“Seeing the crowds, he [Jesus] went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them [. . . .]” Matthew 5:1-2
Standing on the site in Israel where Jesus may have preached the Sermon on the Mount was awe-inspiring for me. Holy Land visitors often identify this lovely location overlooking the Sea of Galilee as a favorite spot to meditate on Jesus’ kingdom truths.
Like other pilgrims exploring hills near Capernaum on the northwest curve of the Sea of Galilee, I envisioned Jesus teaching the disciples. Consistent with Jewish custom for teachers, Jesus was seated. He would have been on a ridge, enabling him to project his voice to disciples and crowds gathered on grassy flats gently sloping to the shore.
Delivered near the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus’ riveting message recorded in Matthew, chapters 5-7, expounded upon spiritual and moral principles. He pronounced standards of character and conduct for followers and would-be citizens in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus’ ministry heralded the coming of God’s kingdom, and he preached, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)
For repentant, sin-weary followers, Jesus revealed in Luke 17:23, “For behold the kingdom of God is in your midst.” Jesus ushered in God’s kingdom through his teachings, miracles, and divine presence. He provided salvation through his sacrificial atonement on the cross and miraculous resurrection from the grave. Our celebration of Easter is recognition that through Jesus, God’s kingdom is expressed in two realities: the already (now)—and the not yet (the future), where the fullness of God’s rule of righteousness occurs eternally in heaven.
In coming weeks, we will highlight core truths of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, found in what is known as the Beatitudes (from “blessings” in Latin) in Matthew 5:1-12. Using the repetitive words “blessed are,” Jesus identifies important characteristics of his followers and corresponding spiritual outcomes.
The word “blessed” often is translated as “happy,” but conveys richer meanings of the “joy of life” found only in God. Another understanding of “blessed” is the Hebrew word for peace, “shalom,” denoting spiritual wellbeing relationally with God. According to theologians, the word translated as “blessed” encompasses the supreme peace God intended for humankind in the Garden of Eden.
Lord Jesus, this Easter season, we celebrate your victory over death, and we rejoice in kingdom citizenship for believers. Thank you for the ancient blessing of Psalm 23:6: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life [the already], and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever [the not yet].” Amen.
Kay Henry is a columnist for the Claremore Progress. All Bible quotations are from “The Holy Bible, English Standard Version” (ESV), unless otherwise noted.