“From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Matthew 4:17
What did Jesus mean by that? What had happened from that time on?
I hope you will spend a few minutes with me on my journey of reading through Jesus’ spoken words in the New Testament; to block out all the noise of our society and just listen to what Jesus has to say. If Jesus is who he said he was, then the only thing that truly matters are his words.
The gospel of Matthew records one of Jesus’ most famous sermons, called The Sermon on the Mount. Matthew had been a despised tax collector of his time, but he had changed. He gave away his wealth, relinquished his power, and even went so far as to pay back those he had cheated, all to follow this man Jesus, who at that time was not yet even fully known for all that he would later become.
Jesus first announced his ministry through his baptism by John the Baptist in Matthew 3. As his ministry grew, he began to be known throughout the regions for healing the sick and the poor, and teaching in the synagogues. People were amazed at his words and large crowds followed him everywhere. But there were also those who were opposed to what he had to say.
“When Jesus had heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee.” (Matthew 4:12). Jesus was burdened for John, who was the one who had come before him, preparing the way and preaching of the Messiah to come. Now, Jesus begins to call his first disciples, Peter and Andrew, and starts to preach.
“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”
At once they left their nets and followed him. Matthew 4:19-20
Not since Moses’ time had people seen anyone like Jesus. The crowds and disciples gathered on the mountainside while Jesus began to talk to them. He taught them a new way to live; how to be blessed. The first eight statements in his Sermon on the Mount are known as The Beatitudes, or declarations of blessedness. Being “blessed” means much more than being happy in the moment. It reaches beyond our current situations, beyond our pain and hurt, and gives us an eternal joy and hope; the big picture; the faith we cling to when everything else fails us. In today’s society, we don’t hear as much about the Beatitudes. Most of us are familiar with The Ten Commandments given to Moses from God. But now, Jesus had come to complete the law and show us how to live a blessed, eternal life.
I did not take it lightly, while reading through Jesus’ opening words of his sermon. I meditated on the words for awhile, letting them sink in and thinking about what it means to us today. It’s easy sometimes to skim over words like “poor in spirit” or “blessed are the meek”. So, along with the help of my study Bible, I provided further understandings in parenthesis. I also found it interesting that the very first and last beatitudes from Jesus tell us how to receive the kingdom of heaven. Here is what Jesus said:
~ Matthew 5:3-12 The Beatitudes ~
“Blessed are the poor in spirit (not prideful, depending on God instead of ourselves), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn (caring for others beyond ourselves), for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek (not after worldly power), for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (pursue God), for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful (kindness to others), for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart (not deceiving others), for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers (concern for the peace of the world instead of concern for self), for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness (stand firm in their faith), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me (for Christ is with you). Rejoice and be glad because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
I imagine when Matthew heard Jesus’ sermon, he probably thought, “I’ve got to write this down!” It was the voice of God speaking. Just like God gave Moses the Ten Commandments to guide us in how to conduct our life, Jesus came from heaven, as the voice of God, to show us how to live our lives joyfully, fully, and eternally.