“What If Jesus Was Serious? – Who is Really Blessed?” by Julia Carlisle and Haley Carter

Explore one of history’s most powerful messages, the Sermon on the Mount at Gateway Church in Austin.

Jesus unveils the essence of living in God’s Kingdom. This message isn’t mere idealism; it’s an invitation to live a life shaped by love, compassion, and righteousness. It’s not just a guide; it’s a transformational journey into the heart of humanity. Are you ready to step into this extraordinary way of living?

Digging Deeper

Work through these discussion questions and do a deeper dive into the message with your family, roommates, or community group.

Discussion Questions

Watch Here:

Message Notes from Julia Carlisle and Haley Carter here:

Big Idea: If Jesus was serious, then His Kingdom is truly upside down.

Question: If Jesus was serious about the kinds of people in His Kingdom, am I in?

Intro: 

There are many indelible speeches in human history that most people will recognize. 

“Ask not what your country can do for you” and you can probably complete the sentence for me, “but what you can do for your country” – JFK

“Give me liberty, or give me death- Patrick Henry

The unexamined life is not worth living- Socrates. 

And all I need to do is say these four words, “I have a dream” and the majority of us will nod, knowingly that these are the iconic words of MLK Jr. 

Then we have these other ones, 

“Love your enemies”

“Judge not.” 

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

– All of which hail from the greatest speech ever given, the Sermon on the Mount. But, for those who follow Jesus, these words are so much more than a good speech that has some nice sayings we can repost when they come across our timeline. The reality is, Jesus also said some tough, radical things that are difficult to swallow. 

In the history of the church, we haven’t always agreed on exactly what we are to do with Jesus’ most famous sermon. The response has often been to soften Jesus’ words, claiming that Jesus didn’t really expect us to obey them, or to reduce it to an unreachable goal intended to reveal our sinfulness, or as something designed for only the most elite, hyper-committed Christian, to name a few. 

This leaves us with two questions: Did Jesus really mean what He said in His sermon? And if so, what does it mean for us today? 

The best place to begin to find our answer is at the end. (Fortunately, we have this luxury of jumping to the end of the sermon- spoiler alert!)

Jesus ends His message with these powerful words in the form of a metaphor. 

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man (or woman) who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matt. 7:24-27)

Jesus’ jarring conclusion tells us quite plainly what He intends His listeners to do with the sermon.  Jesus’ expectation and hope is that those who hear these words would do them. His intention is to bring us to a place of decision. The choice is- is Jesus King? and if so, will I follow Him? 

You see, the Sermon on the Mount is more than a memorable speech, it is Jesus’ manifesto; His inaugural address announcing the arrival of a King and a Kingdom. And it is a call to action for those who wish to follow Him and be a part of this new Kingdom economy. 

Before we get into the context and background here I want to pause and introduce myself. My name is Haley Carter and I am the Lead Grow Pastor here at Gateway. Today is the first in an 8 part series on Jesus most famous sermon – the Sermon on the mount. We are streaming today to all of our campuses, so welcome to everyone! My encouragement to you for the next 8 weeks is Press in. You will be encouraged and challenged – lean in. Also, I’d encourage you to read along with us. Todays message is based mainly out of Matthew 5, but go back to the start of the book and begin in chapter 1. Read through Chapter 7 multiple times over the next few months and let the words of Jesus transform you.

Background: 

Today, we’re looking at the famous introduction to the sermon, but before we dive in, it’s essential that we set the scene, asking the question, who is Jesus talking to and what is the occasion? 

We find the sermon on the mount in the gospel of Matthew and Matthew is extremely intentional in how He sets the scene of this pivotal moment in Jesus’ ministry. In chapter 4, after a period of testing, His ministry is set in motion with these important words,

“From that time on, Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matt. 4:17)

We have to get clear here on what the “Kingdom of Heaven” or the “Kingdom of God” is before moving forward because this is central to the mission of Jesus and essential to our understanding of how to respond to His coming. 

The Kingdom of God or Heaven (they are interchangeable) is God’s redemptive story. It’s about how humans rebelled against God, destroying ourselves, our relationships with one another, the world and God, but how God sets a plan in motion through a series of promises in the Old Testament. These promises lead up to the ultimate commitment that God Himself would come again as their King and reestablish His rightful place as ruler over His people. 

When Jesus says the Kingdom of Heaven has come near, He’s claiming that the Kingdom of God is no longer the distant dream that they have been waiting for for centuries, but that the Kingdom is in their midst, why? Because the King is here. Jesus is claiming that He is the King who has come to fulfill every promise of God. This is the good news of the gospel– turn from your rebellion and follow the King, for the Kingdom of heaven is within your grasp!

His first move is to begin gathering His disciples. (By disciples, we simply mean those who have chosen to follow Jesus and obey His teachings). But, His choice of followers is puzzling. He first picks out a handful of fishermen- these are the guys that didn’t make the cut to go to torah college. They weren’t clean or well-dressed. They were ordinary men doing ordinary, smelly, mundane work. And when Jesus invites them, “follow me and I will make you fishers of men”, they immediately dropped their nets and followed Him. 

Matthew then describes Jesus on a tour of Galilees, where we see Him teaching, proclaiming, and healing all kinds of people with afflictions. And news is spreading like wildfire. He would have blown up twitter! Now we have more than no-named fishermen following Jesus. We have sick people, suffering people, those afflicted by spiritual evils (lunatics), paralytics, and people with debilitating seizures. These are the lowest and debased of society. These are those under the oppressive boot of Rom: the poor, the day laborer, the nobodies. And yet, Matthew makes the point that it is THESE KINDS OF PEOPLE that are compelled to flock to Him from all over the region. These are the “great crowds” that are following Him and the same crowds hanging on His every word when Jesus begins to speak.  And like their prophet and leader, Moses, long ago delivered God’s ethical codes that would form Israel as the people of God, Jesus is delivering to this ragtag bunch of misfits, the ethics of His Kingdom, a new way to be human. This is why, when Jesus wraps up His sermon, the response of the crowd is astonishment at his teaching, “for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.” (Matt. 7:28-29) Jesus is not only the law-giver, He is the law. 

Now that He has his audience, Jesus begins His message with a list of blessings famously known as the Beatitudes. 

The name “beatitude” comes from the Latin beatitudo/beatus meaning “blessed”, which is a translation from the Greek, “makarios”. The reality is, we just don’t have a great English translation for “makarios”, so “blessed”, “fortunate” or “happy” is the best our English translations can do. 

When you heard the beatitudes read, you may have got the feeling, “Oh, this sounds nice, and it sounds pretty simple,” but if we really wade into it, let’s be honest, it all sounds pretty backward, and not like something we’d be into. Jesus announces that those who are blessed are the poor and those who are grieving and hungry, people who are persecuted. That doesn’t sound fun and it definitely doesn’t sound like blessing. But, what does it mean to be blessed? 

Back in 2015, the pithy phrase, #blessed, took the world by storm. Any of you social media users know what I’m talking about. We began to see pictures of foamy lattes, college diplomas, and filtered sunsets pop up along with any other accomplishments people felt the need to share with the world. The hashtag has since been used to portray one’s achievements or flawless life through a veil of humility and gratitude. The strange phenomenon of social media is that users are able to create new meanings for existing words. #blessed is a perfect example of that. According to a journalist writing on this phenomenon, “Through the collaboration and replication of using blessed as a hashtag, social media users have been able to transform the connotation of the word blessed from its biblical meaning to a word used to subtly (or not so subtly) brag about one’s life while disguising it as humility.”

Melissa Grau

We’ve all seen this, and many of us have been a part of this. And, unfortunately, it has colored the way we think about the “blessed” and what it means to live “the good life”. If we’re honest, we consider those blessed who have the American dream, right? Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Isn’t it funny how as American Christians we will put the words of the Declaration of Independence above the Words of Jesus?  Though, now, the right to pursue happiness has become about the right to BE HAPPY. Happiness is our birthright. It’s about feeling good about ourselves and our situation. This mentality is still very much alive in circles of evangelicalism called the prosperity Gospel, which claims that if you express true faith in Jesus, you will surely attain physical, material and financial prosperity in this life.  

And in American culture, it’s those with fame and notoriety that we are convinced have the #blessed life. Did you know that when Gen Zers were polled about what they wanted to be when they grew up, 78% said they wanted to be famous? It’s those who don’t just have a good job but their dream job, who make the good money, get the big house with the kids and the dog, and have the instagram account to show for it. These are the winners, these are the ones who are blessed. Right? What happens when you achieved all that and the bottom fell out (give examples).

According to Jesus and His Kingdom, it couldn’t be further from the truth. –  If Jesus was serious, He flips the script on who is really blessed and what blessing really means.  If Jesus was serious, then His Kingdom is truly upside down. And Maybe we’ve had it wrong this whole time. And what he promises to these people who are blessed are shocking things like, they will inherit the earth, they will be the actual family of God, they will see God. 

So, what are we to do with this list of 9 blessings? 

  1. First, we need to understand that the Beatitudes are descriptive, not prescriptive.
    1. They are not commands or a list of virtues to live up to.
      1. Jesus doesn’t tell us we should try to be poor or sad or meek. 
      2. “The sermon, therefore, is not a list of requirements, but rather a description of the life of a people gathered by and around Jesus.” – Theologian, Stanley Hauerwas
      3. Now, remember who is literally gathered around Jesus: the sick, the status-less, the down on their luck people. 

So, if they are not a list of commands, what are they? 

  1. If Jesus was serious, then this is a list of the kinds of people that make up His Kingdom. 
    1. So, who are the kinds of people who are in? The humble, those who pursue righteousness and justice, and those who create peace. Let’s break this down:
      1. Those who are humble
        1. 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
        2. The logic at the time of Jesus was no different than today, if your life looks good on the outside, you must be blessed and favored, you’re one of God’s favorites. If not, you must have done something wrong to tick God off. 
        3. But, Jesus opens with a list of blessings for the very kind of people who had flocked to hear this message. The economically poor, those suffering under the oppressive boot of Rome. The ones that nobody thinks are important or valuable. The Losers. 
        4. These kinds of people were also spiritually destitute. As Dallas Willard beautifully paraphrased: “Blessed are the spiritual zeros—the spiritually bankrupt, deprived and deficient, the spiritual beggars, those without a wisp of ‘religion’—when the kingdom of the heavens comes upon them.”
        5. The meek are those who are unimportant. They grieve and care deeply over the brokenness of the world, but have little ability to do anything about it. 
        6. Jesus is saying to them, this is a favored position to be in. Isn’t it those who have nothing and are in the most desperate position who are the most open to receiving help? As Jesus said, it’s not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:32) The poor and status-less have nothing to lose. Therefore, they are in the best position to respond. 
        7.  Who is blessed? The poor, the unimportant, those who deeply grieve the brokenness of the world and feel helpless to do anything about it. The Kingdom is for them. 
  • Tell Caleb’s story here about being broken and how he was blessed in it. 
  1. Those who long for righteousness and justice
    1. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God. 

  1. One theme in the Sermon on the Mount is the inseparable nature that our love for God and our love for people. 
  2. These people are those who love God and others so much, they are willing to put aside their own wants and desires to pursue God’s ways of justice in the world. 
  3. It’s those who have an insatiable desire to see righteousness (that is right relationships) happening in the world. These are the ones who know things aren’t the way they should be, but God’s going to do something about it. 
  4. These people are not just chasing after God for their physical needs, but for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. 
  5. These people are merciful, not just “nice” or “tolerant” as we in the West might chalk mercy up to, but they actively love others with compassion and grace for the oppressed or sinner. There is no us and them in the kingdom.
  1. Who is blessed? Those who ache for righteousness and justice. The kingdom is for them. 
  2. Those who create peace
    1. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 
    2. A peacemaker is one who is reconciled in relationship with God, intimately shares God’s desire for peace, and actively seeks out restoration instead of violence and strife. 
    3. Jesus, is being super subversive and countercultural with these blessings. In the first century, there was a political movement called the Zealots who believed that the righteous way to restore God’s kingdom to Israel was through aggressively and violently rising up and taking down the Roman government. The kinds of people Jesus blesses here is the opposite of this movement. He’s blessing those who actively enter the middle of two opposing parties for the purpose of bringing reconciliation and peace between the two.  
    4. This peacemaking is not about glossing over issues or tolerating injustice, but about choosing to love another in a way that overcomes differences and makes space for people to come together despite differences. 
    5. Jesus actually says that these people can expect to face persecution because of their faith in Jesus. It is assurance that they are in fact in the Kingdom. 
    6. Who is blessed? Those who create peace. The Kingdom is for them. 
  1. If Jesus was serious, then He turns our idea of the “Good Life” upside down.  
    1. What should we learn from this list of blessings? Things aren’t always what they seem- this is Jesus’ great reversal, his great reveal! This is why Jesus’ Kingdom is often called “upside down”. (You can even see it in the way Jeff did our graphic) Jesus does not bless the people they would have considered blessed. It’s not the winners He wants on His team, but the losers.
    2. The good life is not determined by our circumstances, but by the object of our hope. The reality is, the people in God’s Kingdom will not see all these promises of inheriting the earth, being filled, receiving mercy, come to fruition until Jesus returns and fully restores His Kingdom. This is why Tim Mackee calls the Kingdom both a “present reality and a future hope”. We are in the already/ not yet of the Kingdom. It is both here and coming. 
    3. So, why are these kinds of people considered blessed and a part of the good life? Because it’s exactly these kinds of people who will be able to see how good the Kingdom of God really is and pursue it with reckless abandon. And, these are exactly the kind of people who can see how good the King is and how much they need Him. 

The beatitudes are describing the kinds of people who are in God’s Kingdom and what the good life really is. And, If Jesus was serious, then the Kingdom of God is upside down. The question is, are you in? 

  • Two big lies that can keep us from Jesus and His Kingdom are, either” I don’t need it or I can’t have it.” 
  • Some of us may be squirming right now because your life is going pretty well and maybe you even have the #blessed life. But the question is: Is all your energy going toward your image, your success, your comfort? The invitation to you now is to pursue and leverage your influence and privilege toward what makes up Jesus’ Kingdom and who makes up His Kingdom.
  • And to those in the room who have realized you’ve gotten it all wrong about who is in God’s Kingdom. Have you disqualified others and therefore disqualified yourself? Have you padded your spiritual resume thinking that is what gets you in? This is an invitation to repent, to change your mind on your own perception of who is blessed. Spend time with the Kinds of people who Jesus says are blessed. 
  • Finally, for some of you, it may be recognizing for the first time that the Kingdom of God is open to you, no matter who you’ve been or what you’re going through.
    • To the woman who just had her fourth, fifth, sixth miscarriage and you just have reached the end of your rope- The Kingdom of God is for you. Come in. 
    • To the student who is made fun of and excluded from social circles because of your love for Jesus. You are blessed. The Kingdom of God is for you. 
    • To the person who spoke up against unethical practices at work and is now facing the consequences. Come in. The Kingdom of God is for you. 
    • To the one watching at home, whose body no longer works and you have to watch the service alone now. You are blessed. The Kingdom of Heaven is for you.
    • To the unimportant in the room, the nobodies, who are simply trying to love and show mercy to your neighbors, and don’t care if anyone sees. You are blessed. Come into the Kingdom. 
  • To all of us, remember Jesus, our King, who embodied the good life and what it looks like to live in the Kingdom. If anyone had the #blessed life – it was him! Remember how He had no home, how He was gentle and meek, not seeking His own interests, but spending His time serving the misfits, the crippled, the nobodies. Remember how He sought justice and peace through love and ultimately laid His life down for His enemies. He laid His life down for losers. Losers like us. It’s one thing to be invited, it’s another thing to respond. We still have to make the decision to receive what Jesus is offering and then to follow Him. Are you staying on the hillside, basking in the invitation? Or are you stepping off the mountain with Him, following Him into His Kingdom? 
  • The question for us remains: Will you follow Him? 

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