Gospel of Matthew (retelling from disciple’s perspective)

Here is the sermon I gave yesterday @LovingtonNaz.  It wasn’t so much a sermon as a story I told from the perspective of one of Jesus’ disciples.  It starts with Jesus’ first sermon on the mount and ends with his final sermon with the sheep and the goats.

It’s not exactly the same as the recording, but you can listen to it here.

Crowds were gathering together.  As they were gathering, they began to ask each other, “have you seen the things this guy has done?”  More and more were arriving at this mountain, all wanting to catch a glimpse of something miraculous.  The one they were all there to see, stood up and started to teach.  He began by saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.   Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
The list went on.  He kept saying these strange things.  They didn’t quite make sense.  Did he just say people are blessed when they are persecuted and made fun of?  
Then he started talking about the 10 Commandments.  He wasn’t just listing them in order, it seemed like he was redefining them in a whole new way.  
I looked around from my seat right behind Jesus and everyone’s eyes were fixed on him as he stood on the side of this mountain preaching and it was things we had never heard or imagined before.  Things like, “You’ve heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment, ‘But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘you fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.  He’s talking about judgment, eternal life and eternal separation with God!
At this point we couldn’t believe our ears.  But he didn’t stop.  He flipped all the commandments upside down, these laws of Moses that everyone knew so well.  He gave them new meaning and it  was as if we were Moses on mount Sinai being given the commandments by God himself in the form of our rabbi Jesus.  He spoke with such authority .  
He went on, teaching about prayer, giving, judging others, being a true disciple, and what God’s kingdom looks like.
By the end of his teaching, we were speechless.  We didn’t know what to do next.  As things quieted down, the crowds dispersed and many people went back to their homes.  Being one of the 12 that Jesus chose specifically to follow him, we stood up and literally walked behind Jesus as we traveled to the next place. But there were quite a few that began following us as well.  I could hear some say, “This man was either crazy or somehow the God of the universe was living and speaking through him.”  I couldn’t wait to see what happened next.
We went from town to town and Jesus continued to preach this message that God’s kingdom was coming.  And it was happening right before us!  People were being healed from their diseases.  Dead people were being brought back to life!  At this point the crowd grew even more!  I remember being shocked when one of the teachers of the law came to Jesus at one point and said, “I’ll follow you wherever you go.”  The lawyers were a group of people not too fond of Jesus’ teachings especially since he was redefining all of their laws.  Jesus response was confusing to say the least, He said to this lawyer,
     “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”  
     Everyone was confused.  What did he mean by this?  Was he saying that following him meant we weren’t going to have a placed called home and no bed and no place to sleep?  And then he calls himself the SON OF MAN!  WOAH!  This was getting real.  Did he really  just say, “I’m the Lord of all creation?!”
The answer to that question came soon enough as we left that place; we climbed into our boat and were out to sea.  Suddenly a furious storm arose, waves were crashing into the boat.  We were terrified.  Then we look over and Jesus is sleeping!  We woke him up and started shouting SAVE US LORD, We’re going to drown!  Calmly Jesus replied, “oh you of little faith, why are you so afraid?”  Then all of a sudden Jesus walks to the front of the boat and he speaks. 
He speaks to the storm; the waves settled down and it was completely calm!  
All 12 of us were stunned.  We had never seen anything like this.  And it didn’t stop.  More people were being healed.  The next day Jesus healed a paralyzed man–forgiving him his sins and telling him to walk. The Pharisees were furious with Jesus.  But he continued to teach and preach that the Kingdom of God was near!  It was near alright.  The God of the universe was working through this man; this man who called us friend and brother!  We had seen it all.  
And then it all changed for us disciples.  We were good at following Jesus and watching him do HIS thing.  But then he invited us to something that none of us thought we were ready for.  He calls us to do the very same things he had been doing.  He was giving us [His] authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every kind of disease and sickness!  All 12 of us, Peter, Andrew, James, and John, Phillip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew, James, Thaddaeus, Simon and Judas.  Honestly We were scared to death to attempt to say to a dead person “come to life!” and tell lame people from birth to stand up and walk.  What if it didn’t happen!?  And then it got even more scary as Jesus sends us off with no money, no food, nothing but the clothes we had on our backs.  He told us to go from home to home and preach this kingdom message.  He warned us that some people would welcome us in and some people would reject us.  But he said not to worry.  
How were we not to worry?  We had seen how the Pharisees and teachers of the law treated Jesus.  They wanted him dead!  And this was about to be us as well!  He warned us that we would be put in prison because of this message.  People would hate us and spit in our faces, but “DON’T BE AFRAID!” He said.  You will be doing the will of my father in heaven!  By the end of it, we were so pumped and filled with courage that we were ready for whatever came our way.  We would follow this man into the face of death!  Then The last thing he said before we were sent off, was this:
     “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of you little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”
And at that we were sent off on mission as Jesus’ little ones, his disciples to continue this kingdom work that Jesus began and to tell the good news of Jesus!
We went from town to town, telling others about our teacher and teaching others this same message that God’s Kingdom was coming near.  And we did it, God was now working through us to heal the sick and causing the lame to walk.  God’s kingdom was breaking in. 
We would meet back up with Jesus and he would continue teaching us and all who would listen.  He would tell us stories that had familiar elements.  He would compare this kingdom of God to things like farming, mustard seeds and hidden treasures, yeast and fishing nets.  There were always two kinds of people In these stories.  Ones who received it and lived their life accordingly and ones who rejected it. I never understood how people could reject his teachings and his way of life, not least of all because Jesus always talked about severe judgment to them.  It was always an image of the fiery trash heap outside of town that we all knew about.  He said those who rejected God’s Kingdom would be thrown into the trash pile that was always on fire. The people around it were always weeping and gnashing their teeth as they witnessed indescribable things there.
We went on.  Jesus continued to teach and show us God’s kingdom.  He would continue to amaze and perform these unbelievable miracles.  Twice he fed thousands of people with a couple loaves of bread and a few fish.  The food just kept coming and we kept passing it around — THOUSANDS – hungry, thousands fed and satisfied.  
We were participating in this kingdom that Jesus was announcing.  We were witnessing a kingdom coming.  And we all had our ideas of what the kingdom might look like. and we were getting a little ansi.  I remember a couple of us asking him, “So who’s the greatest in this kingdom of heaven?”  His response was unforgettable.  
He called a Little child over; put him right in the middle of us and said, 
     “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. and whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. If anyone causes one of these little ones — those who believe in me — to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.
Words of severe judgment again.  This put us in place.  
Jesus was being talked about all over.  Everyone else, like us, was wondering if Jesus would be the next King to conquer the Romans and be a powerful nation again.  The elitist groups were worried as well and were starting to despise him more as they were losing influence to this lowly rabbi, this son of a carpenter.  The Sadducees and the Pharisees both wanted to get rid of him.  They just were not sure how yet.
And then we got to Jerusalem.  It was a little strange–He asked us to get a donkey for him to ride into the city.  We did, and as he rode in, people were throwing their coats down in front of him shouting “Hosanna to the SON OF DAVID, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  HOSANNA in the highest heaven.”  
This was it! it was really happening.  We thought Jesus was going to be King and take over the whole place and we were going to be right beside him!  He went straight to the Temple, the House of God and began to teach.
The Pharisees and Sadducees were growing more and more in hate towards him.  But Jesus kept teaching, kept telling Kingdom stories and healing people and condemning these Pharisees and teachers of the law as hypocrites. 
This man had no fear!  
And he continued speaking about a coming judgment, and what was soon to happen when the SON OF MAN comes in all of his glory.  It was all so mysterious.  He already referred to himself as the SON OF MAN.  And now he’s talking about the SON OF MAN coming back.  
It did seem like something was about to happen to Jesus.  I couldn’t imagine this going on for too much longer. The tension was indescribable.
We leave Jerusalem all of us wondering.
A few days later we find ourselves among hundreds of people. 
For the last time Jesus speaks to crowds gathered around him:
     “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you have me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
     Then the righteous will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invited you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
     The king will reply, ‘truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these my brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
     Then he will say to those on his left, ‘depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
     The also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
     He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
     Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.’
“Whatever you did to the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did for me.”  I heard these words and I thought about the last couple years of following Jesus and kept replaying all the events and teachings and miracles in my head.  Jesus always referred to us as his brothers and sisters.  He kept talking about us as little ones and he kept reminding us and challenging us to continue the kingdom work he showed us.  I remember having nothing and traveling from town to town with only the clothes on my back, some days we didn’t even have shirts as they were ripped from us from being beaten.  I remember not having any money for food and some people would provide for us.  I remember one of the disciples being thrown in jail and we would go and visit them and tell them stories of what Jesus was doing that day.  
I remember so many people welcoming us in to their homes and showing us incredible hospitality.  They gave us something to eat and drink.  These people were not only providing for our physical needs but they were  accepting this message of the kingdom that we were talking about and people’s lives were being transformed repenting of their sins.  
It was all coming together.  
To be continued !  
I do invite you to stick around after the service to continue the conversation, to discuss this text further and to ask questions.
Right now I

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