Showing posts with label beatitudes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label beatitudes. Show all posts

21 June 2013

Back to front truth

Leaders in the church, Part 11
< Jesus makes a start | Index | Some issues to grapple with >

Jesus gets away from the crowds and begins to teach his closest followers. There are strong hints here, and more than hints, that leading is going to be costly. It will require great humility and self sacrifice, hard labour, unpopularity and persecution, and (not least) righteousness.

Galilee with hills on the horizon
Galilee with hills on the horizon
Chapters 5, 6 and 7 of Matthew's Gospel show us Jesus teaching his close followers. It is his apprentices that he speaks to here, his disciples, not the crowd. Matthew 5:1 explicitly says that when he saw the crowds he went up on the mountain and while he was sitting there his disciples came to him.

In terms of leadership there are several things to pay attention to here. Yahshua has been travelling throughout Galilee speaking about the good news and showing it in action by healing the sick. As a result he is now being pursued by large crowds, he has become famous.

Heading out - Leaving these crowds deliberately, he goes to a remote spot involving a steep scramble that many of the sick would not have been able to tackle. He sits down on a hillside far above the lake and away from the towns and villages. Only the most determined would have followed him there. He wants to train those who will continue the work of the kingdom after he has returned to the Father.

Leaders all need to do this, at least some of the time. It's essential to reach the crowds, that is the purpose of the mission. But it's every bit as important to pass on the method and the foundational truths to the core followers. What is unique about Yahshua is not that he teaches his followers; all Jewish rabbis did that. He is different because he also goes direct to the crowds. The Pharisees and Sadducees taught their disciples in great detail, but they didn't touch the lives of ordinary people very much.

So here, in Matthew 5:1-20, Jesus comes away from the crowds and does some standard rabbinic teaching. As you read it, remember that he's speaking to leaders, those he will soon be sending out on their own. He needs them to understand some basic truths. And these truths are all back to front. Did the Pharisees think the weak would be blessed?

The beatitudes - These famous sayings of Jesus are very intriguing. Most people are puzzled by them at some level and it's likely the disciples were too. One way to get to the bottom of what seems to be a conundrum is to reverse the individual statements. I outlined this idea a couple of years ago and I have just revisited it in more detail in another post.

But the thing to notice right now is that these statements would have made the disciples think. They would have understood that this Jesus was not motivated by power or wealth, but by humility and compassion. And they would begin to realise that he wanted them to have the same approach to life. This is the underlying philosophy that all church leaders need to have. If not, church becomes an oppressive and hurtful place instead of the place of peace and welcome that Jesus intended.

Trouble, salt and light - In verse 11 Jesus makes it very clear that leaders can expect to suffer in a variety of ways because of him. Why because of him? Simply because anyone who says what Jesus says and does what he does will attract the anger of those holding worldly authority. The scribes, law teachers and Pharisees handed Jesus over for execution. The prophets suffered in the same way. The newly arrested John the Baptist was a very fresh example if one was needed!

And he explained that leaders are responsible for providing flavour and illumination. Those who do not provide these things are of little or no value as leaders in the kingdom. We often read these chapters as if they are written to all believers - and to some degree they are. But specifically they are for the disciples, then and now. Of course, we are all disciples and we are all called to lead and show one another the way. Also, we are all called to the mission of going and making disciples and teaching them everything Jesus taught us. Disciples follow and lead others so that they in turn will become disciples.

And what of the Law? - Jesus explains how his coming affects the Law. Again, it's all about leaders. Those who are obedient and teach others the same will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Do you want to be called great? You will need to become more righteous than the scribes and Pharisees (who attempted to obey the Law in minute detail). How can any man or woman become righteous? It's only possible by believing Jesus, and if we believe we'll teach others to do the same.

Clearly, the standard for leaders in the church is very high indeed. Not in terms of paper qualifications or head knowledge (the Pharisees had all the learning and theology anyone could wish for). Not in terms of appointed authority (the High Priest had that in spades). But in terms of Christ-likeness.

If you aspire to lead, begin by reading Matthew 5, 6 and 7. Then consider what it means to 'follow Jesus up the mountain'. It is hard and dangerous work but very rewarding.


  • Are you a leader? What do you think defines a leader?
  • Are you following Jesus? If so you are a disciple, doesn't that make you a leader?
  • Why do you suppose Jesus wanted to spend so much time with his disciples (rather than the crowds)? Surely the more people he could reach the better.
  • Is it better to go wide or deep? Jesus went wide with the crowd and deep with the disciples.

See also:

< Jesus makes a start | Index | Some issues to grapple with >

20 September 2011

Loves Farm (SG) - Beatitudes

< 19th September 2011 | Index | 22nd September 2011 >

Tonight's word section covered the second part of the beatitudes, based on Ian Hoile's address at Open Door last Sunday.

Canal boatWe shared a meal together, the first time we'd met in Megan's new flat. It was cosy and fun but space really wasn't a problem. After coffee Roger turned our thoughts towards the meeting and we began with a time of praise. I'd been asked to prepare something for this, so I shared about praise and worship. The first mention of praise is in Genesis 1:4 where we read that Elohim 'saw that the light was good'.

When we declare something to be good, that is praise!

After that I spread out a selection of photos on the floor and asked everyone to choose their favourite. And then we considered what was praiseworthy in the things depicted - a sunset, a canal boat etc. We listened to Eva Cassidy singing 'What a wonderful world' and then joined in with 'All creatures of our God and King' and 'In every day that dawns'.

Then Donna turned to the topic 'Be radical' and the second part of the beatitudes (there are also notes on the first part).

We read Matthew 5:1-12 and focussed on verses 7 to 12. These verses seem to deal with the way we treat other people.

We should show mercy because we have received (and will receive) mercy.

Purity involves both the visible and the invisible aspects of our nature - we need to have pure actions and a pure heart. These two kinds of purity must match one another.

Peacemaking can be difficult because not everyone will accept peace. How do we deal with such difficult situations? Sometimes we need to go the extra mile.

And persecution will come our way if we stick to what we know to be right. We will certainly be criticised (or much worse). But we need to remain joyful despite the difficulties we face, as Paul and Silas did in prison.

And finally we spent some time praying for those of us facing difficulties of one kind or another as well as for other people we know with troubles or a need for change in their lives

(See also: Blessing or curse)

< 19th September 2011 | Index | 22nd September 2011 >

13 September 2011

Tempsford (SG) - Being radical

< 1st September 2011 | Index | 15th September 2011 >

It's been a while since I've been at a small group meeting so it was good to see everyone again. The theme was based on the beatitudes from Matthew 5.

Roger told us about various upcoming events including a baptism on 25th September and a car rally planned for 2nd October.

A waterfallWe listened to some songs and joined in with one of them and Roger read some of Jesus' words, 'Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest ... Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.' (Matthew 11:28, John 7:38)

Leanne took the word section; it was based on the Beatitudes from Matthew 5:1-6 and referred back to Ian Hoile's address on Sunday, part one of a series 'Be radical'. (If the recording isn't visible from the linked page you may need to search for 'Be radical'.)
Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them, saying:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
These verses are like a 'Kingdom manifesto'. If we follow Jesus we should be different from those who do not. We thought about this, in particular identifying ways in which we actually are different. We also  asked one another in what ways have we been blessed recently.

I suggested that it may help to reverse the ideas expressed by Yahshua. For example, if we are completely happy, how can we possibly be comforted? If, like the Pharisees, we think we are spiritually rich why would we want to enter the Kingdom?

And finally we separated into smaller groups to pray. Praying with Roger and Graham I had a picture of a waterfall. A wide, mature river was running sluggishly until it came to a cliff; then it poured over in a mighty, roaring torrent and crashed on the rocks below throwing spray high into the air. But the river wasn't destroyed, it soon returned to its placid, steady flow.

Father said that our lives are like rivers; time carries us along and like the river we can't go back. Along the way we experience all sorts of things, good and not so good. But sometimes he brings us to a place where we must face sudden change - a place like a waterfall. The flow is disrupted and we loose control. But it's an amazing place of noise and spray and only in the waterfall is there power and glory. We needn't be afraid of these times, he will bring us through safely. They are times of fundamental change for us. And, like the river, we will continue afterwards at a normal pace. It will be OK.

Roger was reminded of a time when he had walked behind a waterfall. He had not got wet, we need to be brave enough to take a step into the falling water if we want to be affected by it. Graham commented that when we stand on the edge we still have control, we can choose to step into the water or we can choose to step backwards away from the water. But if we step into the water we lose control and we cannot then change our mind.

The second part of the beatitudes group chat is also online.

(See also: Blessing or curse)

< 1st September 2011 | Index | 15th September 2011 >


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