The Character of the Kingdom

Series: The Sermon on the Mount

Speaker: Pastor Justin Wheeler

Scripture: Matthew 5:4-6

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When Jesus took His seat on the mountainside and began to speak to the crowd the last thing people would have hoped for was a warning, but in a sense, that is what they received. The sermon on the Mount is an announcement of the Kingdom of God, an exposition of its character, it’s ethics and its reward. But at the same time, it was a warning. It was a warning to those who thought that they knew what the Kingdom of God would look like.

Those who saw the kingdom as chiefly political were put on notice that they were in jeopardy of missing the Kingdom altogether. Those who thought the kingdom was chiefly to be obtained through military conquest would have been shocked by Jesus’ opening statements. Those who thought the kingdom was already in their grasp on account of their moral behavior (Pharisees) were warned that they would never gain entry.

This sermon was a warning to those who presumed to have a handle on all things related to the Kingdom. It was a warning to a whole generation of people who had convinced themselves that they didn’t need a man like Jesus to bring them into the Kingdom and the scary thing is that I fear we need this warning today even more than they did.

Living in the American Suburbs can be one of the most hazardous things to your soul. The spirit at work in the suburbs has a tendency to overwhelm the spirit of Christ’s Kingdom. Living in the suburbs can be like a real-life game to see how much we can drown out the deep need of our soul. The message of the suburbs is that everyone is fine, that having more and newer stuff can really make you happy, and at the center of it all is the you.

The values of the suburbs are convenience, abundance and comfort. Out here you can have it all and you can even get it value sized for just 50 cents more. This spirit can be toxic to Sermon on the Mount because out here we aren’t made to feel the need that Jesus wants us to feel. Out here we can stop thinking, turn on the TV, warm up some food and relax on the couch until it’s time to go to bed.


I know you’ve felt this before. You’ve felt the tension between the comforts that surround you and the message of Christ’s kingdom…or maybe it’s just me. But, I believe that now more than ever we need Jesus turn our assumptions upside down in order to teach us what matters the most. We need Jesus to turn our hearts right side up and that is what He does in this sermon.

He has taken His seat on the Mountain so let’s focus our hearts on what He has to say to us this morning.

Matt 5:2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

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.

Sermon Focus…

I. Happy are the sad

4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Let’s remember what we learned last week about his word blessed. It is the Greek term μακαριοσ and it means fortunate, blissful or happy. You could substitute the term happy each time you see the word blessed. So you could read this, “Happy are the poor in spirit, happy are those who mourn, happy are the meek who hunger and thirst for righteousness.”

But remember also that this term is not referring to shallow emotion but rather to the distinctly Christian joy that comes from having a share in the salvation of the Kingdom of God. It is not shaken by the fears and pains of this world. It is a deep seated happiness in God that turns our natural evaluation of life upside down.[1]

So let’s read verse 4 again, “Happy are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

Let’s be honest, its hard to make sense out of this statement. Happy are the sad. Happy are the unhappy. How can happiness result from sadness? In my day-to-day experience, the thing being promised here (happiness) does not normally come from what is being required (sadness). This doesn’t seem to make sense, in fact all of these statements are paradoxical, which means that they seem inconsistent with our normal human experience.

These statements seem upside-down. They seem absurd, but that is part of Jesus’ point. There is something about His Kingdom that defies our experience of life in this world. To understand this we have to get underneath this sadness and learn something about it to understand how this statement can be true. So here’s the question, what does it mean to mourn?

Of all the Greek terms used to convey sorrow in the NT (9) this is perhaps the strongest and most severe. To mourn means to feel deep grief. It means to experience severe sorrow and sadness. This is that bitter mourning that comes over the unexpected loss of a loved one. This term is used to describe the mourning of Jesus’ disciples after the crucifixion and before they knew that He had been raised from the dead.

This is not benign sadness but real heartfelt grief associated with deep loss. But what it is that has been lost, what has caused this deep grief? Don’t forget that Jesus is not talking about a superficial kind of mourning but a mourning that comes from the heart. He is not talking about a type of earthly sorrow but a type of spiritual sorrow that reflects the values of His kingdom. Jesus is speaking about godly sorrow that relates to the knowledge of our sin. He is referring to the type of sorrow we feel not because we have lost a loved one but because we have recognized our loss of innocence.

IOW, happy are those who mourn over their sin. Last week, we talked about what it meant to be poor in spirit. To be poor in spirit is to know one’s own spiritual bankruptcy before God. It is to recognize that any hope of salvation would lie outside of yourself, because on your own you have nothing to offer. It is to see yourself as a spiritual beggar in the eyes of God, but this second Beatitude takes the next step.

It is one thing to confess our spiritual poverty; it is quite another to grieve over it, to mourn over it. But this is what Jesus is calling for here. Verse 4 moves us from confession of sin to grief over that sin, from acknowledgment to remorse. This is an awareness of our depravity that has moved from the mind to the heart. Happy are those who grieve over their sin.

Is it possible for someone to acknowledge their sin and not grieve over it? Yes! In 2 Corinthians 7 Paul talks about two kinds of grieving over sin. The first type is what he calls worldly grief and it is an acknowledgement of your sin that might lead to a momentary change in behavior and an apology but nothing more. It is the type of grief that we see in children who aren’t sorry for what they’ve done so much as they are sorry that they got caught.

It’s the kind of grief we see when our family pet eats a sandwich off the table and then puts their head down when you tell them they are a bad dog. But as soon as you walk away they are sniffing around for more food. It is a learned behavior.

But there is another type of grief that goes deeper and has a more lasting effect upon our soul. Paul talks about this type of grief as well.

2 Cor 7:10 But godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 11 For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.

Being poor in Spirit leads to godly sorrow and godly sorrow over one’s sin leads to repentance.

King David knew what it was to mourn over his sin. He had taken what didn’t belong to him. He had taken another man’s wife. He had tried to cover it up to hide his guilt and shame, but when confronted with the truth, David’s heart was laid bare and this was his response.

Ps 51:1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!

3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight,

Let me ask this question: Do you mourn over your sin? Is there sorrow in your heart over the sins that you have committed but also the sinful heart that resides in your chest? Do you take your sin seriously to the point of crying out to God and to the point of sincere repentance?

Our sinful heart doesn’t want us to acknowledge our poverty of spirit and it doesn’t want to feel deep sorrow, but the Spirit of God leads us on this journey. He reveals our sin. He makes our hearts to feel. Then He turns our mourning into dancing and our sorrow into joy, because He comforts us in our grief.

Happy are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

The Spirit comforts us when we grieve over our sin, not by telling us that it is okay to keep on sinning, but by reminding us that Christ died to remove our guilt and shame. The Spirit comforts us by bringing conviction to our hearts, which in itself is a reminder of God’s work in our lives. He comforts us by bringing us to repentance in our heart and life. He is the comforter sent out to all those who believe; to all those who recognize their poverty of spirit and who grieve over their sin.

II. Happy are the Meek

5 “Happy are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

The history of humanity has shown that it is the powerful, the bold, the aggressive and often the ruthless who rule the earth. In the world, the more you assert yourself the more likely you are to succeed. In business, it is a dog eat dog world and the goal is to be an alpha dog. In politics, the modern practice is to employ a cut-throat scheme of maneuvering oneself to the top. Life in this world is a daily battle to climb the proverbial ladder with no concern about who you might step on along the way.

But here comes Jesus with an astounding statement that it’s the meek who will inherit the earth. We can’t help but notice that the character of Christ’s Kingdom is at odds with the kingdom of this world.

Can you imagine how this would have been received in Jesus’ day? His audience would have been eagerly awaiting the news of this would-be Messiah’s plan for how Israel was going to inherit the earth. They would have been on the edge of their seats to hear how Jesus would overthrow Rome and establish Jerusalem as the capital of the world. They wanted deliverance, they wanted independence, they wanted Israel to be a powerful nation state again. But with this statement Jesus wants them to fix their hope on a different type of kingdom, a different type of power.

They weren’t looking for a meek king who would lead His meek people to inherit the earth, but that is what Jesus promises. Meekness is not about power it is about gentleness. It is not a show of force it is a show of humility. It is not the dog eat dog mentality of the world but counting others as more significant than oneself.

But don’t forget that Jesus is aiming His words at our hearts. He is presenting the character of His kingdom which is not of this world, but of the Spirit. So don’t focus first on the external nature of this verse but on the internal. What does it mean to be meek (in spirit)?

This is where we need to see the logical connection between these different Beatitudes. The starting place is to see ourselves as exposed by the glory and holiness of God. When we see ourselves before God we can’t help but embrace our spiritual poverty and as we examine the root of our poverty we can’t help but be moved to grief and sorrow over the sin that dwells in our hearts.

But now, as we look up from our grief we look upon others and we realize something that we hadn’t before, we realize that we are no better than those around us. We see that our sin makes us equal in the eyes of God. I am a sinner through and through. I am no better than anyone in this room and I know that because the gospel has exposed me.

It is meekness that led Paul to call himself the “chief of sinners.” Meekness is seeing yourself for who you really are, a sinner whose pardon could only be supplied by the death of Christ. Our sin, yours and mine, is so great before God that Hell is a just punishment. The sin in our heart is so great that the Son of God had to give up His life to cover the debt.

How can I be arrogant toward you when I know deep down in my heart what I truly am. When we learn to see ourselves as wretched men like Paul did, we won’t see ourselves as lords among men, but beggars telling other beggars where to find food.

Has the reality of the gospel produced meekness in your heart? Let’s put it to the test. John Stott urges us to apply the test of meekness in this way:

I myself am quite happy to recite the confession in church and call myself a miserable sinner…But let somebody come up to me after church and call me a miserable sinner, and I want to punch him on the nose.

Here is the test, are you prepared to allow other people to think or speak of you the way the gospel does? Meekness begins in the heart but it doesn’t stay there, it works its way out and affects the way we treat others.

To live with humility and meekness before God and others is a reward on its own, but Jesus goes further when He says that the meek shall inherit the earth. The children of Israel had to fight to obtain the Promised Land but the Kingdom of Christ is different. In Christ, we will obtain our eternal inheritance not by might but by meekness.

III. Happy are the Hungry

Happy are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied

We all know what it is to be hungry. We know what it is to be thirsty. But these terms go beyond your run of the mill experience of waiting too long between meals. The type of hunger that Jesus is talking about is the type that puts you on the edge of death. This is the type of hunger and thirst where the need of nourishment is a matter of life and death. This is something that perhaps only a few of us have ever experienced, maybe none of us.

But we have enough imagination to see the apparent absurdity in the statement. How can a person by happy when they are starving to the point of death? The statement is meant to jar us awake from our normal way of thinking. Jesus wants to grab our attention and draw us in close so that we can understand what He means and to learn how to find the satisfaction that He is promising.

Notice again that Jesus isn’t talking about hungering for food but hungering for righteousness, this is once again about the heart. This is a type of spiritual hunger that marks the Christian life. And notice also that this is the next logical step in the progression of these Beatitudes. The man who has come to recognize his poverty of spirit will go on to grieve over the sin that put them in that state. The man who grieves over his sin will come to know the greatness of his sin and this will produce a meekness in his heart toward himself and others. So at this stage you have a man/woman who is broken, empty, humble and filled with godly sorrow.

The thing they need most at this stage is to be filled. The thing they need most is the opposite of what they have come to see in their heart. The thing they need most is to be put back together, not on their own but by God. They need God to give them a new heart. They need a forgiving Father who will embrace them, and clean them up, put shoes on their feet and a robe on their back. The thing they need most is to be fed with good things, filled with good food…so they hunger and thirst for the goodness of God to fill their lives.

Jesus is talking about the spiritual hunger for righteousness that only He can fill. Some pursue righteousness by the flesh, meaning they seek to earn favor with God by keeping the law. They are attempting to earn salvation through works. But the man who is truly poor in spirit knows the impossibility of that. So he hungers for something that He can’t attain on his own. He pursues righteousness, not by works but by faith.

A starving person has one thought, one goal and that is to find food and water. Nothing else matters. The desire for food is so strong it drives out everything else. What is the controlling desire of your life? What is the hunger that fuels you?

Some hunger for stuff and the materialism of our culture simply can’t satisfy. Some hunger for attention and praise, but how many times must we read of celebrity meltdowns before we realize that fame can’t satisfy our hearts. Some hunger for pleasure and eventually find that it too can’t satisfy the deep longing of our souls.

Mick Jagger was right, “We can’t get no satisfaction…” This world can’t make us rich in the way we need most. This world can’t take away the sin that causes us to mourn. We can’t gain the kingdom by forfeiting our soul. We can’t be satisfied, truly satisfied, by the things of this world.

But Jesus extends this promise to us,

John 6:35 I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

Only Christ can satisfy the hunger in our soul and He does so the moment we come to Him. But notice that full satisfaction doesn’t come in this life. “They shall be satisfied.” The hunger doesn’t leave us. We know His righteousness saves us and we know in the end that His righteousness satisfies us, but the hunger doesn’t go away until Heaven. It comes on us again and again and each time we remember that Christ is the fountain of living water so we go to Him and drink deeply, but we keep coming back day after day, year after year.

What began in our hearts as a hunger for salvation becomes a hunger for sanctification. We long to be filled with more and more of Christ’s love and character.


1. The Character of Christ’s Kingdom is a total reversal to that of this world. The world, and our worldly heart, wants to laugh not grieve, to be rich not poor in spirit, to be bold and assertive not meek. The kingdom of this world is attained by power, success, personal achievement and personal comfort; but the Kingdom of Christ is not achieved, it is a gift to those who’ve come to see their deep need of Christ.

2. Our Journey into Christ’s Kingdom starts with brokenness and ends in joy. Happy are the poor in spirit. Happy are those who grieve over their sin. Happy are the meek. Happy are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. This is the journey that the gospel brings us through. It is a journey of brokenness before God that changes us from the inside out. It is a journey of being emptied of self and being filled by the Spirit of God. It is a journey the turns our world upside-down.

3. Those who enter the Kingdom are concerned with holiness. Are you poor in spirit? Are you broken and filled with grief over your sin? Are you humble and meek because the Gospel has exposed you before God? Do you hunger and thirst for righteousness? What begins in the heart works out in life. Holy thinking marks the starting line, holy living is the path, and eternity the goal.

Jesus’ message is intended to wake us up from the siren song of the suburbs, let’s let it.


[1] Theological Dictionary of the New Testament on the word makarios.