who call themselves Christians truly understand the core message of the Bible" - American Family Association from American Family Radio

Great Googly Moogly! said...

jeleasure,

Thanks for comment (and thanks again, Russ, for the exposure!).

Yes...the Biblical principle of "house" is not as widely understood (in my estimation) as it could/should be. God has a purpose in redemptive history and the Bible is the record of God accomplishing His purpose. His purpose is accomplished through His progressive use of "covenants". The Davidic covenant builds upon the previous covenants (especially the Abrahamic Covenant) in the promise/fulfillment motif. And central to the Davidic Covenant is the principle of "house", which is to say "Kingdom" and is directly linked to the promise to Abraham and even further back, to the "Seed of the Woman".

This House/Kingdom idea is the means by which the "relational" aspect of God and His creation mainfests itself in this world (and the next, with the consummation of all things). And we know that Jesus Christ, with the establishing of the "New Covenant" (again, progressively building upon the previous covenants) is the fulfillment of all of God's promises: All of God's promises are "yes" and "amen" (only) in Christ!

Sorry if my reply seems a bit rambled...I'm trying to type quick since I have a lot of "honey-do's" to accomplish this weekend. This whole idea of "Sacred Space" (which I hope to get back to in the next couple of weeks) is concerned with the restoration of all things (all "relationships") in Christ. The "estrangement" that exists throughout the created order because of the curse in The Fall is replaced by relational "intimacy" in the Person and Work of Christ who destroys the curse and "recovers" these relationships that were lost in The Fall (God-Man, Man-himself, Man-Man, Man-creation). In this "New Creation" that has already come IN CHRIST, Shalom is once again the principle that characterizes (in truth, if not always in practice) the People of God: we are the "first-fruits", so-to-speak, of the recovery of Sacred Space (and thus, the Shalom that characterizes S.S) in that our relationship with God has been restored (and our other relationships are following suit by the power and work of the indwelling Sprit). And yet, we still await the consummation of all things in Christ upon His return in which the created order will find its own redemption--and thus Shalom will reign throughout the Cosmos once again. And it all begins and ends in the Person and Work of our Lord Jesus Christ. All broken relationships are restored only in Christ--who is the fulfillment of God's purpose in redemptive history.

Again, sorry for the rambling (and any possibly confusing statements and sentences), and any typos--I'm being called away even as I "speak".

I look forward to visiting your blog. I've quickly bookmarked it (while I have a couple of minutes) and it looks like a place where I'll enjoy spending some time.

Thanks again for writing (and reading)!

GGM

jeleasure said...

GGM,
Thank you for taking the time. I did not consider there to be any rambling. What I have read brought about some good thoughts.
One, the consumation of all things. It is an interesting word, 'consumation'. In the sense of having a relationship. However, there is one more step in the processe of 'solidifying' the union. And, in marriage or by God's purpose, this word, 'consumation' is completely appropriately used in terms of our relationship with God or 'family'. All other uses of the word, it seems, would find something lacking. The word 'consumate' seems a bit to powerful a word for use in any other relationships that do not appropriately author a marriage covenant.
If you would like to exchange links, let me know. I have two pages that get a moderate amount of attention. "Love One Another" is my attempt to help bring Christianity into focus for those who are seeking or just want to spend time sharpening their understanding. I do not pretend to be an expert. However, I feel I can confidently write this project because I continue to resist the status quo when something does not square right with me. Most of the time, the status quo is right. However, there are a lot of important issues that need to be addressed. In some cases, I feel, due to feedback where it took considerable amount of effort to have someone understand that what I was telling them, is what they are trying to tell me. I've fixed some of those scenerios and have found, that though I agree with the other person, the other person is not convinced that I do. So, I resolve to just move on understanding that not everyone will agree.
"Journaling For Growth" is where I post short opinionated and researched topic items. I post here to support my "Love One Another" blog that I no longer post to because it is a work that I only intend to fine tune. If you have any ideas when reading "Love One Another" let me have them. This needs to be a perfected work that new Christians can grasp. So, it is open to all contributors.

jeleasure said...

GGM,
I responded to your comments by changing a few things. I also left a reply to your comment on Ammended: Satan's Relationship With God .

It is good to get this kind of feed back. I have not agreed with all that you have said. However, I did see a problem with my appearing to say that God was punishing Satan for doing what I am speculating he was created to do. That is not what I said. However, I can see how you arrived at that conclussion. So, I clarified.