This weekend, our pastor continued to preach through the book of Luke, coming to the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount:
12 One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. 13 When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: 14Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, 15 Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, 16 Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. 17 He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, 18who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, 19 and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all. 20 Looking at his disciples, he said… (Luke 6:12-20).
And so begins the account of Jesus’ great sermon. He looked out at His disciples who were standing in the midst of a crowd. No doubt some of the crowd were disciples, too, but there is also no doubt that many of them were not. They were casual onlookers, perhaps drawn by the promise of a free miraculous meal or a show of healing and power.
They came for the show. They did not come to follow.
And yet Jesus preached. Hard.
Isn’t He still doing the same thing today?
He looks out at us, His followers, but we are not isolated. We are still standing in the midst of the crowd. Still in the world. Still operating as aliens in the kingdom of the earth.
We are disciples in the midst of the crowd.
As such, this sermon provides an entirely different description of our true kingdom than the one in which the crowd operates. In God’s kingdom, the poor are rich. The mourning are comforted. The persecuted are blessed.
Such concepts left the crowd with skeptical looks on their faces and questions in their minds, but to the ones in their midst – the ones awake to the realities of the kingdom – there is a glint of recognition on their eyes.
This is the way the kingdom works. It’s not isolated. Nor is it separate. Like a flower garden blooming inside of a tumble-down abandoned home, the kingdom of God blooms inside the kingdom of the world. And the disciples in the crowd nod their heads.