As you read and reflect on today’s beatitude, please listen to this track from contemporary Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. We will feature this track throughout Lent.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
It might be surprising for many in North America to see that persecution is as much a mark of the blessed life as being a peacemaker, showing mercy, and hungering after righteousness. Notice that with this beatitude Jesus gets personal as He switches from third person, “blessed are those who are persecuted…” to second person, “blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you”. All the other beatitudes are stated in the third person, “Blessed are the poor in spirit”, and so forth. Now Jesus starts talking directly to His followers: “Blessed are you…because great is your reward”. The threat of persecution and revilement hangs over all who faithfully follow Jesus.
By blessing those who suffer on His account, Jesus brings the beatitudes to a close. He ends the beatitudes wanting His followers to know there will be a price to pay for following Him. If you are poor in spirit, mourning your sin, and pursuing righteousness and peace, you will stir up the world’s opposition.
The simple truth is that the world cannot handle Jesus or His followers. The world rejects the very righteousness for which Jesus’ followers hunger and thirst. Jesus warned His disciples to expect the same treatment from the world that it gave Him: “If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18). To be persecuted for Jesus’ sake is to join with Jesus and a long, noble succession of people persecuted for the Kingdom of God.
PONDER AND PRAY
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed.”—I Peter 4:12-13
- What different forms of persecution, insult, and ridicule are Christians facing in our culture?
- What different forms of persecution, insult, and ridicule are Christians in other cultures facing?
- What do you want to say to God?