The Right-Side Up Kingdom

rightsideup-3

As our In the Red summer series through the Beatitudes comes to a close I thought I would pass on my sermon notes from the 2018 CCC Men’s Retreat.  At the conclusion, I share a one-word overview of the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount.

Luke 6 provides us with a shorter version of the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes than is found in Matthew 5.  Some Bible commentators believe that Matthew and Luke are giving their own perspective of the same sermon, other commentators say Jesus is giving a variation of the same sermon at a different time and place.  In any case, the common denominator in both narratives is a mountain.

The significance of Jesus hiking up and down mountains as His ministry begins is that from the beginning of recorded history mountains have been where revolutionaries and subversives retreated to hide out, strategize, and train their comrades (i.e., think of how the mountains of Afghanistan have been such a challenge…).

What I’d like for us to see tonight is that Jesus is the most revolutionary person who ever lived – and the purpose of His coming was to initiate a revolution.

  1. Crucifixion was the punishment that Rome reserved for the crime of sedition.
  2. When Jesus Christ showed up He announces the old kingdom is going to crumble and that He came specifically to establish a new kingdom.
  3. We see this clearly in the early chapters of both Matthew and Luke’s gospel accounts – and in the opening verses of Acts…
    • “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  –Matthew 3:2
    • “From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”  –Matthew 4:17
    • “…His kingdom will have no end.”  –Luke 1:33b
    • “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose.”  –Luke 4:43
    • To these [Jesus] also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.”  –Acts 1:3

The message of Jesus was revolutionary and subversive 2,000 years ago — and it still is. The grace He proclaimed is a radical grace, designed to usher in a radically new way of life.[1]

As we will see here in Luke 6 the historical Jesus took on the powers that be on behalf of the poor, the dispossessed, the outcast, and the marginalized.  He sacrificed Himself for a group that most Romans—as well as the Jewish elite—didn’t consider to be real people, much less, people worthy of salvation.

As you read Luke 6:12-26 consider these groupings…

  1. Vs 12-19 are key because they instruct us in what is necessary to become a true revolutionary.
  2. Vs. 20-23 are a condensed version of the Beatitudes
  3. Vs. 24-26 contain four “Woes” that identify the core values of the Upside-Down Kingdom

Let’s look at Luke 6:12-26…

12 In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. 13 And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles: 14 Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, 15 and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, 16 and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.17 And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, 18 who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. 19 And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all. 

20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. 22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. 

24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. 25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry. “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. 26 “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.

Vs. 12-19 identify a 3-stage continuous process that Jesus employed to keep His life simple and focused (Jesus’ life was not simple but how He lived was simple).

  1. Solitude — regular time alone with God
  2. Community — doing life together with other active intentional Christ-followers.
  3. Ministry[2] – The most effective and lasting ministry radiates from people who have been with God and people who are courageous enough to authentically share their lives with others.

Vs. 20-22 are a condensed version of the Beatitudes.  When Jesus Christ shows up He announces the Upside-Down Kingdom is beginning to crumble.  What Jesus is saying here in instituting the Right-Side-Up Kingdom, seems to go against everything that feels so natural to believe:

  1. (6:20) Blessed are the poor.  Why choose poverty over wealth?
  2. (6:21) Blessed are the hungry.  Why choose sacrifice over comfort?
  3. (6:21) Blessed are those who weep now.  Why choose grief over laughter?
  4. (6:22) Blessed are you when you are hated, ostracized, insulted, and scorned.  Why choose exclusion and rejection over recognition and acclaim?

Why in the world would anyone choose these Right-Side-Up Kingdom values over the Upside-Down Kingdom values?

Here’s the simple answer:

The Right-Side-Up Kingdom values place us squarely on the unlikely route to a deep and abiding joy.  The Upside-Down Kingdom values (I would propose) are a mirage – full of promise but lacking in residential joy.  –Adapted from Tim Keller

Here in Luke 6, Jesus is challenging everything that people think is normal and flips it right-side-up to show how things really are from God’s perspective, and how they will be in eternity.

Each of His statements is shocking to the hearers. Each statement of Jesus is a jolt to the perceived reality in our upside-down world.

Vs. 24-26 contain four “woes” that identify and address the four primary cultural idols[3] of first century Palestine – and, as we will see, they remain the 21st-century cultural idols that oppress the lives of both aspiring Christian revolutionaries as well as the unconverted.

In the light of the Fall and our sin infection, it’s the most natural and intuitive way to live.  These vs. also identify the kinds of choices we must desire to make if we are to follow Jesus completely (see vs. 27-49).

  1. “Woe to you who are rich.” (6:24)

This speaks of those who value money and power above all else. (Notice I said ‘above all else’…)

  1. “Woe to you who are well-fed now.” (6:25)

This speaks of those who value material comfort above all else.  (How much is enough?)

  1. “Woe to you who laugh now.” (6:25)

In ancient Greek this word for laugh was a negative word, meaning scornful gloating.  It speaks of those who value winning at all costs.

  1. “Woe to you when all men speak well of you.” (6:26)

This speaks of those who value recognition, acclaim, and popularity above all else.

Jesus, the subversive revolutionary came to ESTABLISH, EMPOWER, and EXTEND the Kingdom of God.  Following is an abbreviated theological perspective on each one of these statements…

How did Jesus ESTABLISH the Kingdom of God?

  1. The gospel is not advice, it is news.  It is the ultimate good news regarding an event rooted in history.  Theologians call this The Christ Event.[4]  It speaks of the five-fold nature of the incarnation (i.e., God condescended to become flesh):
    • The virgin birth
    • The miraculous ministry
    • The excruciating death
    • The glorious resurrection
    • The Holy Spirit releasing ascension of Jesus to sit at the right hand of God (Rom 8:34).
  2. The Christ Event ESTABLISHES the Kingdom of God on the earth.
  3. The Kingdom of God will be consummated at the second coming of Jesus – and we have the privilege of living in the in-between time period (‘Church Age’).
  4. NT words like, grace, cross, and kingdom are summary statements of the five-fold gospel established by Jesus.  (This will change the way you read the NT.)

How does Jesus EMPOWER the Kingdom of God?

  1. Look at Luke 6:19. Where does the power come from?  …for power was coming from Him and healing them all.
  2. If Jesus was just a good moral teacher – or, merely an example for us to follow, then to tell people to “be like Jesus” would actually be a huge burden.  But, if He is who He said He is then we can look to His power to save us, to reconcile us, to heal us, and to change us.
  3. “Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, just as I am your sin. You have taken upon yourself what is mine and have given me what is yours. You have taken upon yourself what you were not and have given to me what I was not.” –The Great Exchange, Martin Luther (Jesus takes on our sinfulness and we take on His righteousness.)

  4. This, in fact, is what the word “Blessed” means – to be ‘deeply satisfied.’ So when the Bible says, “Blessed are the poor” it means these are the people who have broken free of the Upside-Down Kingdom values (or idols) and have found contentment, joy, and delight in whatever circumstances they find themselves.  They have experienced the Great Exchange.
  5. “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” –Phil 4:12

How does Jesus EXTEND the kingdom of God?

  1. In a word, the answer to that question is an empowered YOU.
  2. Once we have broken free of the Upside-Down Kingdom values and idols – and begun to find our joy and contentment in Christ, no matter what our circumstance, we will lift our hands and our hearts in unbridled worship of the living God.
  3. We do not commend what we do not cherish. –John Piper

  4. It’s been said that we serve a missionary God – The Father sent the Son, the Son sent the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit sends us.
  5. Every one of us in this room has a sphere of relationships that God has sovereignly designed. God wants us to see ourselves as priests to our sphere.  We call this living on mission with God.
    • We all have family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, acquaintances, etc.
    • The idea is not that we go out and beat people over the head, but that we are thoughtful and prayerful about how to serve them and love them and eventually engage them in conversation about this radical Jesus and His Upside-Down Kingdom.

Concluding Thoughts…Are you a citizen of the Right-Side-Up Kingdom or the Upside-Down Kingdom?  There is no overlap between these kingdoms…

The mark of an active, intentional follower of Jesus Christ is that there has been a “reversal of values.”  In the Right-Side-Up Kingdom, we enjoy the liberation of working FROM God’s favor instead of working FOR God’s favor.

As we close, let’s look quickly at how Paul pursued sanctification/transformation…

Romans 7:21-25 — The Conflict of Two Natures

21 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

The essence of what we see here Paul’s ongoing struggle and conflict between his upside-down nature and his right-side-up nature…As Paul surrenders(yet again), he goes back to the simple (yet profound) gospel and rejoices afresh over the gift of his salvation (v. 25a).

This word “surrender” becomes the one-word overview of both the Beatitudes and the whole Sermon on the Mount.  God the Holy Spirit draws us to a place of beholding the beauty, majesty, and wonder of God.  As we surrender by grace through faith we are changed.  Continuous surrender that leads to worship and adoration will cause continual change, transformation, and sanctification.

As one of my mentors put it:  The way IN is the way ON.

 

Study Questions

  1. What did Jesus do before he taught this sermon? What does this tell us about his priority in ministry (Luke 4:43-44)?
  2. What attracted the crowds to Jesus?
  3. What is surprising about what Jesus says to the crowd? Is his view of what makes a person “blessed” the same as what the world would say?  What are the differences?
  4. What is Jesus saying about the kind of life his followers can expect?
  5. Are you willing to seek your comfort, joy, and delight in Jesus rather than in the ways of the world (-system)?

 

 

[1] Robert Thornton Henderson. Subversive Jesus, Radical Grace: Relating Christ to a New Generation, Navpress (June 2001).

[2] Adapted from Henri Nouwen, Moving from Solitude to Community to Ministry, Leadership Magazine Spring 1995: 81-87.

[3] Simply stated, we succumb to idolatry when we make good things ultimate things. Do you have food or does food have you? Do you have sex or does sex have you? Do you have money or does money have you? The natural tendency of the human heart is to take good things and make them ultimate things.

[4] George Eldon Ladd. “Unity and Variety in New Testament Faith,” Christianity Today, Nov. 19,1965.

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