Sometimes we hear a statement and we are taken back, because it seems so ridiculous. I think there are probably several statements, Jesus made where people said, “wait, what?” Jesus dropped truth bombs on people that weren’t expected. I am not sure any statement would have caught people off guard more than when Jesus was going through the beatitudes and said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10)
Really? We are blessed because we face persecution? Persecution seems to bring more pain and sorrow than blessing. Yet, Jesus says that those who are persecuted for doing right are blessed because the kingdom of heaven belongs to them. It is surely an awkward point to accept because it doesn’t seem right. Persecution is not a good thing, but yet when it is experienced for the right reason, it brings blessings.
Concluding the Beatitudes
We find this unusual statement at the conclusion of Jesus’ list of beatitudes. This list has been made up of attitudes that His people will be blessed for having if they are maintained through life. As we go through the beatitudes, we see that Jesus expects us to be poor in spirit, to mourn, to be meek, to hunger and thirst for righteousness, to be merciful, pure in heart, and to be peacemakers. Every one of them listed are related to an attitude we can choose. We can choose to recognize how poor we are spiritually, we can choose to be meek, we can even choose to work toward peace.
While these attitudes may not always be very easy to choose, the last one might be most difficult of all. At the very end is where Jesus says that we will be blessed when we are persecuted. Jesus knew His disciples would face persecution for following Him. Yet, He expects us to continue to serve Him despite persecution and hardships to come. This means we must have the appropriate attitude toward persecution and have our minds ready for what’s to come.
For Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Jesus didn’t just want them to know that they would be persecuted, He also wanted them to know they would be blessed for enduring such cruelty. The persecuted are blessed because the kingdom of heaven belongs to those persecuted for doing right.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.Matthew 5:12
Jesus makes it clear that though persecuted on Earth that there will be great reward in heaven. So, while persecution is not much fun here today, the reward will far out way the suffering. The kingdom of heaven belongs to people who chose to endure persecution for the sake of Christ, for the sake of doing what is right. All Christians will face persecution from time to time, knowing this we must prepare our minds, and focus on the reward that is to come and not on the difficulties we face today, being God’s people isn’t easy and it never has been.
When we look throughout the history of God’s people we see them be persecuted. All throughout the Old Testament we see the prophets persecuted and people who were picked on for doing what was right. Even Abel the son of Adam and Eve was persecuted for doing right by his brother Cain, who killed him (Gen 4:1-16). In the New Testament, Stephen is killed for preaching the Gospel in Acts 7:54-60. Even as we look at the epistles we see a common theme, warning and preparing Christians for the fact that persecution is coming. It’s simply expected that Christians will be persecuted throughout the New Testament.
As Christians today, we must recognize it isn’t a matter of if we will be persecuted but a matter of when we will be persecuted. It’s not always easy to do right and to live for Christ. However, when we do right and live for Christ in the face of persecution we are in great company. David, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Elijah, Jeremiah, Stephen, and Paul were all persecuted for God. They all did right even though it was going to cost them hurt feelings, bodily harm, and sometimes even their life.
Persecution is Fair
If it ever seems unfair that God would expect us to be persecuted for doing right while He sits in Heaven then we aren’t looking at the whole picture. Because God came to earth in the form of man and experienced far worse persecution than we will likely ever face. Jesus though born of a woman, was completely God in flesh and yet He endured being hit, mocked, spat upon, and even nailed to a cross, suffering death. Philippians 2:5-8 paints a powerful image of the humility Jesus embodied when He chose to come save humanity. Jesus Christ was persecuted on our behalf, so we could become His people and have the privilege of being persecuted on His behalf. It is an honor to suffer for the one who has suffered so much more for us.
It is true that persecution is not fun. However, it is also true that Christians are going to face persecution at one point or another for serving Christ. Knowing this, we should prepare our minds by remembering the reward of a faithful life even in the face of persecution. A home in Heaven with God for all eternity. We also must remember that when we face persecution we are in great company, because not only were various Bible characters persecuted but Jesus Himself was persecuted. And His persecution was far worse than anything we will ever experience simply because He is God. Truly, “blessed are those who persecuted.”
Discuss or Think on the Following:
- Have you ever experienced persecution for doing right?
- How can persecution be a good thing?
- Can knowing Jesus was persecuted help us face trials of persecution?