Maundy Thursday IllustrationGiven the Old Testament’s explicit instruction to love our neighbors as ourselves (Leviticus 19:18), what’s new about the New Commandment?

Churches celebrate Maundy Thursday on the Holy Week in commemoration of the Last Supper and Jesus’ issuance of a new commandment.

“Maundy” comes from the Latin “mandatum” and references the word “commandment” in John 13:34.[1]

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:34-35.

Jesus illustrated his new commandment, prior to giving it, by washing the disciples’ feet (John 13:1-20). Christ’s example in servant love amazes us for at least four reasons:

  • The washing of feet was a menial task yet Christ, who is God, was willing to do it.
  • Christ washed the disciples feet fully conscious of the fact that his redemptive task would require him to go to the Cross.
  • Jesus washed Peter’s feet, and those of the other disciples, knowing that Peter would deny him and that all the disciples would scatter (John 13:36-38k, Matthew 26:31).
  • Jesus washed Judas’s feet even though Judas was going to betray him. In the Gospel of John, John makes sure that we do not miss that Jesus washed Judas’s feet.  Judas is mentioned at the beginning (John 13:2) and at the end of the passage (John 13:21-30).

Christ’s followers are to be known by their servant love. Jesus assured his disciples that their love for one another would distinctively identify them as followers of Christ.

The student of the Old Testament may wonder what is “new” about Jesus’s new commandment given that Leviticus 19:18 explicitly commands:

 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD. Leviticus 19:18.

 One of my seminary professors, Dr. Carl Hoch, whose life work was studying the New Testament use of the word “new” (καινός / kainos), identified five major ways that the new commandment is “new.”[2]

  • The New Model – Jesus himself set the example.
  • The New Motive – Jesus love for lost people is now explicitly stated.
  • The New Motivator – Jesus soon encourages his disciples that it is to our advantage that he is leaving because this means he will send the Holy Spirit.
  • The New Mission – The new commandment is the central feature of the mission of making disciples of Christ (John 13:35, Matthew 28:18-20).
  • The New Milieu – Dr. Hoch was stretching a bit for “m’s” when he got to this one, but his point is that our Lord’s death, burial, and resurrection inaugurated a new age. Dr. Hoch wrote, “The new situation created by the sacrifice of Christ anticipates in the present the condition of the age to come. The mutual love of the disciples is therefore the rule of the new era.”[3]

Hoch concluded:

The new commandment is the sine qua non of the Christian life. “It is simple enough for a toddler to memorize and appreciate, profound enough that the most mature believers are repeatedly embarrassed at how poorly they comprehend it and put it into practice. Can any more be said?[4]

See also:

Kevin DeYoung on Maundy Thursday[5]

John Piper on Thursday of the Commandment[6]

What Happened Each Day of Holy Week : This post gives a summary of what happened each day of Holy Week.

The people involved in the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ: Have problems keeping track of all the Marys and the other people involved in Holy Week? Here’s a summary.

Places Associated with Holy Week: Calvary is the same as Golgotha and other helpful facts about Holy Week places.


[1] In the original language, the word “commandment” is first in John 13:34. The word order is literally, Ἐντολὴν καινὴν δίδωμι ὑμῖν, ἵνα ἀγαπᾶτε ἀλλήλους, καθὼς ἠγάπησα ὑμᾶς ἵνα καὶ ὑμεῖς ἀγαπᾶτε ἀλλήλους / commandment new I give to you, in order that you love one another, even as I have loved you so that and you love one another.”

[2] Carl B. Hoch, All Things New: The Significance of Newness for Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995), 142–145.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., 145.

[5] Kevin DeYoung, “Maundy Thursday,” The Gospel Coalition, April 1, 2010,

[6] John Piper, “Thursday of the Commandment,” Desiring God, March 20, 2008,


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Suppose that you want to get rid of some behavior in your life.  It is never enough to stop doing the wrong thing.  In order to defeat that behavior, you need to not only stop doing the wrong thing, but also start doing the right thing.

The Apostle Paul emphasizes this principle.

  • He tells the Ephesians, “stop lying, instead, tell the truth.”
  • He also encourages the Ephesians, rather than being drunk, speak to one another with Psalms Hymns and spiritual songs.
  • And, don’t let unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up.

So, if you are going to defeat a behavior in your life.  One of the first things that you need to do is find the right alternative.  Here is one to think about this week.  The positive alternative to “worrying” is “thanksgiving.”  Paul tells the Philippians, “Don’t be anxious but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving make your requests known to God.”

If you struggle with worry and anxiety, and most of us do at one time or another, make it your goal this week to replace those thoughts with thanksgiving.

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Psalm 22 - Summary of New Testament UsageCharles Spurgeon believed Jesus may have repeated Psalm 22 word for word on the Cross. If you review the New Testament usage of Psalm 22, you will understand why Spurgeon thought so.

Psalm 22 is a psalm with application in David’s life (circa 1000 B.C) but it is prophetic and fulfilled completely only by Christ. Hence, it is sometimes called the 5th Gospel account of the cross.[1] Spurgeon says that this Psalm is beyond all others:

The Psalm of the Cross. It may have been actually repeated word by word by our Lord when hanging on the tree; it would be too bold to say that it was so, but even a causal reader may see that it might have been . . . O for grace to draw near and see this great sight! We should read reverently, putting off our shoes from our feet, as Moses did at the burning bush, for if there be holy ground anywhere in Scripture it is this psalm.[2]

 Regarding Psalm 22, Kaiser writes:

David did experience unusual suffering, but under a revelation from God he witnesses suffering of one of his offspring, presumably the last in that promised line, that far transcends anything that came his way.[3]

The Psalm’s essential message is summarized in verse 24. In spite of God’s awful delay in answering prayer, he answers and upholds ultimate justice.”[4] So, someone has said, that while Psalm 22 begins with a “sob”, it ends with a “song” in anticipation of the resurrection.[5]

Derek Kidner:

No Christian can read this without being vividly confronted with the crucifixion. It is not only a matter of prophecy minutely fulfilled, but of the sufferer’s humility – – there is no plea for vengeance—and his vision of a world-wide ingathering of the Gentiles. The Gelineau translation entitles it ‘The suffering servant wins the deliverance of the nations’.

 No incident recorded of David can begin to account for this Psalm. It is prophetic of the Cross.[6]



[1] Peter C. Craigie, Psalms 1-50, ed. David A. Hubbard et al., Word Biblical Commentary (Waco: Word, 1983), 202.

[2] {Citation}

[3] Walter C. Kaiser, The Messiah in the Old Testament, Studies in Old Testament Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 113.

[4] Waltke, Bruce K., Houston, James M., and Erika Moore, The Psalms as Christian Worship: A Historical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), 398.

[5] “Psalms Studies – Book 1,” accessed March 27, 2012,

[6] Derek Kidner, Psalms 1-72, ed. D.J. Wiseman, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1973), 105.

See also:

What Happened Each Day of Holy Week : This post gives a summary of what happened each day of Holy Week.

The people involved in the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ: Have problems keeping track of all the Marys and the other people involved in Holy Week? Here’s a summary.

Places Associated with Holy Week: Calvary is the same as Golgotha and other helpful facts about Holy Week places.

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Palm Sunday PicThe following links will help you review what happened during Holy Week and why it is important.

What Happened Each Day of Holy Week : This post gives a summary of what happened each day of Holy Week.

The people involved in the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ: Have problems keeping track of all the Marys and the other people involved in Holy Week? Here’s a summary.

Places Associated with Holy Week: Calvary is the same as Golgotha and other helpful facts about Holy Week places.

Important theological terms: Terms we must know. These help understand why Jesus went to the Cross.

R.C. Sproul on the Most Horrible and Beautiful Example of God’s Wrath For Us  – To understand the Cross, we must understand that Jesus went there in the place of his people.

Only the Resurrection of Christ Can Explain These Facts – This will bolster your confidence in the historical truth of the resurrection.

Summary and Select Quotes of Isaiah’s Servant Songs Including Isaiah 53 – Isaiah vividly prophesied the Cross 700 years prior to the time of Christ.

Sing Psalm 118 in Anticipation of Palm Sunday and Holy Week – Shows the connections between Psalm 118 and Holy Week.

7 Reasons I Recommend the Final Days of Jesus by Taylor and Kostenberger – Points to the best introductory resource on Holy Week.

John R.W. Stott: 3 Truths Enforced by the Cross – Vintage Stott giving a powerful summary of truths enforced by the Cross.

Help Select Good Friday and Easter Hymns – Hymns like these are an essential part of worship during Holy Week.

What Will You Look Like After Your Resurrection : A link to a post by pastor Steve Dewitt that helps us consider how our resurrection bodies will look after Christ returns.

S.M. Lockridge: Sunday’s Comin: An excerpt from one of the all time great sermons on the hope of the resurrection when all seems lost.

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Isaiah’s servant songs (Isaiah 42:1-4, 49:1-6, 50:4-9, 52:13-53:12) are four passages in Isaiah that uniquely prophesy Christ and are of central importance as we remember the death, burial, and resurrection. Select quotes below show the importance of Isaiah’s Servant Songs.

Eugene Peterson’s Summary of the Four Servant Songs[1]

Servant Song Peterson Thought
Isaiah 42:1-9 The servant is chosen for a mission. He won’t force his way, but will do it quietly and gently.
Isaiah 49:1-7 The servant is formed in the womb. It will be a huge task, but he will be given as a light to the nations.
Isaiah 50:4-9 This song reaffirms the servant’s work of witness and preaching that is met with scorn and contempt.
Isaiah 52:13-53:12 The servant will win the victory through the unlikely approach of suffering in the place of those he saves: “sacrificial suffering, suffering with and for others.”

Youngblood says that the theme of the suffering servant is the most important theme in Isaiah.[2]

Oswalt regarding the Servant Songs writes:

 . . . there is a unique emphasis on what the Servant will accomplish for the world . . . my position is that in these passages Isaiah is speaking of an individual, almost certainly the Messiah, who will be the ideal Israel. Through his obedient service to God, Israel will be enabled to perform the service of blessing the nations that had been prophesied in Gen 12:3 and elsewhere.[3]

 God’s answer to the oppressors of the world is not more oppression, nor is his answer to arrogance more arrogance; rather, in quietness, humility, and simplicity, he will take all of the evil into himself and return only grace. That is power (Oswalt, 111).[4]

In the context of reflecting on the Servant Songs, Edward J. Young writes:

Christ was sent in order to bring the whole world under the authority of God and under obedience to Him.[5]

Those who gather about him to hear his teaching will discover that he spoke as never man spoke. His teaching was not accomplished through loud proclamation but by quiet instruction.[6]

Isaiah 52:12-53:12 is one of four servant songs. In the Old Testament “Only the strange, silent figure of Isaiah 53 stands before us as one who, it is said, remains innocent and righteous.” N.T. Wright[7]

Along with Psalm 22, Isaiah 53 is the central prophetic prophecy of the atonement found in the Old Testament. It vividly describes Christ’s substitutionary death 700 years before the cross. The Church Father Polycarp said Isaiah 53 is the golden “passional” of the Old Testament evangelist. Youngblood tells us that this song is often called the Gospel of the Old Testament and this passage is quoted more often than any other in the New Testament.

Regarding the importance of Isaiah 53 in regards to the atoning work of Christ, Stott writes:

But it is particularly the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, describing the servant’s suffering and death, which is applied consistently to Jesus Christ. ‘No other passage from the Old Testament’, Joachim Jeremias has written, ‘was as important to the Church as Isaiah 53.’19 The New Testament writers quote eight specific verses as having been fulfilled in Jesus. Verse 1 (‘who has believed our message?’) is applied to Jesus by John (12:38). Matthew sees the statement of verse 4 (‘he took up our infirmities and carried our diseases’) as fulfilled in Jesus’ healing ministry (8:17). That we have gone astray like sheep (v. 6), but that by his wounds we have been healed (v. 5) are both echoed by Peter (1 Pet. 2:22–25), and so in the same passage are verse 9 (‘nor was any deceit in his mouth’) and verse 11 (‘he will bear their iniquities’). Then verses 7 and 8, about Jesus being led like a sheep to the slaughter and being deprived of justice and of life, were the verses the Ethiopian eunuch was reading in his chariot, which prompted Philip to share with him ‘the good news about Jesus’ (Acts 8:30–35). Thus verses 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 11 – eight verses out of the chapter’s twelve – are all quite specifically referred to Jesus.[8]

Stott also notices that Jesus himself made numerous references to Isaiah 53.[9] For example, Christ said that he would be:

  • Rejected
  • Taken away.
  • Numbered with the transgressors

Many other statements allude to Isaiah 53. Regarding Isaiah 53, Spurgeon wrote:

This is one of the chapters that lie at the very heart of the Scriptures. It is the very Holy of holies of Divine Writ. Let us, therefore, put off our shoes from our feet, for the place whereon we stand is especially holy ground.


This fifty-third of Isaiah is a Bible in miniature. It is the condensed essence of the gospel. I thought that our beloved friend, Mr. Moody, answered with extreme wisdom a question that was put to him when he came to London some years ago. A number of ministers had come together to meet Mr. Moody, and they began to discuss various points, and to ask what were the evangelist’s views upon certain doctrines. At last, one brother said, “Would Mr. Moody kindly give us his creed? Is it in print?” In a moment the good man replied, “Certainly; my creed is in print, it is the 53rd of Isaiah.” It was a splendid reply. How could a man come closer to the very essentials of the faith than by saying, “My creed is in the 53rd of Isaiah”? I trust that many of you, dear friends can not only say, “This is my creed,” but also, “This is the foundation upon which I have built all my hopes for time and for eternity; this is the source of my sweetest consolation; this is the sun that makes my day, and the star that gilds my night.” In these twelve verses there is everything that we need to teach us the way of salvation; God, the infinitely-wise Teacher, has revealed to us, within this short compass, all that is necessary to bring peace to troubled Spirits.

[1] Peterson, The Jesus Way: A Conversation on the Ways That Jesus Is the Way, 175–176.

[2] Ronald F. Youngblood, The Book of Isaiah (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993), 147. See also Peterson, The Jesus Way: A Conversation on the Ways That Jesus Is the Way, 174.

[3] John N. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah Chapters 40-66, ed. R.K. Harrison and Robert L. Jr. Hubbard, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 108.

[4] Ibid., 111.

[5] Youngblood, The Book of Isaiah, 111.

[6] Ibid., 113.

[7] N.T. Wright, Evil and the Justice of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 72.

[8] Stott, The Cross of Christ, 145.

[9] Ibid.

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Palm Sunday PicPsalm 118, with its repeated hopeful refrain that the LORD’s steadfast love endures forever, is important during Holy Week because:

  • The crowds quoted Psalm 118  during the  Triumphal Entry when they cried “hosanna” (Matthew 21:9, Mark 11:9-10).
  • Jesus infuriated the Pharisees when he quoted Psalm 118 in the Parable of the Tenants (Matthew 21:33-46, cf. Mark 12:10, Luke 20:17, Acts 4:11, Ephesians 4:20).
  • It is likely that Psalm 118 was the hymn that Jesus and the Disciples sang on Thursday night after the Last Supper before going out to the Mount of Olives.[1]

Hosanna on Palm Sunday (Matthew 21:1-11). The crowds quoted to Psalm 118 in during the Triumphal Entry when they shouted “hosanna.”

           [1] Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, [2] saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. [3] If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” [4] This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,

[5] “Say to the daughter of Zion,

‘Behold, your king is coming to you,

humble, and mounted on a donkey,

on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”

 [6] The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. [7] They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. [8] Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. [9] And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” [10] And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” [11] And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.” (Matthew 21:1-11 ESV)

 “Hosanna” appears only in the Old Testament is in Psalm 118:25. See “hosanna” on page 18 in theological terms.[3] (See Piper’s article on Hosanna).

In Psalm 118, the words “save us” translate the Hebrew word “hosanna.” Hosanna carries the obvious meaning of a cry to God for help. But by the time we get to the Triumphal entry “hosanna” also carries the connotation of victory. We might paraphrase, “Our God will save us.”

Today we should cry out hosanna both as a petition for God to save us, but also triumphantly knowing that Jesus has won the decisive victory over death.

The Parable of the Tenants. Jesus references Psalm 118 in Matthew 21:42 in the Parable of the Tenants. The Pharisees perceived that Jesus was talking about them and did not appreciate it (Matthew 21:45-46).

 [33] “Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. [34] When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. [35] And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. [36] Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. [37] Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ [38] But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ [39] And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. [40] When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” [41] They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”

 [42] Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

“‘The stone that the builders rejected

has become the cornerstone;

this was the Lord’s doing,

and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

 [43] Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. [44] And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

[45] When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. [46] And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet. (Matthew 21:33-46 ESV)

Jesus’s meaning was not lost on the Pharisees. He was identifying himself as the chief cornerstone and the Pharisees as the builders who rejected the chief cornerstone. Both Peter (1 Peter 2:7) and Paul reference our Lord’s exposition (Ephesians 2:20).

After the Last Supper. Matthew 26:30 tells us that, “And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” Given the place of Psalm 118 in Passover, it is likely that they sang Psalm 118 together including 118:22-24.

The stone that the builders rejected

has become the cornerstone.

This is the LORD’s doing;

it is marvelous in our eyes.

This is the day that the LORD has made;

let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 118:22-24


Kidner writes these introductory paragraphs for the occasion of Psalm 118:

The stir of a great occasion lends its excitement to the psalm as it proceeds, and we become aware of a single worshipper at its centre, whose progress to the Temple to offer thanks celebrates no purely private deliverance like that of Psalm 116, but a victory and vindication worthy of a king. . .

As the final psalm of the ‘Egyptian Hallel’ sung to celebrate the Passover . . . this psalm may have pictured to those who first sang it the rescue of Israel at the Exodus, and the eventual journey’s end at Mount Zion. But it was destined to be fulfilled more perfectly, as the echoes of it on Palm Sunday and the Passion Week make clear to every reader of the Gospels.[2]

[1] Kostenberger and Taylor, The Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived, 912.

[2] Derek Kidner, Psalms 73-150, ed. D.J. Wiseman, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1975), 412–413.

[3] Piper, “Hosanna!”


See also:

What Happened During Holy Week

John Piper’s Hosanna

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Screenshot 2015-03-14 18.32.37I’m looking forward to preaching at Oxford Bible Fellowship this morning (3/15/15). Those who would like an electronic copy of my Powerpoint slides can find them at the below link.

Oxford Bible Fellowship Sermon Notes for 3/15/15

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Tomorrow (D.V.) I’m preaching on Matthew 5:10-12 in which Jesus says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.” Jesus later amplifies this teaching in Matthew 10:16-42. Below, Ryan T. Anderson’s treatment by Piers Morgan shows what those willing to stand for truth in the public square can expect in the years to come.

See also this exchange at a forum held at Stanford.

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Christ said his disciples are the "salt" of the world.Our series on the Sermon on the Mount continues this Sunday at the Red Brick Church. Below are summaries of the sermons thus far. The audio for the sermons is available on our church web site.

1/25/15 – In the introduction to this series, we saw that when considering the Sermon on the Mount (SOTM), the greatest sermon ever preached, we should expect to be blown away and blessed by the authority of Christ in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 7:28-29).

And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. Matthew 7:28-29

Jesus’s authority resided in Himself and it was and is breathtaking.

Matthew framed the SOTM with the Authority of Christ.

  • Matthew’s genealogy documents Jesus as the perfect culmination of the entire Old Testament (Matthew 1-2).
  • Matthew proclaims Christ as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (Matthew 1:22, 2:15, 17, 23, 3:15, 4:14).
  • Jesus is presented as a new and better Israel (Hosea 11:1).
  • Jesus is a new and greater Moses (Exodus 19:20). (Notice that the Christian imperative follows the indicative!)

In the scope of the first sermon, we compared Christ’s authority with that of Hinduism and the false god Genesha. We see that Christ’s authority is far different and in him we can have complete confidence. Indeed, seeing the authority of Christ gives us confidence to follow wherever he calls.

2/15/15 – In the second sermon in this series, we saw that the central subject of the SOTM is the Kingdom of Heaven / God. Christ, the King, announced the inauguration of the Kingdom. The Kingdom began, in a sense, with Jesus’s arrival. However, we await the consummation of the Kingdom when Jesus will establish His Kingdom.

The Gospel of Matthew shows us the centrality of the Kingdom of Heaven theme by bracketing this entire section of the Gospel with a Kingdom announcement (Matthew 4:23, 9:35) and with an immediate emphasis on the Kingdom of God in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3, 10).

While there is an “already” aspect to the Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom has not yet been fully consummated. When considering the consummation of the Kingdom, we turned to Revelation 20:4 and saw the promise of the Millennial Kingdom when Christ will reign in this space and history and Satan will be bound.

The theme of the Kingdom of Heaven should give us great hope. Though much in this life is not as it should be, Jesus is coming back. So we pray, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

We need to meditate on the hope of the Kingdom of God because it is so wonderful. The message of the Bible is that something went terribly wrong. But God will defeat sin and one day we will be with Him on a new earth.

2/22/15 – Sermon on the Mount III: The Sequence of the Beatitudes

In the third sermon, we saw how the Kingdom of God is received. We must come to Christ recognizing that we have nothing to offer which is to say we should be “poor in spirit.”

The SOTM begins with the beatitudes. A “beatitude” is a blessing with an explanation of the blessing and a condition for it. To be “blessed” by God means to enjoy his favor. Some translate this happiness but “happy” is too superficial of a translation. Rather, it means to know the favor of God with the confidence a small child has in the favor of a parent.

The beatitudes begin with the beautiful truth that Christ extends his unmerited favor to who humbly receive it: the poor in spirit. Just as was the case with God delivering Israel out of bondage in Egypt (Exodus 2), Jesus begins with salvation / deliverance and then lays out the conditions of those who follow him.

The blessing of the beatitudes is the Kingdom of Heaven as we have seen. While the Kingdom has been inaugurated, we can look forward to the day when Christ will reign with his people on earth when the Kingdom is fully realized.

The beatitudes are extended to those willing to acknowledge their spiritual poverty. Blessed are the:

  • “Poor in spirit” – Meaning those who recognize they have no assets to bring about a solution to the world’s problems – –
  • “Those who mourn” – Those who see that the problems of the world are rebellion against God and consequently are grieved
  • “The meek” – Those who see that the offense is not against them personally, but rather that it is against God and that we are complicit in the offense.
  • “Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” – Those who long for God to set things right. The people who hunger and thirst for righteousness are missions minded people who long to see the glory of God shine around the world.

There is a sequence of sorts to the beatitudes. One leads to the next. Those who are poor in spirit will mourn. Those who mourn will be meek and hunger and thirst for righteousness.

Lest we feel overwhelmed at how far short we fall of the beatitudes, at the conclusion of the sermon, it was stressed that those who think they have nothing to offer should run to the Cross where they will meet a gracious Savior.

3/1/15 – Sermon on the Mount IV: The Cycle of the Beatitudes

The SOTM should be approached with anticipation (astonishing authority), hope (the Kingdom is at hand!), joy (Jesus blesses those who are poor in spirit), but also soberness because we see later in the sermon that there are some who think they part of the Kingdom who are not.

[21] “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. [22] On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ [23] And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:21-23

Consequently, we should compare ourselves to the Beatitudes and see if they are characteristic of our lives – – or if their opposites are more characteristic.

Are we poor in spirit? Or self-sufficient?

Do we mourn? Or are we entertained by sin?

Are we meek? Or defensive?

Do we hunger for righteousness? Or are we apathetic about missions?

Are we merciful? Or impatient?

Pure in heart? Or thinking the wrong things?

Persecuted? Or afraid?

If, in reviewing this list, we find that we fall short – – then we are brought back to the first beatitude – – the gospel goes out to those who are “poor in spirit.” Let us recognize our need for Christ and Him alone.

So, we see in this sermon that there is also a cycle to the beatitudes. We begin on our knees in need of grace. But as God extends us grace, we are merciful peacemakers. Yet, we can anticipate that we will be knocked flat by persecution and find ourselves again reminded that we are poor in spirit.

See also:

The Sermon on the Mount Notes on Authority

The Gospel of Matthew’s Use of Inclusio or Bracketing

Kingdom of Heaven Notes

7 Reasons I am Excited About Preaching on the Sermon on the Mount


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Help me fairly understand the worldview which says that moral values are a function of cultures rather than a transcendent standard. I am not trying to be insulting. I assume that most people who believe that morals are rooted in culture believe that adult incest is wrong. What I am trying to understand is the secular basis for saying that something which takes place between consenting adults is wrong if there are no moral absolutes. What I am most looking for in the comments is a fair presentation of the secular position.

I am preparing to speak at a conference on the church and culture in a few weeks (More on that in the video shown at the end of this post). As a part of my preparation, I am working hard to understand secular thought and a discussion on the New York Times site has gotten my attention.

In a recent NY Times Article, Justin McBrayer (who I know neither personally nor professionally), expressed his concern that children are being taught that we cannot say that it is factually true that cheating is wrong. McBrayer summarized curriculum exercises in which children are asked to evaluate if the following statements are “facts” or “opinions.”

— Copying homework assignments is wrong.

— Cursing in school is inappropriate behavior.

— All men are created equal.

— It is worth sacrificing some personal liberties to protect our country from terrorism.

— It is wrong for people under the age of 21 to drink alcohol.

— Vegetarians are healthier than people who eat meat.

— Drug dealers belong in prison.

In each of the above cases, children are taught that these statements are opinions rather than facts. McBrayer is, rightly in my opinion, concerned. He concludes:

We can do better. Our children deserve a consistent intellectual foundation. Facts are things that are true. Opinions are things we believe. Some of our beliefs are true. Others are not. Some of our beliefs are backed by evidence. Others are not. Value claims are like any other claims: either true or false, evidenced or not. The hard work lies not in recognizing that at least some moral claims are true but in carefully thinking through our evidence for which of the many competing moral claims is correct. That’s a hard thing to do. But we can’t sidestep the responsibilities that come with being human just because it’s hard.

Last time I checked 1,836 people had responded to McBrayer’s position. I didn’t tally responses, but many were not impressed with McBrayer’s concerns that we are not giving our children a proper moral foundation. The comments most approved by the Times staff and the readers (thereby making the top of the comments section) argued that morals can not be facts. Here are a few examples:

Grant Wiggins, NJ Yesterday

. . .  Ethical statement are not facts, they are conclusions. They are principle-based judgments. So, it is a sound conclusion that one should not lie or steal if one bases one’s ethics on Kant’s categorical imperative or the Golden Rule more generally. To call such a conclusion a “fact” is to conflate facts with reasoned inferences.

Lauren, San Diego Yesterday

The fact is there are no moral facts. Morals are relative to the culture that created them. The problem is how they are being taught to ignore the morals of our society. . .

So the problem is not that they are teaching that there are no moral facts, its that they are teaching kids that they can have their own opinions on things that are not socially acceptable in the society and culture they live in.

Virgil (md) Yesterday

. . . The GLARING flaw of this article is that the author assumes moral fact is not only true but preferable. Not only does he over look a pretty significant realm of philosophic thought but he also offers no evidence to support his assertion that moral truths should be taught in school. Ultimately you are free to take whichever view you like but the problem with moral absolutists, people like the author, who believe things are right or they are wrong is that those views are not absolute. Exceptions can be found to every rule imaginable.

Ultimately, the author discounts the power of personal morals. I do not need to believe that killing another person goes against nature on a cosmic scale to believe it is wrong to do it myself. Yes it is an opinion that cheating is wrong, I share that opinion. But I see no evidence to suggest that is a fact.

Carl (Basel) Yesterday

If there were such a thing as a moral fact it would be consistent throughout the ages, different cultures and species.

Morality is in a stage of flux. Our Opinions and Morals have changed drastically in the last few years towards homosexuality, in the last few decades toward racism and sexism and in the past centuries towards slavery.

. . . We all understand that a society needs a moral structure that we can all (or at least most) agree and act on but this moral structure is not carved in stone and will constantly adapt to the needs and opinions of its society.

In my mind, these questions raise an obvious question. If morals are rooted in the beliefs and feelings of people – – then are we saying that polygamy is a legitimate option for cultures? Bestiality? Someone might respond, “But our culture does not believe those options are okay.” Understood. But what if a majority did?

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