The Most Astonishing Beatitude Yet
Text: Matthew 5 : 1 - 12
Each and every beatitude Jesus pronounced was intriguing and profound! Though couched in simple language, these sayings of Jesus were life-challenging and life-transforming teachings! Comprehension of what Jesus taught was not difficult. However, the practice of any of His teachings would take a lifetime to master.
The most astonishing beatitude however was not yet pronounced! Many if not all the disciples must have been astonished by His last beatitude.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for
righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom
What could Jesus possibly mean by this statement? Was He anticipating persecution? Who would persecute those who are pursuing righteousness? How should this teaching be comprehended?
THE THEME OF SUFFERING IN THE BOOK OF PSALMS
A good number of the psalms dealt with the subject of suffering. However, in the vast majority of the psalms, two approaches were prominent. Let us take time to ponder over these two approaches.
1. Desperate Appeals to God for Deliverance
The following texts may be cited as proof of this approach.
“Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have relieved me in my distress;
Have mercy on me, and hear my prayer.”
“Have mercy on me, O Lord!
Consider my trouble from those who hate me,
You who lift me up from the gates of death…”
“Make haste, O God, to deliver me!
Make haste to help me, O Lord!”
These appeals to God were not wrong in themselves. They represented the faith-level of the writers at that point in their lives. However, this approach falls far short of what Jesus taught in this beatitude concerning suffering for righteousness’ sake. Prayer at all times is important. However, the beatitude that Jesus pronounced went beyond prayer!
2. Imprecatory language in the Desperate Appeals to God
One of the most difficult things to comprehend is the language in which the psalmists couched his prayers to God. Let us consider the following texts.
“For there is no faithfulness in their mouth;
Their inward part is destruction;
Their throat is an open tomb;
They flatter with their tongue.
Pronounce them guilty, O God!
Let them fall by their own counsels;
Cast them out in the multitude of their
For they have rebelled against You.”
There is no mistaking the fact that the psalmist urged the Lord to deal with the wicked in the most severe way. He desires to see them pronounced “guilty”. He hopes that the Lord would “cast them out”.
“Do not take me away with the wicked
And with the workers of iniquity,
Who speak peace to their neighbours,
But evil is in their hearts.
Give them according to their deeds.
And according to the wickedness of their endeavours;
Give them according to the work of their hands;
Render to them what they deserve.
Because they do not regard the works of the Lord,
Nor the operation of His hands.
He shall destroy them
And not build them up.”
We cannot help but notice that the psalmist cries out to the Lord to deal with the enemies according to their sins. He looked to the day when the Lord would “destroy them”.
COPING WITH SUFFERING IN OLD TESTAMENT TIMES
Job may be cited as an example of how to endure suffering. His antagonist was Satan himself. Our hearts are moved when we read about the sufferings that He had to endure. However, he was not “persecuted for righteousness’ sake”.
Some of the prophets did suffer because they preached powerfully against the wicked deeds they saw perpetrated in the nation. Their enemies reacted violently against them. However, Jesus’ pronouncement of blessing on those who were persecuted for righteousness’ sake introduced a new dimension of thought. All would-be disciples must be prepared to accept and endure suffering! He promised that their suffering would not be in vain.