On Sunday we resumed our episodic series in the book of Matthew with Jesus’ wonderful parable of the Wedding Feast (Matthew 22:1-14). It is a typically surprising story from Jesus but the wonderful truth at the heart of it is that worthiness in the Kingdom of God is all about accepting the free invitation. [You can listen to/watch the sermon here]
I was spending some time earlier reflecting on the start of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew and was encouraged by Glen Scrivener’s helpful reflections in his devotional The King’s English. (You can read the whole post here and I would highly recommend purchasing his devotional books which you can find on the same site.)
He helpfully shows the way Jesus fulfills the promise of the Old Testament and in particular that He “is both Law-giver and Law-fulfiller. He is both Lord and Israel in one. He commands it and does it!”
Recognising that Jesus is the one who both commands AND fulfills the law is necessary to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. We have to realise that it is not about our performance. This is why the Beatitudes start as they do. It is to the poor in spirit that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs. Here is Glen again:
Here, at the gateway to the sermon on the mount, Jesus bars the way to all the proud. Anyone who thinks they are equal to the challenge of heavenly living is disqualified. The kingdom of heaven does not belong to the moral, religious or political elites. It does not belong to those who are spiritually “up to the job”. It belongs to the spiritual no-hopers, the spiritual destitutes, the spiritual bankrupts.
It is no accident that the sermon on the mount begins on this note. The most sublime ethical teaching known to man is not designed to inspire us to greater investments in our own spiritual powers. We are meant, at all points, to confess our spiritual poverty and entrust ourselves wholly to the King in whom alone this kingdom holds good.
We are not “up to” the kingdom of heaven. No, the kingdom of heaven comes down to us, because the King has stooped. We must not try to raise ourselves from the gutter or else we’ll find we’ve missed the rendezvous. He meets us where we are, and where we are is “poor in spirit”.
Or to put it another way, worthiness = accepting the invitation. Recongising we can contribute nothing ourselves and gratefully taking hold of the free gift offered to us in Jesus.