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.”
How do you react when you are ridiculed or mocked on “account” of your commitment to follow Jesus? How do you respond when people dismiss your Christian values as “narrow” or “unenlightened”? Although few of us in the contemporary Western World have faced outright persecution for our faith, it does seem that Christianity is increasingly targeted for derision and censure.
Strangely, Jesus equates insult, ridicule, and persecution for His sake to being blessed by God: “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” In fact, Jesus calls for the persecuted to “Rejoice and be glad…”.
It is an intriguing word translated here as “Rejoice”. It is derived from two Greek words meaning to “leap” with a lot of “joy”. It is literally to “jump for joy”. William Barclay descries this as “the joy of the climber who has reached the summit, and who leaps for joy that the mountain path is conquered” (The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1).
After Jesus’ disciples were flogged and ordered never again to speak in His name, we see them as they “rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name” (Acts 5:41). They bounded out of their prison cells leaping for joy that they had been counted worthy to suffer for Jesus’ sake.
Jesus went to the cross for us on Good Friday: let us be bold to speak His name to others, and take our stand with Him.
PONDER AND PRAY
“It is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ – if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed in us.”—Romans 8:16-18
- Jesus never said it would be easy to follow Him, but He did say that it was worth it. How do you sense the Spirit of God calling you to be bolder in following Jesus?
- Pray: “Lord, fill me with courage to speak and live the truth, even when it is not popular or convenient.” (Peter Scazerro, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality)
- What do you want to say to God?