Elaboration on the Subject of Persecution
Text: Matthew 5:1-12
When Jesus spoke to His disciples concerning “persecution”, He made a specific reference to suffering for His Name’s sake. Let us ponder this text carefully.
“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute
you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely
for My sake.”
Jesus was not just talking about persecution in general. That also may be experienced. However, He was pointing out to His disciples that if they were to truly follow Him, they must expect suffering!
1. There would be those who would revile them
The word “revile” contains the idea of “insult”. The disciples must be prepared to endure insults that would be hurled against them.
a) They could be insulted for following an “unknown” Teacher
Jesus was indeed relatively unknown compared to the existing schools of thoughts in Israel. The Pharisees and Sadducees were in existence for a long time!
b) They could be insulted for abandoning tradition
The Jews had long and steep traditions. Jesus was not afraid to challenge existing traditional practices. He did not challenge the Scriptures though, just the prevalent man-made interpretations of the religious teachers.
c) They could be insulted for believing that Jesus was the Messiah
This was something that could happen. Jesus knew that the religious leaders would never accept Him as the Messiah. If His disciples were to proclaim to others that they believed Jesus was the Messiah, they must expect to be reviled or insulted.
2. There would be actual persecution
Persecution would take place. Enemies have been following this practice for millennia.
a) Persecution could take the form of opposition
This would be the mildest form of persecution. The disciples must expect resistance from the religious authorities.
b) Persecution could take place in the form of threats
This is a step up from mere “opposition”. The religious authorities in those days were skilled in issuing intimidating threats. They could threaten ex-communication or ostracism. They could even threaten jail.
c) Persecution could take place in the form of actual physical violence
The religious authorities had the legal power to beat with rods those they charged with heretical beliefs. They would not hesitate to use this legal means to persecute the disciples of Jesus.
3. “All kinds of evil”
The disciples must not be afraid of the enemies. They must be so mentally tough and prepared that they are not astonished when people bring trumped-up charges against them. They could even stoop to lies to get even with the disciples.
Jesus knew that even as He prepared His disciples for possible suffering, He was speaking of Himself. The Scriptures were very clear about the fact that He Himself would be reviled, persecuted and have all manner of evil spoken against Him.
“…A reproach of men, and despised by the people.
All those who see Me ridicule Me;
They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,
‘He trusted in the Lord, let Him rescue Him;
Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him.’ ”
The enemies used “ridicule” to persecute Jesus. They insulted Him concerning His trust in the Lord. The disciples must be prepared for such sufferings too.
4. “For My sake”
Believers might be able to endure suffering for the sake of righteousness. However, Jesus was very pointed in this statement. He spoke of suffering “for His sake”. The enemies would highlight the fact that the disciples were not being persecuted because they sought to live righteously. They would be persecuted because they were His disciples!
a) Attacking the Person of Jesus
The disciples must note that the Person the enemies would be attacking would be Jesus! The harm they would bring to the disciples was aimed at hurting Jesus!
b) Attacking the disciples themselves
If the disciples were to prove strong and resilient, then they too would be persecuted for their faith in Jesus. Their faith must therefore be genuine and strong.
THE PROMISE OF BLESSING
The disciples must find comfort in the promise of blessing by Jesus. The fact of their suffering for His sake would not be lost in God’s sight. They would be honoured by God Himself. They would be thought of as walking worthy of their calling. The blessing that Jesus spoke about may not be in terms of material things. However, the true disciple of Jesus has by now grown so much, he has gone beyond this level of understanding.