People were anxiously excited at the time of the Sermon on the Mount. There was a buzz of anticipation about a young minister named Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus had been teaching all around the region about the good news of a new kingdom. He was saying some strange but very revolutionary things. Was Jesus a liar, lunatic, or Lord? The things he said shook the minds of the people, but made sense. The things he said were very different…
Jesus, Liar, Lunatic, or Lord?
by Delbert Young
Liar, Lunatic, or Lord?
Scriptures: Matthew 4:23-25, Matthew 5:1-2, Matthew 5:3, Luke 17:20-21, Luke 17:21, John 3:3-5
Matthew 4:23 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, andpreaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.
Matthew 4:24 And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.
Matthew 4:25 And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan.
I want you to do something for me. I want you to think of something you experienced about which you were anxiously excited. Perhaps it was long ago or recent, but it was something you could hardly wait to do or some place that you could hardly wait to arrive. I can remember years ago, as a young couple, my wife and I were to leave for vacation the next morning, but we couldn’t sleep because we were so excited. We got up and left in the middle of the night. Have you got a memory that you felt anxiously excited about? Now, have you ever felt that type of anxious excitement about a church event? Perhaps it was hearing or seeing your favorite speaker or going to a special meeting? I had been given an audio tape by a preacher. That preacher had rocked my thinking and I ordered more tapes from that ministry. I found my mind being jolted and challenged in a good way. I wanted to see him in person and meet him if possible. My wife and I headed out driving on a long weekend to the church he served. We arrived in his city late that night, but could find no rooms to sleep. We were excited and would not be denied. We ended up sleeping in a rest area off the interstate and the next morning, I shaved, washed off, and dressed in the mens room and my wife rolled her hair and got dressed in the ladies room. The Lord rewarded our efforts as I was able to spend most of the next day and much of the next night with the man. It revolutionized my life and set the course of the message of our ministry. Do you have anything that you were anxiously excited about concerning church? I hope you do. Church should be exciting and fun.
People were anxiously excited at the time of the Sermon on the Mount. There was a buzz of anticipation about a young minister named Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus had been teaching all around the region about the good news of a new kingdom. He was saying some strange but revolutionary things. The things he said shook the minds of the people, but made sense. The things he said were very different from the things the Pharisees and teachers of the law said. For example, he said there was a new kingdom that people could enter now and live in eternally. He said that if we were born again we could see it and if we were born of water and spirit we could enter it (Joh 3:3-5). He said that if we were poor in spirit we could have this kingdom (Mat 5:3). He said that if we were persecuted because we were living righteously, we could have this kingdom (Mat 5:10). Jesus taught a strange doctrine. He said our purpose was not to escape the earth and go to heaven, but rather to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth (Mat 6:10). Jesus said the very first thing that we should seek was this kingdom of God and if we did, all manner of good things of an abundant life would come to us (Mat 6:33).
Jesus did not teach the doctrines of the Pharisees or even the doctrine of Moses. No man had ever taught like Jesus taught. He would say about one of the ten commandments, “You have heard it said of them of long ago, ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ but I say to you do not get angry.” He said about another of the ten commandments, “You have heard it said of them of long ago, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery, but I say don’t lust in your heart.” Jesus didn’t teach the ten commandments. Instead, he taught righteousness that exceeded the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees (Mat 5:20).
Jesus would say revolutionary things and then he would love and minister to people. He would heal sick people and people with diseases. He would deliver people with devils. He would heal lunatics. But the buzz of excitement was not only about him teaching or healing. The buzz was because it was time for the Messiah to appear. According to Daniel (Dan 9:24-27), the Messiah would come 483 years after the decree to rebuild Jerusalem. It was that time. Could this Jesus be the one? John the Baptist had said that Jesus was the Lamb of God that would take away the sins of the world (Joh 1:29). Was he? Some people were saying he was a liar and a heretic. Some people were saying he was a lunatic. But some people were saying he was the Lord. Was he a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord? Had you been there that day, what would you have said? What if you had come out that day to hear him? What do you say today? He cannot be all three or even two. Is he a liar, a lunatic, or is he Lord?
The word had gotten out that on a certain day Jesus would explain the kingdom that he had been talking about. The crowds came from all around to hear him. They were anxiously anticipating his teaching. They had brought their throw blankets (lounge chairs) to set on and their lunches (coolers). They anxiously awaited the first words from this man named Jesus. What would be the first words of the kingdom? The first words of the law of Moses had been “Thou shalt have not gods before me . . .” What would be the first words of Jesus as he set the vision of this kingdom he spoke?
Matthew 5:1 Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him,
Matthew 5:2 and he began to teach them, saying:
The crowds had gathered. They awaited Jesus. The crowd noise would have been high. People were talking. The people saw Jesus as he came to a specific place on a mountainside. It was his platform. It was a place where he could see the people and the people could see and hear him. Jesus sat down and his disciples came to where he was and sat down around him. The buzzing and talking in the crowd quickly waned and Jesus opened his mouth and began to teach them saying.
Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the . . .
The first word describing of the kingdom is “Blessed!” The word “blessed” does not mean “happy is the person” as much as it means “approved by God is the person.” The thought is the approving smile of God. It’s a picture of God nodding his head and smiling. It’s the smile of a father toward his child or a grandfather toward his grandchild. That approval and smile will always bring blessings.
It’s more than “Happy are the . . .” Our being happy is a state of mind and a feeling which may or may not result with the approval of God and the associated blessing. I’ve done some things that I thought made me happy, but I knew at the time that God would not bless what I was doing. However, the approving smile of God will always result with the associated blessing.
The Bible is consumed with one thought. That means that God is consumed with one thought. That thought is God’s pursuit of man. Everything about the Bible will find its way back to that one thought. God desperately loves people and wants men and women to love him. When we do, we are blessed. It is amazing how this works. If we love God and keep the attitudes of our hearts right, we live blessed lives.
Interestingly, the Old Testament law of Moses began with the Ten Commandments. They were external rules of ‘thou shalt’ and ‘thou shalt not.’ The remainder of the Pentateuch and Old Testament teaches how those ten commandments are to be lived out.
Jesus began the sermon with eight beatitudes. These are the “Beautiful Attitudes” of his kingdom. These are not external laws, but rather internal attitudes of the heart. Ralph Martin, a pastor friend of mine, said they are “be attitudes.” They are what we “be” (excuse the grammar). They come from a kingdom within the heart, not from a kingdom of force without. The remainder of the Sermon on the Mount and the New Testament teach us how these eight beautiful attitudes are to be lived out.
Jesus did not teach hard-and-fast rules and observances. Instead, Jesus taught attitudes that must come from the heart, Beautiful Attitudes that keep us in his kingdom. Jesus knew that if our attitudes toward life are beautiful, everything else would be beautiful also. However, if our attitudes toward life are grotesque, everything else must be grotesque also. The condition of our lives, beautiful or grotesque, are determined by how we align with the eight Beautiful Attitudes. Paul wrote that the Old Covenant law was written on tables of stone, but the New is on the fleshy tables of our hearts (2Co 3:3). When this is the case, we become living epistles read of all men.
There are eight beautiful attitudes of the kingdom. These are eight keys of the kingdom. We can even see this as being born of the spirit and water (Joh 3:3-5) as we enter the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The Greek word translated “poor” is ptochos (Strong’s #4434) and means “beggarly, destitute, helpless and powerless to accomplish an end.” The thought is to become bankrupt in our spirit. It has nothing to do with personal fiances unless personal finances stop a person from being poor in spirit. That was the case with the “rich young ruler” (Mat 19:22). A rich in spirit person thinks he or she can obtain the kingdom the way they have obtained everything else, by their own abilities. That assumption is totally opposite of what Jesus said. A person poor in spirit realizes they have come to their end. They know they have answers, but they are not the right answers. They realize they need help for their spirit and need teaching for their spirit.
I suppose that is one of the main points that I remember about my coming to the Lord. Outwardly things looked fine. We had good jobs, nice home, nice cars, boats, clothes. We made a lot of money, but I was bankrupt concerning myself. I didn’t like me. There was something inside of me that was poor – beggarly, destitute, helpless and powerless to accomplish an end. I couldn’t explain it then and still cannot do a very good job of it today, but I came face to face with the fact that I did not have life’s answers. I realized that I needed help inwardly, not outwardly. I needed teaching for something inside of me. I needed to change my attitude about things.
It was then that I felt the approval and smile of God over my life. I had realized that I was poor inside. I needed help. I needed teaching. My life changed from that moment on. I remain in that position even today. Being poor in spirit is essential for spiritual growth. It is when a person believes they know it all that they stop growing spiritually. The more I learn only shows me how little I know. Being poor in spirit is the first key to entering and living in the kingdom of God. One cannot enter the kingdom of heaven until and unless they are bankrupt in spirit.
. . . for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Obviously Jesus was not speaking of a futuristic kingdom. Jesus did not teach a futuristic kingdom. In the mind of Christ the kingdom is present and forevermore. Jesus received a kingdom that would never end at his ascension (Dan 7:13-14). The Pharisees taught a futuristic kingdom. They asked Jesus to share his thoughts about the coming of the kingdom.
Luke 17:20 Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation,
Luke 17:21 nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.”
I don’t want to enter a theological dispute about the kingdom of heaven being a present reality. What I do know is that those who are poor in spirit have the kingdom of heaven. Remember that the sermon on the mount is the distilled potent theology of Jesus. He spoke of the kingdom nine times in this sermon (Mat 5:3, 10, 19, 20; 6:10, 13, 33; 7:21). It was never something futuristic. The point is the reward for them who are poor in spirit is access to the kingdom now. Jesus said, “. . . for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
I was thinking about this beautiful attitude in connection with the conversation that Jesus had with Nicodemus. Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born again to see and enter the kingdom of God.
John 3:3 In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
John 3:4 “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”
John 3:5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.
The born again experience is to see and enter the kingdom of God now. It’s not to go to heaven when we die. If we are in the kingdom, we will go to heaven when we die. But we, much like Nicodemus, cannot understand what being born again is actually about. We have been told all manner of things about being born again. Being born again is allowing God to create in us a clean heart and a right spirit (Ps 51:10), a poor spirit – a spirit that realizes how much we need God. Without that happening, there is no entrance into the kingdom. We must be born again.
We are born again inwardly with new attitudes that are beautiful to God. They bring God’s approval and they bring God’s smile.
The theme of the sermon is living in the kingdom of God. It shows us exactly where we stand in relation to the kingdom. We are able to compare our lives with a life abiding in the kingdom of God. We are able to see if we are in the kingdom or outside the kingdom in many different areas. We can know if we are truly believers. The Sermon on the Mount will bring us face to face with ourselves.
How many understand what I have attempted to say today? You came face to face with yourself and didn’t like what you saw. You realized you were bankrupt inside. You cried out to God. He heard you, smiled at you, and nodded his head in approval.
How many have never officially acknowledged that experience? You have come face to face with yourself, but never got your spirit right with God. You never acknowledged your need for God. You thought your spirit was rich enough to get you to your desired end, but you have found it’s not. Inside is this deep empty hole. Will you allow Jesus to fill it with the abundant life?
Was Jesus a Liar, a Lunatic, or Lord? If Lord, then you need what he can do for you and he needs what you can do for his kingdom. I want to pray with you. I want to help you. Jesus said to pray that his kingdom come and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven. He was speaking about you and your life. I want to pray that with you today.
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