In Matthew 4:23-25 we have one of the clearest pictures of revival - the original Jesus Movement.
Jesus traveled throughout the region of Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. News about him spread as far as Syria, and people soon began bringing to him all who were sick. And whatever their sickness or disease, or if they were demon possessed or epileptic or paralyzed—he healed them all. Large crowds followed him wherever he went—people from Galilee, the Ten Towns, Jerusalem, from all over Judea, and from east of the Jordan River.
When Jesus is on the move, the Kingdom is demonstrated with power in the spirit of Isaiah 61. The Good News is proclaimed to the poor, the brokenhearted are comforted, captives are set free and prisoners are released. These verses tell us what to expect when Jesus shows up on the scene: REVIVAL - the original Jesus Movement. This context forms the backdrop for what has become Jesus’ most famous teaching: “The Sermon on the Mount.” Scholars believe that this message represents Jesus’ itinerant message as he traveled from town to town and was also the message He entrusted to His disciples as they were sent out. We cannot miss Jesus’ intentionality to hit pause in the middle of full blown revival, sit down, and teach what it looks like when the Kingdom is grounded/established. The context points to the priority Jesus placed on getting heaven’s value system in us.
I want to take a sweeping overview of the Sermon on the Mount in the context of sustained revival. Jesus demonstrated the Kingdom everywhere He went. It was and is inevitable. Jesus is the King of the Kingdom, so the Kingdom of God exists wherever He is. Although He demonstrated the Kingdom everywhere He went, it was not always established. The demonstration of the Kingdom is always supposed to bring repentance and alignment with the King’s value system. And here we enter the Sermon on the Mount as a beautiful picture of what it looks like when Jesus sets up His Kingdom in our hearts and minds.
Jesus began His famous teaching by declaring “Blessed are the Poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 5:3). In other words, blessed are those who recognize their spiritual bankruptcy and total need for God. Jesus, left no room for the self-sufficient, self-confident, self-righteous, religious or performance driven spirit to enter in. The way into the Kingdom is through lowliness of Spirit and admitting our total dependence on Jesus’ intervention. The desperate cry for both individual and corporate revival is born here. Jesus, we need you to break in and intervene. Our services, plans and programs aren’t sufficient. We are bankrupt if you don’t show up! The invitation is the same to the rich and the poor, the young and the old, male or female. We must get to a place where Jesus is our only option, so we may enter in. As the Holy Spirit has His uninhibited way in us, He begins to produce the type of character (fruit) that is pleasing to God and wholly opposite of the culture of this world. The Beatitudes, much like and in many ways parallel to the fruit of the Spirit, are not produced through trying harder. They are produced as the sap of the vine (Christ’s DNA) supplies us with essential nutrients and ability to bear fruit after His nature. This fruit and character change is so countercultural that Jesus likened His followers to salt and light. They would stand out in society, bring out the God flavors in the earth and act as preserving agents. They would penetrate the darkness. Jesus, was raising up an army of the meek and lowly who have crucified their self-interest and are willing to stand out against the grain of society. They would strike the greatest blow to the powers of darkness through their countercultural lifestyles, lived in meekness, humility, and submission. RADICAL.
Jesus, then begins cutting through the letter of the law to get to the Spirit of the law. He revealed God’s heart in what was written. He was doing more than raising the standard. Once again, He was showing us the type of purity and deep, selfless love that would be on display in His followers as the Holy Spirit has it’s uninhibited way. He takes us straight from the law into what are commonly considered spiritual disciplines, but He never leaves the theme of getting past the surface and drilling into the Spirit of the disciplines. He probes the listener’s heart to see if the spiritual disciplines are walked out to impress, check a box or to actually get to the heart of God. He gives us a glimpse of a prayer rooted in Kingdom priorities, not liturgy. It is a launching point into getting God’s heart expressed through our prayers, of getting Kingdom priorities established in our hearts. The Spiritual disciplines, like cross training, are not the goal in and of themselves. Jesus is always the goal. He is the reward in Heaven. The person who misses this will get all their reward on this side of eternity. We don’t want to be great at praying or fasting. We want to be great at apprehending our reward - it’s Jesus!
Jesus, goes on to talk about money, possessions and the things that dominate the minds of unbelievers. He reminds us that we can only have one master. There are people in every socioeconomic class that are serving money. It is not a passage aimed at the rich. It is a passage cutting through our worries and fears and reattaching our focus to our source and our one true Lord. Jesus is setting us free from the cords that try to bind us to this world, so that we can be free to serve HIs Kingdom purposes.
Jesus continues along these lines with more illustrations and instructions until we get to Matthew 7:24-17.
Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.
Jesus makes it clear that what we build will be tested. Are we building our lives, our ministries and our hopes for revival on top of the only foundation Jesus said would remain? Or are we building on top of our own best ideas, strategies and personalities? If we want sustainable revival, let’s take time to sit and hear what Jesus had to say about the Kingdom grounded and established. Let us be desperate for a Jesus Movement and may it begin in us. Holy Spirit have your uninhibited way in our lives!