We continue Christ’s Sermon on the Mount moving into the intertwined topics of giving, prayer, fasting, contentment and worry.
The traditional Jewish Mourner’s Kaddish reveals Christ’s religious roots when we compare it to his model prayer. Both of them give us a great framework for meditation.
Glorified and sanctified be God’s great name throughout the world
which He has created according to His will.
May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and during your days,
and within the life of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon;
and say, Amen.
May His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.
Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored,
adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He,
beyond all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that
are ever spoken in the world; and say, Amen.
May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us
and for all Israel; and say, Amen.
He who creates peace in His celestial heights,
may He create peace for us and for all Israel;
and say, Amen.
(English translation from My Jewish Learning. https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/text-of-the-mourners-kaddish/)
Christ’s Model Prayer (Matt 6:9-13)
9 Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
Amen and amen!
(Thanks to Craig Blomberg for pointing out the connection in his commentary on Matthew 1992, New American Commentary Vol 22, B & H Publishing)
This week we begin the first of three weeks in what is probably the best known sermon we have from Jesus. (Omar did the teaching.)
Matthew 05.mp3 (Omar Yamout)
Christ’s beatitudes, those memorable opening words from his Sermon on the Mount, are among the most loved and best known verses in the Bible. People who never bother to read the Bible quote them. They appear in all kinds of contexts and sometimes entirely out of context. Here they are once more.
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
What strikes me about them today is their long-term outlook. Each one points to some activity or condition in the present and what we might call its long-term reward or payoff. That is, it gives us the “why” that makes each activity or condition worthwhile right now. Christ’s perspective is nothing short of eternal.
Some of them seem completely improbable. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” “Blessed are those who mourn,” “Blessed are you when others revile you…” And yet we have on the authority of Jesus that in any of these situations we should count ourselves blessed.
These are the words of the one who brought blessing out of his cross. Jesus endured that, knowing that it was necessary to accomplish his objectives. I want to be able to look toward Jesus and look toward the end result of what he might be doing in my life in the same way. It’s a lot like Hebrews 12:1-2.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
When Jesus was confronted by the devil in the wilderness, he might have just destroyed the devil once and for all. Or, he might have used a bit less of his own divine omnipotence and suddenly shut the devil’s mouth. After all, hadn’t the Holy Spirit just descended upon him at his baptism in the last chapter? Wasn’t he ready to engage in a mighty public miracle-working ministry? Maybe so, but those options would not have taught us the same lesson as what he actually did.
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written,
“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’
“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,
“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.’”
11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.
Instead of somehow rendering the devil powerless, Jesus, who was empowered by the Spirit and led into the wilderness by that same Spirit, confronted the devil with Scripture. Instead of doing something that only Jesus could do, he did something that any Christian can do just as well.
When confronted by temptation, we can rely upon the Holy Spirit and the Holy Scriptures to resist it. That is not always easy to do because the devil tends to catch us off guard, when the Spirit’s indwelling presence is the last thing on our minds. Arguably, Jesus also knew the Bible better than we do.
Alas, these may be real reasons, but they are not good excuses. We should find it encouraging that Jesus did what he did in the way that he did it. The lessons learned are to stay conscious of the Holy Spirit’s presence within us and to grow spiritually from a steady diet of the Bible. You never know which obscure verse, say from Deuteronomy, is going to come in handy.
Let’s continuously pray for the Holy Spirit’s help and continuously take in regular doses of God’s Word. When temptation comes, we will be ready to resist it just like Jesus.