Prince of Peace: From the Cradle to the Crown and Beyond
Sermon on The Mount Part 3
What is Jesus' Central or Main Message?
In Part 2 of the Sermon on the Mount posts, we looked at the headings the New International Version (NIV) and New Century Version (NCV) to depict sections of the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5-7). The NCV used “Jesus Teaches” in a number of its headings. Those teachings focused on elements related to our relationships with God and with others. And at the conclusion of yesterday's post, I reviewed Jesus' Personal Mission Statement, which was, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost,” (Lk. 19:10, NIV). Many of Jesus' teachings are covered in the Sermon on the Mount, including the Beatitudes and The Lord's Prayer. However, after reviewing the teachings in Matthew 5-7, what would you deduce is Jesus' central message? What if we expanded out focus to studying His teachings recorded in the Gospels? I thought I knew the answer to these questions, but as I've read and researched, I've discovered the unexpected.
Many of us assume that the answer is, “God is love; and if you've seen Me, you've seen God.” Actually, I was surprised to learn that Jesus' main teaching was focused on the Kingdom of God/the Kingdom of Heaven and how individuals may enter into it. The expression, “Kingdom of God” appears in the Gospels 53 times; this phrase is mostly used by Jesus. A similar expression is, “Kingdom of Heaven”, which is used 32 times in Matthew's Gospel. Furthermore, many of the parables also teach about or explain the Kingdom. In fact, after Jesus returned from His 40 day fast in the wilderness and the temptations He victoriously overcame, He discovered that John the Baptist had been imprisoned by Herod. So Jesus travelled to Galilee, and, 'From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near,”' (Mt. 4: 17), and He also said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent,” (Lk. 4:43).
OK. So if the answer to our question is “The Kingdom of God” or “The Kingdom of Heaven”, the next question is, “What is is the Kingdom of God (a.k.a., “Kingdom of Heaven”)? Responses to this question vary and include: heaven, the Church, the time for Divine justice; a call to social action, and right relationships.
Tomorrow we will explore the Kingdom of God/Heaven.
Blessings & Peace
Elizabeth Hogan Hayduk
Former Salvation Army Officer (pastor)