They Get the Kingdom

Today we’re looking at the first of the “beatitudes” that Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount.


We talked last week about what the word “blessed” means in these verses . . . and it’s a lot more than you would think.


In today’s passage we learn about one group of people who, according to Jesus, are not only REALLY blessed . . . but the kingdom of heaven is given to them.


It sounds like they won the lottery! But before you head out to buy one of those tickets, you may want to hear what they did to be so blessed.


They became poor in spirit.


That’s not how you’re typically told to get ahead in today’s culture, right? I know in today’s business world you’re told to stand out from the crowd, make connections with the right people, and make sure everyone knows what you do and how well you do it. You’re taught that if you don’t promote yourself first, no one else will.


But in this Upside-Down Kingdom that Jesus is training his disciples for, He takes a different angle.


The Amplified Bible says that “poor in spirit” means “the humble” and those “who rate themselves insignificant.”


I think “humble” in this context means not feeling superior to any other person, willingly putting other people ahead of yourself.


I don’t think whose “who rate themselves insignificant” have self-esteem issues or a self-image problem. I believe they view the King’s mission as more important than their individual life. In other words, they are willing to lay down their preferences in life to help fulfill the King’s mission. As a result, they don’t live small lives. They live LARGE. Because they have a compelling purpose that focuses on the King and the expansion of His Kingdom on earth–our life’s purpose that goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden.


I think we can look at this principle of “poor in spirit” from two aspects.


1. I believe recognizing that you are poor in spirit is the first criteria for salvation. You have to realize that your soul is bankrupt. That you are in need of a savior.

2. And after we have accepted Jesus as our Savior, I believe it’s talking about purposefully not focusing on yourself, but instead recognizing that without God as the central focus of your life, you will still be poor in spirit–that HE is the one who gives your life value, meaning, and purpose.


Recognizing your desperate need for God and then focusing on Him and His mission sets you up for EXTREME BLESSINGS.


And that’s even BETTER than winning the lottery!


Matthew 5:1-3 / Amplified Bible

Seeing the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and when He was seated, His disciples came to Him.

Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:

Blessed (happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous—with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the poor in spirit (the humble, who rate themselves insignificant), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven!

How Blessed!

Matthew 5 is the beginning of what is commonly known as the Sermon on the Mount. It’s one of Jesus’s most famous teachings and is very well known. I’m sure you’ve heard parts of it quoted in multiple sermons and talks.


It’s also been the basis for several books . . . one title calls these principles the Be Happy Attitudes.


When I started reading and meditating on the first several verses, there was one thing that caught my attention.


I typically read the Amplified Version because it gives the expanded meaning of words instead of the typical one word to one word translation. And that really comes into play in this passage of scripture.


The word that is translated “blessed,” “happy,” or “fortunate” in other translations is also translated as “blessed” in the Amplified Version, but with a lot of expanded meanings. Here are a few:

– happy

– to be envied

– spiritually prosperous

– with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions

– enviably happy

– with a happiness produced by the experience of God’s favor and especially conditioned by the revelation of His matchless grace

– blithesome

– joyous

– fortunate

– in that state in which the born-again child of God enjoys His favor and salvation

– possessing the happiness produced by the experience of God’s favor and especially conditioned by the revelation of His grace, regardless of their outward conditions

– enjoying enviable happiness


I don’t know about you but that’s the kind of “blessed” life I would like to experience! It goes beyond being happy or feeling “blessed” when things are going your way or when someone says, “Have a blessed day!”


This kind of “blessed” life is knowing way down deep inside your soul that you have something that everybody desperately needs and no one can attain–it’s a “grace” gift. You are loved unconditionally. You are accepted just as you are. You are forgiven. You are a spiritual ka-jillionaire. You lack nothing.


But this kind of “blessed” life isn’t enjoyed by every believer. It’s experienced based on your heart attitudes.


And some of those necessary attitudes seem to be the exact opposite of the “blessed” life you’re trying to attain.


Which is one of the reasons it’s called the “upside-down kingdom!”

Good News for Galilee

In these few verses (Matthew 4:23-25), we clearly see Jesus’s priorities. Teaching and preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease. That’s what He spent His ministry years doing.


I love that it says He proclaimed the good news of the kingdom. It’s not bad news. Jesus’s message THEN AND NOW is GOOD NEWS! It’s not another 10 commandments we can’t keep. It’s not more rules to try to remember and follow. It’s not another law we’ll be punished for breaking. It’s not another tithe we have to pay.


The message of the Kingdom is GOOD. According to Jesus in Luke 4:18-21:

– It’s captives being set free.

– It’s the blind receiving their sight.

– It’s the oppressed being delivered.

– It’s salvation and God’s favor in abundance.


And Jesus doesn’t just talk about it in church. He goes into the streets and carries it out . . . literally!


Jesus came to earth on a love mission. Yes, He was here to live a perfect life so He could die a sacrificial death for our sins. Yes, He was here to show us how life is SUPPOSED to be lived. Yes, He was here to die and then rise from the dead and go back to the Father.


But it was all because of LOVE. It was all because of how much the Holy Trinity LOVES each and every one of us.


It was because of His love for the people in Galilee that He hated seeing them weighed down by the hundreds of laws religion had imposed on them. It was because of His love for them that He hated seeing them living oppressed and depressed and broken lives. It was because of His love for them that He wanted them whole and He wanted them free.


Because that’s how He created them to live.


So He offered wholeness and freedom to the people who came to Him in Galilee. That’s what they needed. And that’s what they got.


He feels the same way about you. He loves you and wants you to be whole and free.


And He has provided everything you need to live the life He created you to live.


What are you going to do with it?


Matthew 4:23-25 /  Amplified Bible

23 And He went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the good news (Gospel) of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every weakness and infirmity among the people.

24 So the report of Him spread throughout all Syria, and they brought Him all who were sick, those afflicted with various diseases and torments, those under the power of demons, and epileptics, and paralyzed people, and He healed them.

25 And great crowds joined and accompanied Him about, coming from Galilee and Decapolis [the district of the ten cities east of the Sea of Galilee] and Jerusalem and Judea and from the other [the east] side of the Jordan.

First Disciples

Jesus has begun his earthly ministry and in today’s passage He chooses His first four disciples.

The first two are Simon and his brother Andrew. They’re casting their nets into the Sea of Galilee as Jesus walks by.

Jesus uses the phrase, “Come, follow me,” the phrase used in that time when a rabbi selects the students he has chosen to be his disciples. But in that culture, the rabbi’s disciples weren’t ordinary students learning from an ordinary teacher. The disciples practically lived with the rabbi, following him everywhere, learning every detail they could, emulating everything he did. They didn’t just want to learn everything he knew. They wanted to BE him.

So that’s the life these brothers are expecting when they make the decision to follow Jesus.

– How much of your life are you willing to spend with the Teacher?

– How committed are you to the lifestyle of a true disciple?

I love it that Jesus relates what they’re doing now to what He will teach them to do. Now they fish for fish. Jesus says He will teach them to fish for men. This reinforces for me that Jesus doesn’t waste any of our experience. And He wants to use all our talents and gifts in the Kingdom work He calls us to.

– What experience do you have that you’re not sure Jesus can use?

– What gifts and talents do you possess that aren’t being used for the Kingdom?

And I love that Simon and Andrew were hungry for something more than status quo. They weren’t willing to settle for what they had always done. They responded immediately when this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was offered.

– In what ways are you satisfied with status quo?

– In what areas of your life have you settled?

– What is Jesus offering you now?

– How long is it taking you to accept His offer?

As Jesus continues walking on the shore (joined now by Simon and Andrew), He comes up on a father (Zebedee) and his two sons (James and John) sitting in their boat preparing their nets for their next fishing expedition. Jesus calls these two brothers and they also respond immediately, leaving their father, their boat, their nets, their lives . . . just like that . . . to follow Jesus.

– What all have you given up to follow Jesus?

– Who have you had to leave behind in order to be a true disciple?

– How long did it take you to decide to drop everything and go?


Matthew 4:18-22 (NIV)

Jesus Calls His First Disciples

18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.

21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.