Summary: 1) THIS BLESSING IS NOT FOR ALL PERSECUTION 2) THE PERSECUTION OF BELIEVERS STEMS FROM HATRED OF GOD AND HIS WORD 3) THIS BLESSING BRINGS THE BEATITUDES FULL CIRCLE
Series: The Sermon on the Mount
Title: Blessed Persecution?
Text: Matthew 5:10-12
INTRODUCTION: This morning, we are concluding our series of sermons on the Beatitudes. (We will be resuming on the Sermon on the Mount after the New Year)
The beatitudes are the “Blessed” statements which precede the famous Sermon on the Mount.
Blessed are the poor in spirit...
Blessed are those who mourn...
Blessed are the meek...
and so on...
And over the past weeks, we have learned a lot about these important statements.
Probably the most revealing thing we have seen is that they are not describing different groups of people.
It is not as though some are “poor in spirit” and others are “meek” and others “mourn”.
The reality is that these all describe one person - the “Blessed Man”.
The blessed man understands his spiritual poverty.
He mourns over his sin.
He is humble before God.
He is desperate for righteousness.
He is an agent of mercy.
His heart is purified in regeneration and desires to follow Christ.
He is an ambassador for Christ, carrying the Gospel of peace.
Here is an important reality...
- This is not some super spiritual believer.
- This is not some special level of sainthood only squired by the ultra sanctified.
- This is supposed to describe the experience of ALL believers.
Which is why today’s beatitude, the last beatitude, can be a bit frightening.
This is the one wherein Jesus promises a blessing to the persecuted.
And if what we have seen so far... that these qualities should mark all believers... then the truth is that persecution is something we will all experience as well.
So how do we understand and respond to the persecution of our faith? - - - Jesus tells us in our lesson today.
READ: Matthew 5:10-12
It is safe to say that all of the beatitudes are contrary to human wisdom.
- Self confidence and self reliance is exalted among men, so poorness of spirit is rejected.
- People try to justify their sins, rather than mourn for them.
- The prideful and forceful get what they want, and the meek are trampled upon.
- Men lust for fleshly passions, rather than hunger for righteousness.
Men desire vengeance and not mercy.
- Men see a pure heart as being less important than an exterior goodness.
- And war - not peace - seems to be the natural inclination.
So the beatitudes are opposed to the natural mind, and human wisdom... and even the religious ideas of Jesus time.
The Jews were set on seeing the Romans fall under the mighty hand of a warring Messiah.
And all of these about “meekness” and “mercy” were not the desire of the religious people of the day.
They wanted a mighty warrior messiah!
Now, if the other beatitudes were opposed to the common beliefs of the day, this last one is even more so!
They believed the Messiah was going to bring untold wealth, honor, prosperity and peace.
Isaiah had called the coming Messiah the “Prince of Peace”, so they believed He would overthrow their oppressors.
Thus, His warnings of coming persecutions would have been difficult to accept.
Also, this is the first Beatitude which Jesus actually elaborates on.
Each week, as we have examined the beatitudes, we have had to look at a very pithy statement.
But in this beatitude, Jesus actually gives us more information than in any of the preceding ones.
Furthermore, in this beatitude, we have a MAJOR CHANGE.
We have the introduction of the “second person plural” into the beatitudes.
Jesus goes from “blessed are they”... to “Blessed are you”
The immediate audience, of course, are his apostles.
It is almost certain that when He was saying these words, He was looking directly at His chosen 12.
The reality is that this did come to pass; all of the apostles, save Judas, suffered severe persecution.
- Peter was crucified head down in Rome.
- Andrew, was crucified on an X-shaped cross.
- Bartholomew was beaten and then crucified in India.
- James was beheaded in 44 A.D. in Judea.
- James the Less was beaten, stoned, and then clubbed.
- Jude, brother of James, was crucified.
- Matthew was cut and stabbed to death.
- Matthias was stoned and then beheaded in Jerusalem.
- Philip was scourged, imprisoned, and then crucified.
- Simon was crucified in 74 A.D. in Britain.
- Stephen was stoned to death in 34 A.D. in Jerusalem.
- Thomas was thrust through with a spear in India.
Even the last apostle, Paul, was beheaded with a sword in Rome.
But, it is important to note that the “You” is not limited to the apostles.
Certainly they are the immediate audience, and the focus of Christ.
But they are not alone... all believers are encapsulated in the “You”.