Upside down Kingdom: Only the Blind See | Matt Nickel
June 19, 2022 Speaker: Matt Nickel Series: Upside Down Kingdom: Sermon on the Mount
Topic: New Testament Passage: Matthew 5:21–37
Upside Down Kingdom: Only the Blind See
- Verses: Matthew 5:21-37
- Speaker: Matt Nickel
- Date: June 19, 2022
We bought a bull recently. Some of you know about this story... We got a bull as a nice
addition to our farm.. and he was a highland bull... and he was pretty big... and he had these giant horns. Apparently highland bulls are know for being some of the meanest bulls. We being newbies at this had no idea. I mean, how bad could it be. In fact we were hoping we could make it into a friendly pet. So we unloaded him into our mustang pen. I mean this mustang pen has 6ft tall metal panels, meant to keep in a wild horse.
A couple days later, Junie looked out the window and sees the beast grazing in the yard, so they came out to get it back in. Rachel notices front gate open and closed the gate, and when she was walking back to the house, cricket tried to herd him, and he charged the dog, the dog ran to Rachel and now the bull is running at Rachel and shaking his horns and chased her all the way to the front porch.
So then she went inside and got some grain to coax the bull back in it’s pen, thinking that he would be a happy cow and follow the food. Well he definitely came for the food, but as soon as he realized there wasn’t a fence between him and Rachel he stopped caring about the food and wanted to gore her with his horns, so she dropped the food and climbed over the fence to get away... he stopped and started eating the grain, so Rachel tried to get over to the gate to shut him in and he saw her and turned on her. Luckily she got the gate closed in time... No sooner did she gt him locked in and I come driving in from youth group and say... what’s going on?? Rachel, out of breath says... the bull tried to kill me. We got to get rid of that bull.
That was the first day he got out, he ended up getting out everyday after that, and Rachel got smarter and used the Subaru to round him up. It was a huge liability having a mean bull that was always escaping on our farm. So Finally we locked him in the barn on all sides so he could not even see the light of day. And we called a livestock auction and decided to get rid of him. It makes me think of how in the Bible there were laws about what happens if you get gored by an ox.
 “When an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten, but the owner of the ox shall not be liable.  But if the ox has been accustomed to gore in the past, and its owner has been warned but has not kept it in, and it kills a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death.  If a ransom is imposed on him, then he shall give for the redemption of his life whatever is imposed on him. (ESV)
A copher: a redemption-price
So interesting how in the Old Testament there was built into the laws this idea of a redemption price instead of death... which sets us up the idea of Jesus being in our place.
1. Blessed are the poor in spirit... or spiritually poor, or just poor, the nobodies
2. You get to have an important roll in the kingdom. Valuable and important
3. Caveat: You have to be a better person than the best person you can imagine...
 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (ESV)
I mean these guys spent their lives trying to follow laws perfectly. They even tithed their spices.
In fact they created new laws in order to not break the laws. So like on the sabbath Jewish
people are not allowed to carry anything in public, because that would be work. So if they want
to go to their neighbors for a BBQ, they need to connect their properties with a fence, or even
a string, so they can bring lawn chairs and food to their neighbors house.
So Jesus starts in deconstructing the religious practices of the day to show that following rules
doesn’t make you good.
2. In the upside-down kingdom, following rules doesn’t make you
Matt 5:21- 26 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder;
and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’  But I say to you that everyone
who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will
be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has
something against you,  leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be
reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.  Come to terms
quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand
you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison.  Truly, I
say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
He starts with “Do not murder”... Everyone knows it is wrong to murder... we most of us can
go “check” on the one. And this is how quickly we get off track. What Jesus points out here is
that following rules doesn’t make us good. In fact rules make us weird. We immediately get into
the technicalities of the words. The Bible says to love your neighbor... so there was a
discussion of who exactly qualifies as a neighbor??? Jesus, with authority begins to put his
words alongside God’s words. And instead of reinterpreting them to mean something different,
he expands on them. Have you ever been angry at your brother? Apparently Jesus knows what
it is like to have brothers.
Now, elsewhere in the Bible it says, in your anger do not sin.
Ephesians 4:26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,
Anger itself is not a sin. Anger is like a dashboard light in your car that lets you know something
is wrong. Bible tells us to pay attention to our anger. It’s what we do with our anger. When you
have been treated unfairly, abused, or marginalized as many of these people Jesus is talking to
have, they may know a thing or two about being angry. You may not have murdered someone,
but are you bitter at someone... or even a politician...
Insulting your brother is another one... the cuss word here is “Raca” which means worthless...
Which was basically the middle finger in Jesus’ day. And he says if you devalue another human
being. If you treat someone as less than you, you have the roots or murder in your heart.
Maybe you would never look at someone as worthless... how about foolish??? Jesus goes a
step further and says if you call someone a “fool”. Now, Facebook and Twitter do count. Think
about out attitudes toward others. What about someone who has a rainbow flag on their car?
Do you think of how they are made in the image of God, or do you stand in judgement?
What is he saying? He is saying the upside-down kingdom is not what you think. It’s not what
you have been taught and seen modeled by the religious leaders of their time. They were very
careful to obey the rules. In fact they made new rules to help them keep other rules. Of course
they also made loopholes and such to help them make sure they followed all the rules. I mean
they even tithed their spices. He is saying, this is not the way of the Kingdom. This does not
make you right with God.
In the same way, I think Jesus would be saying to us today, that the way of the kingdom is not
what we think, it is not what we have seen modeled by other Christian leaders. So much
damage has been done in the name of Jesus. So much hate and judgement has been done in
the name of Christianity. We see our world broken and falling apart and instead of sharing the
love of Jesus, we stand in judgement and condemn people and ideas... and we think it is what
Jesus is calling us to do as “good Christians”. We have to stand up for what is right. And hate
on people who are doing wrong.
Jesus loved the unlovely. He loved the sick, the broken, the weird, the sexually divergent.
In fact the same people we are so quickly to judge, be angry at and hate on would probably be
the ones Jesus would say he was there to save.
How many insults have been hurled in the name of political righteousness, recently even.
Believing that we are somehow better than others, we are smarter and wiser and have all the
information about the conspiracies... we sit in the seat of judge with our phones in our hand...
and in the name of Jesus we belittle people. I hope you are hearing me. Every one of us. Jesus
holds a mirror up to us and says take a good look...
Then he goes after the spiritual Christian who was short with his kids on the way to church,
said mean things about his neighbor, and just left a condemning comment on Facebook. And
as he walks into church he takes a deep breath and thanks the Lord for how good it is to be a
Christian. Jesus says that more important than listening to a sermon or singing songs or feeling
close to God... is that we go make things right if we have wronged someone.
The last thing Jesus mentions here is when we have wronged outsiders, we need to make it
right, and not try to weasel out in court like we didn’t do it. This might apply to a work situation
where you made a mistake. Can you own up to it, or are you going to blame someone else.
I hope this stuff makes us squirm a little. Jesus is coming at us with truth and asking us to take
a hard look at ourselves. But as always he has a purpose behind it...
What is Jesus getting at? Rules don’t fix our hearts. As long as we are focusing on rules, we
are missing the point. He is letting us feel the tension, that deep down in our hearts we are
broken. We need to be honest with ourselves, and honest with God. This makes us desperate
for Jesus to fix our hearts.
Sometimes, as a Christian, we forget all God has done for us, or we stop thinking
3. In the upside-down kingdom, how we treat people matters
Matt 5:27-31 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I
say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already
committed adultery with her in his heart.  If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it
out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your
whole body be thrown into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off
and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your
whole body go into hell.  “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give
her a certificate of divorce.’  But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife,
except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever
marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
Ok, so if the first section didn’t make you squirm, this one will. Jesus goes after another one of
the 10 commandments... Do you label yourself as an adulterer? Yeah, nobody want that
label... So this one actually has some context to consider. In Jesus’ day people didn’t really
think men could actually be adulterers. Having sex outside of marriage was considered ok for a
man, but punishable by death for a woman. As long as the woman wasn’t married, the man
was considered innocent of sin. Jesus stops that thinking dead in its tracks. In a patriarchal
society like that, it tends to lead to the dehumanization and abuse of women. We have some of
this in our society today.
I got this graphic from a cool little book we did with the youth by a guy name Skye Jethani...
And one of the things you realize as you look at Jesus’ words it the words “Lustful intent”...
meaning that lust is a choice we make. It is a choice to dehumanize another person. And as a
good Christian tends to do, we look for someone else to blame for our sin. Adam blamed Eve
in the garden and here we blame women. If they weren’t so beautiful, or if they would dress
more modestly... our hearts are the problem.
If we blame women, then...
If we blame culture, them...
If we take responsibility, then...
This is a prevalent sin in our society and in the church. We access to whatever we want to look
at on our phones... and we can keep it secret from everyone. And Jesus says... no. We do not
treat people as objects. We have to stop. If we were a pharisee, we’d say... technically I’m not
sinning because... fill in the blank... it’s not really porn...
Jesus is so clever here a he entertains this concept of blaming things like our eyes, so we poke
our eyes out. And does that solve the problem?
And Jesus while he is at it goes after men in the way they were treating their wives... They were
allowed to divorce their wives for whatever they wanted... Didn’t like her cooking... divorce.
She looked at me funny... divorce. She was yelled at me... divorce. And women were NOT
allowed to divorce their husbands. So women were put in horribly abusive situations where
they could do nothing about it.
Jesus says, this must stop. If you are here today and you have been take advantage of,
abused, mistreated, touched inappropriately. I am sorry. Listen to me. I am sorry. That is not
the way of Jesus.
The man that uses divorce to abuse women is condemned by Jesus. Too much of this has
gone on in the church... Too much has been covered up by some kind of false belief that the
mission is more important than people. People are the mission.
Why is Jesus talking like this? How we treat people matters.
4. In the upside down kingdom, we must be truth-tellers.
One of the things I love the most about my wife is that she is a truth-teller. She tells it
like it is. Those of you who know her, know that her clarity around the truth is one of her
 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely,
but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’  But I say to you, Do not take
an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God,  or by the earth, for it is
his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.  And do not take an
oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.  Let what you say
be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.
So again, Jesus grabs another of the 10 commandments “Do not testify falsely” and expands
it. You see people believe that as long as they didn’t swear by God, then God didn’t care if they
didn’t tell the truth. So as you can imagine, there were lots of little lies and big lies told. People
didn’t think they had done anything wrong. So people would swear on other things that were
important, but not actually God. They were swindlers and used lying and cheating to take
advantage of other people. Jesus says, this is wrong. Lying and cheating is wrong. And we
have all lied a time or two, right. What is you kept a list of every lie and half truth you told your
whole life... how long would that list be?
Jesus wants everyone to see how broken they are. It’s easy for the convicts to know they are
sinners, but the nice people... they don’t think they really need Jesus. And that is a problem.
5. In the upside-down kingdom, only the blind see
Check out this story in Luke 7:36-50
 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s
house and reclined at table.  And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner,
when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an
alabaster flask of ointment,  and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she
began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and
kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.  Now when the Pharisee who
had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have
known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”
 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he
answered, “Say it, Teacher.”
 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the
other fifty.  When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of
them will love him more?”  Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he
cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.”  Then
turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your
house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and
wiped them with her hair.  You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has
not ceased to kiss my feet.  You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has
anointed my feet with ointment.  Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are
forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”  And he said
to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”  Then those who were at table with him began to say
among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?”  And he said to the
woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (ESV)
She gets it. The blind see. The desperate know they need Jesus. It’s almost as if Jesus is
having people line up... murderers over here, sex addicts over here, and scoundrels over
here... everybody else go home...
At least they know, He can do miracles, He might have a way to fix what is broken with them...
You see Jesus made a small statement just before that he didn’t came to abolish the law but
In the Old Testament people would find a perfect lamb and offer it as a sacrifice and they
would put their hands on it and make it their representative to be sacrificed in their place. And
when Jesus says he came to fulfill the law, he came as the perfect lamb to be our
representative, do be our representative, in our place. In fact he literally took the place of
Barabbas who was accused of murder and died on his cross in his place.
So in a few minutes here we will take communion and the Bible says we are to examine our
hearts. We will be laying our hands on the bread symbolizing Jesus body. In essence we are
claiming him as our representative before God to be our sacrifice in our place.
Maybe God is calling you to admit your brokenness and sin and repent, turn from your sin.
Maybe Jesus is reminding you of how good he is that he has forgiven you of so much. You see,
Jesus does a miracle as he forgives us and he gives us a new heart and new desires. Gives us
the ability to actually live out lives that bring honor to him.
More in Upside Down Kingdom: Sermon on the Mount
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August 14, 2022Upside Down Kingdom: Love Is The Rule | Matt Nickel
July 17, 2022Upside Down Kingdom: Upside-down Spirituality | Matt Nickel