Upside Down Kingdom: Sermon on the Mount |Upside Down Blessings | Matthew 5:1-12 | Matt Nickel
May 29, 2022 Speaker: Matt Nickel Series: Upside Down Kingdom: Sermon on the Mount
Topic: New Testament Passage: Matthew 5:1–12
UpsideDown Kingdom | UpsideDown Blessings
Today we are starting a new series called “UpsideDown Kingdom” based on the sermon on the mount. And what we hear from Jesus is that he is constantly talking about the “Kingdom of Heaven”. And when Jesus entered history he turned the world upside-down. He did not do what was expected of a spiritual leader. He hung out with the wrong people. He said the wrong things. He ended up crucified on the cross and abandoned by most of his followers. This does not look like a recipe for success.
Think about some of the upside down things he said:
- The first shall be last
- Save your life by losing it
- Become great by becoming a servant
Most of us are pretty familiar with the Sermon on the mount. It’s Jesus most famous teaching. Perhaps we have heard it so much that it loses some of its punch. What we want to do today and throughout the summer is to soak in these upside down words of Jesus and let it wreck us.
“The moment that you are not bothered by Jesus’ teachings is the moment that you have
stopped listening to Jesus.” - Tim Mackie
And I think it is a real possibility that we have stopped listening to Jesus. There are so many
voices trying to tell us what we should do and what we should believe. Pastors, theologians,
politicians, family traditions, social media... Everyone seems to have an opinion of what it
means to be a Christian. And we have seen so much damage done in the name of Jesus.
Pastors that have used and abused their positions. They have been unloving and legalistic. Or
just plain creeps. And much of what has done has been covered up, so those in power can
continue to use Jesus to make money, get fame, and take advantage of others. If that is what it
means to be a Christian, then I am out.
So, before we listen to another “hot take”, we need stop and to listen to Jesus. I mean really
listen. Listening to Jesus will ruin you, ruin your theology, ruin your opinions, ruin your
confidence... and turn your world upside down. We definitely need it. If something speaks to
you or confuses you this morning, I want you to write it down and think about it. Roll it around
in your mind and talk to Jesus about it, that you might not come to an easy answer, but that
you might have your heart shaped by it.
Have you ever used the hashtag #blessed before? I’m curious... anyone? I did some research
on what sort of things people use this hashtag for...
So Jesus went a different way with this list... it’s as if he picked the opposite...
Matt 5: 1-12
Seeing the crowds, ohe went up on the mountain, and when he psat down, his disciples came
2 And qhe opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are sthe poor in spirit, for utheirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are vthose who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the wmeek, for they wshall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and xthirst yfor righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are zthe merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are athe pure in heart, for bthey shall see God.
9 “Blessed are cthe peacemakers, for dthey shall be called esons1 of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for utheirs is the kingdom of
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely hon my account. 12 i
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
1. The upside-down Kingdom is for needy
Jesus starts with this first one “Blessed are the poor in spirit...” What does this mean? Does he
mean blessed are the financially poor people? Or the spiritually poor? And the answer is yes...
he is talking about both. The word for poor here indicates a beggar, someone needy, someone
lacking, someone desperate, someone without means... Also emotionally poor, broken and
spiritually bankrupt, uneducated... Why would he say this. The poor are not blessed. The
needy are the opposite of blessed. People aren’t posting the negative bank account balances
and saying #blessed.
Some of understanding this passage is understanding who he is talking to. It says “seeing the
crowds....” Who are these crowds? Well... in the verses before Matt 4:25
 So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted
with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and
paralytics, and he healed them.  And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the
Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan. (ESV)
These are not people of high society. People like you and me wouldn’t be following Jesus, we’d
be at work, providing for our own needs. Those who were following Jesus were the sick and
diseased, people with emotional problems, demons, addicts, paralytics. These were the ones
who were poor, uneducated, desperate, and some were not even Jewish. Some were from
beyond the Jordan. It says Jesus sat down to teach his disciples... however the disciples have
not been called yet... Just 4 fisherman, so far... so who are his disciples? The sick, the poor,
the hungry, and desperate. It says Jesus looks and sees the crowds. He looks at them. He
humanizes them he loves on them and he touches them and heals them. And says, blessed are
the “poor in spirit”... like you... there is a place for you in my kingdom. This is radical. These
are the people no one wants, they can’t contribute in any way. They have nothing to bring or
contribute. They aren’t church goers, they don’t give, they have no status in society.
If you are here today and you feel that it you. God wants you to know. The kingdom of God is
for you. It’s for the broken, the lost, the sick, the poor, the desperate. There is a place for you in
God’s kingdom. If this is true... then there is no room in God’s kingdom for racism. Let me say
that again, there is no room for racism. No room for dividing by gender, economic status,
education, all are valued by God. In fact, the first people Jesus invites to his kingdom are the
poor in spirit. The lowly. The spiritually bankrupt.
And for most of us, this should make us feel a little weird... what about the non poor? Jesus
says it’s hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.
 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich
person to enter the kingdom of God.” (ESV)
I don’t think anyone truly becomes a Christian until they become desperate for Jesus.
Desperate to have a relationship with him. Education and status and wealth can make people
feel like they can take care of themselves and they can fool themselves to thinking they are
believing in Jesus, but only relying on their own strength.
Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (ESV)
- What about those who mourn? It would be insensitive to say those who mourn are
blessed. People who mourn have lost something permanently. It is painful and damaging.
Why would Jesus invite the mourning to his party? People in mourning are keenly aware that
the world is not as it should be. They know that they will never be whole again. This week,
we heard the news of the shooting in Texas. Did you feel that grief, at least a little. Did you
think of the parents whose kids didn’t come home that day. Why would Jesus say they are
blessed? Jesus looked out on the crowd and say the pain of the people wasn’t just physical,
their were deep emotional wounds, and he said... come, let me comfort you. There is a
place in my kingdom to have your wounds healed, to be comforted in your mourning.
Matthew 5:5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (ESV)
- Those who are Meek? Meekness is the opposite to self-assertiveness and self-interest.
These are characteristic of people without power. They are insignificant, and unimportant.
They are not coming to Jesus to get power. Jesus doesn’t want them because they will help
his platform. He cares about everyday people. Not people grasping for power, fame, or
wealth. Acceptance of their lot in life.
Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be
- Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: Think about what it is like to be thirsty.
It’s because you don’t have anything to drink. Those thirsty for righteousness are those who
have suffered injustice. Those who have been taken advantage of, exploited, those who
have had things stolen from them. Those who have been treated as if they are less than. It
makes me think for those who have suffered from racism in this country. It makes me think
of women who have been abused by men... by the way the statistics on that are sickening. It
makes me think of all those involved in human trafficking... And these are tired of being
treated this way. They want justice. The want someone to treat them fairly. Jesus says, I have
a place for you. I will make the right all the wrongs.
2. The upside-down kingdom is inside out
Matthew 5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. (ESV)
- The Merciful: One of the characteristics you will see in the Kingdom of God, is people who
are quietly living out mercy. Jesus has come to those in need, he has blessed them, he has
given them mercy. This mercy is the concept of empathy that leads to acts of kindness.
Those who have been deeply impacted by Jesus will be merciful. This resonates with the
concept spiritual maturity looks like people who deeply love other people. This is often not in
big outlandish ways, but simple kindness that generally go unnoticed. People that have
been deeply changed by Jesus, become people who care. They care about others for “no
reason”. They are kind to others who can’t repay them back. So much of our immature
spirituality is try to show off how good we are instead of quietly serving our neighbor. I am
not saying you should try and be merciful. Nope. I’m saying you will be merciful if your heart
is aligned with Jesus. We don’t get to try hard to be good. We cannot give what we do not
possess. Soak in God’s mercy for you, his empathy for you, his forgiveness for you, his
undeserved kindness toward you. And then, only then will God’s mercy pour out of you.
Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (ESV)
- Blessed are the Pure in Heart: Jesus called the religious leaders of his days: White
There is no one who is “pure” of heart...
Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can
understand it? (ESV)
but Jesus is more concerned with the condition of the heart than what is on the outside. We,
however, are quick to judge a book by its cover. Or we are so concerned with keeping up
appearances that we show up to church with a fake smile and insincere faith.
Matthew 23:27–28 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like
whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s
bones and all uncleanness.  So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within
you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (ESV)
Being pure in heart starts with having Jesus clean up our hearts by us accepting that God
loves us just as we are and letting him forgive us of our sins. There is a sense of repenting, or
changing the direction of our lives... However, I believe that being pure of heart also takes
years of therapy... That we might not live out our fake selves, but out true selves.
“How can we be close to God, if we are far from ourselves”
- For they shall see God: I think one thing we often get confused about, is following God for
the wrong reasons. We want all the benefits of feeling loved and having hope and a future...
but the goal of it all, is to have a relationship with God. To be close to God. He is the point.
We pray and sit in silence and go to therapy that we might not miss what God is doing in our
lives. In the youth group we talked about praying the Examen. It is a practice from early
Christianity of reviewing your day and looking for hint that God was there, but you missed
during the day... and the analogy was this... they did an experiment to see what people
noticed and they had people watch a basketball practice and told people to count how
many times the ball was passed. At the end, they asked the people if any of them noticed
the guy in the ape suit that was jumping around in the video... and most people never saw it.
- I think this is true in our own lives, we miss seeing God because we are so busy surviving
3. UpsideDown Kingdom defines success backwards
What if it doesn’t make our life better? If I told you to go on a diet, but it might actually make
you fatter, would you try it? I think I was sold on Christianity as it would make my life better.
Christians are the happiest people in the world, right? That’s not quite what Jesus says here.
Matthew 5:9-12 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed
are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against
you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they
persecuted the prophets who were before you. (ESV)
A couple of months ago Curtis preached on what it means to be a peacemaker, so I don’t need
to go into depth. However, a peacemaker is someone who is willing to get involved in conflict
in order to help create peace. Someone who is willing to sacrifice their own comfort and
reputation in order to do what’s right. Jesus says following him will cost you something. Living
for Jesus means getting involved with society. Working to make the world a better place. In
fact, if we don’t it is sin.
James 4:17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. (ESV)
It might cost you financially, it might cost you relationships, it might cost you reputation and
power... but following Jesus is doing the right thing.
The he goes on to say, if people hate you, and think bad of you, you should be happy? This is a
hard word. Before you explain it away, sit in that for a minute. Be happy when people hate you.
That is upside-down thinking. Do you love it when your neighbor is mad at you? Or when a co-
worker won’t talk to you?
If at the end of this sermon, you all are mad at me, I will not feel happy. He is not saying, make
people hate you on purpose. In fact if they hate you, it better be because of your association
with Jesus. And with all the abuse down in Jesus name, I don’t blame people for hating
But Jesus is redefining what success looks like. We think of success very pragmatically. The
harder you work, the more your numbers go up and to the right. More people becoming better
people because of Jesus. Jesus says the upside-down kingdom often works the other way.
Following Jesus means doing what Jesus has called you to do, in his way and in his time, even
if it is a huge failure. This is a hard word. It should shake us. It should make us
Rejoice, Jesus says, because you are
Not only might you have see persecution for doing the right thing. Just being associated with
being a Christian, might bring attack. Especially when so much evil has been done in the name
of Jesus. It is hard to say, yes I follow Jesus, but not in the same way these abusive pastors
did. We are still called to be open about our faith, not hidden. Jesus says when I look at people
who are part fo the kingdom, I see people who are willing to align themselves with me, even if it
makes their lives worse.
UpsideDown Kingdom is a reflection of Jesus
As Jesus gives us a picture of what the the upside-down kingdom looks like, as we zoom out
we can notice as Tim Mackie says a picture of Jesus. He is the one who
Was poor for our sake
Wept with those who wept
Thirsted for righteousness
He was full of mercy
And his heart was pure
He was the ultimate peacemaker as he sacrificed to make peace between man and God
And he was persecuted for doing what was right
Jesus doesn’t just challenge us to be part of a new kingdom, he lived the kingdom and invites
to join him in a new way of living. The way of the upside down kingdom.
More in Upside Down Kingdom: Sermon on the Mount
August 28, 2022Upside Down Kingdom: Final Warnings | Curtis Hall
August 14, 2022Upside Down Kingdom: Love Is The Rule | Matt Nickel
July 17, 2022Upside Down Kingdom: Upside-down Spirituality | Matt Nickel