Matthew 5:1-12 ESV 1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Each beatitude starts with the word “blessed” which is sometimes translated “happy”.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven"
This is also probably the most difficult of the Beatitudes to believe. The reason for this difficulty is that persecution seems to be the opposite of happiness or joy and as we've said this entire series Beatitude means blessed or extreme happiness. Plus this seems like a strange statement to come from the lips of such a compassionate person like Jesus our Savior.
It’s hard to understand our Lord when he congratulated those who were persecuted and encouraged them to rejoice in their persecution?
A paradox to be explained.
“Blessed [happy] are those who are persecuted.” This is a paradox that needs an explanation.
It seems incredible that our Lord would say something so contradictory, It may even be the most confusing thing that he ever said.
How can anyone be happy when being persecuted or lied about? We all enjoy the sense of security that comes from occasional words of approval, but persecution destroys everything that brings enjoyment and security.
We may not be able to get off scot free because quite often we suffer for something we have done wrong. So one of the values of persecution is that it causes us to look at ourselves in order to understand why others do not like us. Perhaps we should ask ourselves whether we measure up to the other beatitudes.
Are we humble?
Matthew 5:3 ESV "Blessed are the poor in spirit (or humble), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Are we sorrowful for our sinfulness
Matthew 5:4 ESV "Blessed are those who mourn (or who are sorrowful), for they shall be comforted.
Do we have the self-control to not retaliate when hurt?
Matthew 5:5 ESV "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Do we have an extreme desire for righteousness?
Matthew 5:6 ESV "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Do we extend mercy to others in all circumstances?
Matthew 5:7 ESV "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Are our hearts pure?
Matthew 5:8 ESV "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
It is a paradox that a person can be persecuted for doing good.
Sometimes a person is persecuted for doing good because doing good upsets others.
The church and individual Christians who dare to stand by the principles of Christ must be prepared for persecution. Whenever the church stops being the moral conscience of its community, it also stops being the yeast in the bread,
Matthew 13:33 NIV He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”
We also stop being the salt of the earth, and the light set on the hill, which Jesus says that those who are persecuted for righteousness are.
Matthew 5:13-16 NIV “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Sometimes doing good interferes with those who want to do bad. This interferes with those who want to follow their passions or prejudices.
Matthew 5:11 (ESV)11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
Some people use slander as an effective tool for persecution.
Some people use harassment to persecute.
Lying can also be used to persecute others.
There is a reward promised to those who are persecuted for righteousness sake however
Matthew 5:10 ESV 10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Even in the midst of persecution you can enjoy this promise. It is for the here and now. When believers must suffer because of their faith, they have discovered the way to experience the closest possible companionship with their Lord.
The promise that “theirs is the kingdom of heaven” is a reality today.
It is also a future promise.
Matthew 5:12 (ESV)12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
The apostle Paul might have been thinking about this promise.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (ESV)16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
It is a perennial or continuing, never ending promise.
Matthew 5:12 (ESV) 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
This is a promise of being identified with God’s chosen people, a promise that is realized both in the present and in the future. To suffer persecution is to walk the same road as the prophets and martyrs. To suffer for what is right is to be part of a great succession of godly people, people of faith.
In Hebrews chapter eleven there is a list of people identified by name then beginning at verse 35 there are others whose names we don’t know but who were persecuted and when you are persecuted for righteousness sake join them.
Hebrews 11:35-40 (ESV)35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life.36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated--38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised,40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
In America, where it is so easy for Christians to live comfortable and safe lives, we often forget that persecution of Christians happens in many parts of the world. Whether persecution comes in the open threat on one’s life or in the insidious words spoken by a fellow Christian, you must be willing to suffer persecution for righteousness’ sake if you want to experience the happiness that Jesus promised.