(Matthew 5:10-12) — It was a promise that most leaders would not lay out on the table too early in the relationship with his followers; and it’s a promise that is becoming a regular headline in our day. But Jesus was not most leaders and He wanted His followers to understand what it would mean to be part of His Kingdom. So, as Jesus began His most famous sermon, the Sermon on the Mount, He honestly expounded on what it meant and how it will be for those who desire to live in God’s Kingdom. This part of the sermon is found in Matthew 5:10-12.
In this lesson we will look into the last of the eight Beatitudes. This “Blessed are” is so totally opposite than the way most people think, that Jesus did for it what He did not do with the other seven. He made clear what He means.
What could be so controversial that Jesus felt like He needed to explain? Here it is in all its simplicity. Beatitude number eight: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (v.10).
I can imagine what those listening must have been thinking, “Did the teacher just say we are blessed when we are being persecuted?” That’s exactly what He said. Let’s look deeper.
Jesus saves the oddest “blessed are” until last. He reminds His disciples that they are blessed when they are being harmed by others because of their love and loyalty to Him. Who would ever have thought that “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake” would truly be a blessing? Many times after this Jesus reminded His followers that persecution was coming. But take heart, when one suffers for God He notices and promises a place in His Kingdom. Again, it is suffering for the cause of Christ, for living as Jesus would have one live. Let’s breakdown the kind of suffering that makes a person blessed.
First of all, Jesus qualifies the kind of suffering that results in blessing: “those who are persecuted because of righteous” and “when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me” (vs.10,11). He reminds those listening to Him that it is not the suffering that comes as a result of everyday life – illness, aches and pains, even terrible loss – that God blesses. No, all people experience those things. The suffering Jesus speaks of is that which comes as a direct result of being a Christian and living the Christian life openly. These are the people who would not recant, deny or hide their love of Jesus and their service and obedience to their Heavenly Father.
May we all be reminded that every day, somewhere in this world of ours, there are Christians that know what Jesus is talking about. From the villages of Middle East, the cities and countryside of Southeast and East Asia, and points across Africa, Christians are suffering, even dying, for Christ. They will not back down, they will not hush up, and they will be beaten and killed, today, because they love Jesus.
Some here in the west may breathe a sigh of relief and say at least it is not that way here. But do not be mistaken about two things. First, if Christians here do not become more committed to sharing the life-changing story of Christ so that the lost can hear of Jesus, then hard days are coming. Secondly, the evidence that such days are coming is seen almost daily in reports of attacks against the rights of Christians in this country to openly practice Christianity. As well, Christians and Christian beliefs are openly maligned in our media and on our college campuses. Legislators attempt to pass laws to silence the Church’s voice in the arenas of morality, marriage and the sacredness and sanctity of life. Christians are often characterized as ignorant, bigots, phoebes, intolerant and unloving. There is a movement afoot to marginalize Christian which is just a step or two away from moving openly against Christians.
Jesus brings to a close the opening of the Sermon on the Mount with a reminder that suffering persecution is part life lived in the Kingdom. But this promise is accompanied by another promise, one which is a greater blessing. Jesus proclaimed, “…for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” and “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets [those who proclaimed God’s message] who were before you.” (v.12) Now that’s a serious blessing. Those who are willing to suffer for Christ are those who truly belong to Him. One of the solid proofs of the legitimacy of the Gospel story, especially the resurrection, was that the early followers who had walked with Jesus were willing to suffer and die for Him. It is doubtful that these folks would have been willing to endure the horrors they did if they knew that story was a fake. But they were witnesses to the events and they knew the story all true. Heaven belongs to the believer. Jesus also said that the reward of those who suffer is great. I’m not sure what that means but I am sure that Jesus meant it.
So, what do you think of this “Blessed are”? Have you settled in your heart that regardless of the cost you will never deny who Jesus is to you and who you are in Him? Are you willing to take on the suffering of and for Jesus, even if it means pain, even if means death? Why say yes to such? Here’s why the Apostle Paul said yes, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10-11). What say you?