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1. The Upside-Down Kingdom: Matthew

Jesus became king by suffering and dying, and we invite the world to see and desire God by modeling his humility.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

-Matthew 5:3

The Old Testament, recounting the time before Jesus came to earth, rings with a longing for God to come and rescue his people. It tells the story of how humans rebelled against God’s rule, creating a state of separation between them and God and bringing sin and brokenness into the world. It describes how Israel, the people God chose to work his rescue plan through, failed over and over again to represent God and bring others to live under his reign.

Through his prophets, God promised to one day bring a king from Israel who would establish his eternal kingdom over the whole world, renewing his creation from the effects of sin and giving people renewed hearts.

Matthew was a Jewish tax collector in the first century, and like his fellow Jews, he would have been waiting expectantly for God to come and bring his reign. When Jesus began his earthly ministry, he chose Matthew to become one of his disciples. This book is Matthew’s first-hand account of Jesus’s life and ministry, and central to its message is Matthew’s claim that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s rescue plan! He is the longed-for King of Israel! “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” John the Baptist declares at Jesus’s baptism and the inauguration of his ministry (Matthew 3:2).

Early on in his teaching, Jesus delivers what is called “The Sermon on the Mount.” He begins by saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3).” Jesus teaches that those who are part of God’s kingdom are not people who have earned their way in, but people who know they are sinners, in need of God’s mercy! Kingdom people humbly depend on God’s grace to obey his commands, their lives characterized by fruit such as forgiveness, generosity, and loving one’s neighbor and one’s enemy.

In Matthew’s account, Jesus not only teaches about God’s kingdom, but he also displays the power of the kingdom through his many miracles. Jesus banishes demons from within people and heals the sick, lame and blind. In doing so, he reveals: God’s power has come for the humble, broken and needy.

The Jewish religious leaders, proud in their legalistic efforts, become offended by Jesus’s teaching. They plot to kill Jesus, and Jesus surrenders himself into their hands. As God’s kingdom is for the humble, it is fitting that his reign is established through the greatest act of humility: Christ’s undeserved death. Jesus becomes king by suffering and dying. Most kingdoms prize strength and status, but not God’s. His is what we might call an “upside-down kingdom.”

At the end of the book of Matthew, Jesus calls his disciples to announce to the world the good news of his reign: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:18-19).” As followers of Christ, we invite the world to see and desire God by modeling his kingdom values, living like Jesus in love and humility.

Jesus lowered himself by leaving his throne in heaven and taking on our humanity.

We follow his lead in seeking to serve rather than to be served.

Jesus humbled himself by obeying his Father’s will, even when it meant suffering.

We model Christ by accepting God’s lead, even when it’s hard and uncomfortable.

Jesus surrendered his life in love for his people.

We reflect Christ when we sacrifice our time, security or desires in love for someone else.

In Christ, we serve as witnesses to his reign by donning the radiance of kingdom-humility.

RESPOND: Take a moment to process with God how you might show others what God and his kingdom are like through your life of love and humility.

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