Summary: This beatitude speaks of a blessing no one wants – the blessing that comes to those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.
“The Blessing No One Wants: Blessed Are The Persecuted.”
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for right-eousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (11) "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. (12) Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
In the 25 years I have been the pastor here I have preached a little less than three thousand sermons (2908 to be exact). I can’t begin to remember them all and I know you can’t. But I do remember some of them for one reason or another. The message I preached on this passage is one of them. I preached through “The Sermon on the Mount” way back in 1996. I remember that as I sat trying to understand the meaning of this Beatitude about persecution I thought to myself, "John you really don't know what it means to be misunderstood and have evil things said of you and thought about you!"
And then, that very week I got the only anonymous hate letter I have ever received (at least to date). That Sunday I came to the pulpit and I said. “Well folks I got a letter from Satan this week, oh I don't believe he wrote it, he just dictated it! It hardly seems possible that at the very time I am working on an exposition of these scriptures, that I receive the most scathing, bitter denouncement of my ministry. My preaching, my leadership and even my family were not immune in the barrage that was unleashed.”
The letter that I had received caused me to remember a quote from another preacher that I had read sometime earlier. His statement pretty much sums up how I felt. He said "A couple of times in my life I have been reviled and lied about. At first I was somewhat overwhelmed to discover what I thought was good, others considered evil: to find what I thought was mercy, others found objectionable; and to learn what I knew was right, others viewed as grounds for job dismissal. I went to God and filed a complaint, "Lord, they are on my back: Lord they are persecuting me." Now I expected that the Lord would say, "My, how I pity you. I want you to know how terrible I feel about all of this." Instead God said, "Congratulations"."[Haddon Robinson, The Christian Salt and Light Company, p. 91]
After I received that letter I think I understand, what this eighth and final Beatitude is talking about but I am not sure I like it! This beatitude speaks of a blessing no one wants – the blessing that comes to those who are persecuted for righteousness sake. In this message I want to examine with you the truth of these verses.
There are six facts that make this beatitude impossible to ignore: 1). It is the last beatitude, 2). It is the longest beatitude (three verses), 3). It is the only beatitude with a command-“rejoice,” 4). It is the only beatitude with an explanation, 5). It is the only beatitude that is repeated by Jesus, and 6). It is the only beatitude addressed directly to the reader. This matter is so important that Jesus even changes from the third person "they" or “those” in which all the other Beat-itudes are written, to the second person "you" in verse eleven in order to focus our attention on the personal application.
There are three things that I want to draw from the text today.
First, The Persecution We Will Endure
This last beatitude is really two in one, a single beatitude repeated and expanded. The word "perse-cuted" occurs three times in these verses. It must be important!
• The Certainty Of Persecution: It Will Happen, Bank On It!
Persecution is a reality. We all know that the early Christians suffered extreme persecution. During the first century, almost all of Jesus’ disciples suffered martyrdom for His sake. Multiplied thousands lost their lives in the first 300 years of Christianity. But perse-cution is still a present reality to many Christians today.
Christians are still being put to death for their faith. In the Sudan, thousands of Christians have been massacred by Muslim armies. In Indonesia, churches have been burned and Christians have been murdered. According to the Open Doors Organization, “100 million Christians around the globe are currently suffering persecution for their faith. Most often perse-cution takes the form of imprisonment, abuse, and hostilities. In some cases, however, Christians are asked to face more than scorn, prison, or the loss of health—they are asked to face death.” [www.opendoorsusa.org. “Christian Martyrs in Today’s World.” ]
John Hanford, aide to Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana notes that, “On a worldwide basis, Christians are the most persecuted major religion in terms of direct punishment for practicing religious activities–public worship, evangelism, charity.” We know about it, he says, because the press refuses to report it.” [quoted by Chuck Colson. Christianity Today. “Tortured for Christ–and Ignored.” March 4, 1996]