Sermon on the Mount
- We come to the last beatitude this evening. There are some pastors who will divide this last beatitude into two beatitudes. The reason for this is verses 10 and 11 opens up with the word “blessed,” which usually indicates an introduction into a new beatitude. Yet, the reason I lump these verses into one beatitude is the theme and subject matter does not change; rather, verse 11 expands on the concept of verse 10.
- I have mentioned this throughout the process - the key in understanding the beatitudes in a biblical context is the first beatitude. We must come to God “poor in spirit.” Without this brokenness of sin, which produces the poor in spirit, none of the other beatitudes will be understood properly and biblically. The concept of “poor in spirit” goes beyond poverty. The word “poor” does not mean someone living in poverty or an abled body homeless person. Instead, the word “poor” means absolute destitution. Regardless of effort, you cannot lift yourself up from complete dependence upon another. An example of this poverty of inability is in John 5. Jesus encountered an impotent man who was completely depended upon someone else to put him into the stirring pool. Our impotency created by sin caused us to be completely and totally depended upon God and the work of Jesus on the cross for our salvation. Coming to this conclusion is poor in spirit.
- Once we come to Jesus in “poor in spirit” all the other beatitudes come into focus, in which understanding and application are possible. This means there is not a stand-alone beatitude. We cannot be “poor in spirit” without showing any fruit (the remaining beatitudes), nor can we live out the remaining beatitudes without being “poor in spirit.” In addition, as we demonstrate to the world that we are disciples of Jesus, we cannot live out the beatitudes out of order. The previous beatitude opens up the possibility for the following beatitude. A Christian can never be the eight, and final beatitude, unless they are a peacemaker; and, a person cannot be a peacemaker, unless they are pure in heart; and a person cannot be pure in heart, unless they are merciful; therefore, as a disciple of Jesus Christ, we will never get into position to suffer persecution for His sake if we are not living out the first seven beatitudes.
- The disciple of Jesus who is a peacemaker understands the end game. Everyone will spend eternity in either Heaven or Hell - WITHOUT EXCEPTION! Instead of getting their way, they are invested in:
Psalm 126:6KJV 1900
He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed,
Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.
The word “persecuted” means to be followed after or pursued. The audience of 1 Peter was persecuted. The reason they were scattered was the enemy pursued them. Paul experienced enormous persecution during his first two missionary travels. Wherever Paul went, the enemies of the gospel of Jesus Christ pursued him. Persecution is not someone rejecting the Gospel of Jesus Christ, calling you a bad name, or wanting nothing to do with you. Even though none of those things feel good and we may experience affliction to one degree or another, they are not persecution in the sense of how Jesus used the word. Persecution is someone or a group of people aggressively and unjustly attacks you physically, emotionally, or spiritually.
Jesus says, “blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.” The word “righteousness” carries with it an idea of a lifestyle that is in conformity to the law of God. In other words, the blessed person is being persecuted because he or she is submitting to God’s word as their final authority in everything.
When you do something for someone's sake, you do it in order to help them or make them happy. Now when it comes to God, nothing we do is for the reason of helping Him. We are not helping God in providing righteousness to us. He does not need us to contribute to our righteousness. He has giving us His righteousness.
Romans 4:22–24KJV 1900
And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;
So, when Jesus said, “for righteousness sake,” He had in mind living for God because we have righteousness. We are satisfying the righteousness of God by surrendering to the final authority of God’s word.
In verse 11, Jesus further expands upon “for righteousness’ sake” by saying “for my sake.” The two are tied into one common thread. The righteousness we have is Jesus’ righteousness. Therefore, if we are to be persecuted, let us make sure it is for Jesus and His righteousness and not for politics, agendas, movements, etc.
It is possible for Christians to suffer for activities not related to righteousness. Peter was careful to remind the scattered Christians of his day that if they are to suffer, make sure it is for the right reason.
1 Peter 4:15–16KJV 1900
But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or asa thief, or asan evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man sufferas a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.
Several years back, I read the biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was an amazing man of faith and understood the cost of discipleship. He believed the Lutheran church of Germany needed reforming. The had a high church philosophy; yet, without the Spirit and power of God. He was hung in April of 1945 by the Germans for his role in the attempted assassination of Adolph Hiller. Although he did much good during his life, his persecution by the Germans was not directly connected with his faith in Jesus Christ but his anti-Nazi position.
When we think of persecution our minds naturally drift towards physical harm, pain or death. Yet, Jesus gives us a broader understanding of persecution that extends beyond the physical to the emotional.
- Revile - To defame, that is, rail at, chide, taunt:- cast in teeth, (suffer) reproach, revile, upbraid.
- Persecute - To pursue(literally or figuratively); by implication to persecute:- ensue, follow (after), given to, (suffer) persecute (-ion), press toward. In other words, being subject to a systematic harassment and attack due to your faith in jesus Christ.
- Say all manner of evil - Abusive words false spoken that damages a person’s reputation.
Matthew 5:12KJV 1900
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great isyour reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
It was not just the disciples of Jesus that would be persecuted for their faith in Jesus but the prophets of the Old Testament were persecuted by their own countrymen.
Matthew 23:35KJV 1900
That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.
If the reference is to the Zechariah, son of Jehoiada, mentioned in 2 Chronicles, this is a way of Jesus saying “you are responsible for all the martyrs from A to Z.” Abel would have been the first martyr and Zechariah would have been, chronologically, the last martyr in the record of the Old Testament.
Zechariah was killed by stoning. He was killed by those who wanted to re-create God into their own image. This is what happened when Cain wanted God to accept his offering of works. Cain was trying to worship God his own way instead of coming to God in the way God desired. This happened to Zechariah too. And, a few days after Jesus spoke these words to the religious establishment of His time, they slew Him.
Consider everything Jeremiah the Prophet went through:
- He was beaten and out in stocks
Jeremiah 20:1–2KJV 1900
Now Pashur the son of Immer the priest, who wasalso chief governor in the house of the Lord, heard that Jeremiah prophesied these things. Then Pashur smote Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that werein the high gate of Benjamin, which wasby the house of the Lord.
- • Death Sentence on Jeremiah
Jeremiah 26:11KJV 1900
Then spake the priests and the prophets unto the princes and to all the people, saying, This man isworthy to die; for he hath prophesied against this city, as ye have heard with your ears.
- King burns Jeremiah’s scroll
Jeremiah 36:23KJV 1900
And it came to pass, thatwhen Jehudi had read three or four leaves, he cut it with the penknife, and cast itinto the fire that wason the hearth, until all the roll was consumed in the fire that wason the hearth.
- Jeremiah left to die in the mud
Jeremiah 38:6KJV 1900
Then took they Jeremiah, and cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah the son of Hammelech, that wasin the court of the prison: and they let down Jeremiah with cords. And in the dungeon there wasno water, but mire: so Jeremiah sunk in the mire.
- Jeremiah called a liar
Jeremiah 43:2KJV 1900
Then spake Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the proud men, saying unto Jeremiah, Thou speakest falsely: the Lordour God hath not sent thee to say, Go not into Egypt to sojourn there:
It is hard for us to imaging being able to endure such persecution for righteousness sake that others endured.
- Stephen stoned to death
- Andrew and Peter crucified upside down
- Polycarp - Because of his refusal to burn incense to the Roman Emperor was sentenced to burn at the stake. Tradition says that the flames did not kill him so he was stabbed to death.
- John Huss - Burned at the stake
- William Tyndale - Tyndale was choked to death while tied to the stake and then his dead body was burned.
How could they endure persecution and keep the faith? Their power was in their perspective.
- v.10 “for their’s is the kingdom of God.”
- Citizens of Heaven
- v. 12 “for great is your reward.”
- Reward - a payment for worthy acts - understood as tangible.
- Great - Remarkable or out of ordinary in degree, magnitude, or effect.
This perspective created a power of joy. Imagine having joy going through persecution. Notice, Jesus said:
- Blessed - twice
- Be exceeding glad - to be overjoyed.
As I mentioned Sunday morning - We should not pursue persecution but if in the course of us living out our faith, persecution comes, then we should have joy in the process.
"As a sequel to the book Peace Child, Don Richardson has written Lord’s of the Earth. He tells the story of Stan Dale, another missionary to Irian Jaya, Indonesia, who ministered to the Yali tribe in the snow mountains. The Yali had one of the strictest known religions of the world. For a tribe member to even question, much less disobey, one of its tenets brought instant death. There could never be any change or modification. The Yali had many sacred spots scattered throughout their territory. If even a small child were to crawl onto one of those sacred pieces of ground, he was considered defiled and cursed. To keep the whole village from being involved in that curse, the child would be thrown into the rushing Heluk River to drown and be washed downstream.
"When Stan Dale came with his wife and four children to that cannibalistic people he was not long tolerated. He was attacked one night and miraculously survived being shot with five arrows. After treatment in a hospital he immediately return to Yali. He worked unsuccessfully for several years, and the resentment and hatred of the tribal priest increased. One day as he, another missionary named Phil mAsters, and a Dani tribesmen named Yemu were facing what they knew was an imminent attack, the Yali suddenly came upon them. As the others ran for safety, San and Yemu remained back, hoping somehow to dissuade the Yali from their murderous plans. As Stan confronted his attackers, they shot him with dozens of arrows. As the arrows entered his flesh he would pull them out and break them in two. Eventually he no longer had the strength to pull the arrows out, but he remained standing.
"Yemu ran back to where Phil was standing, and Phil persuaded him to keep running. With his eyes fixed on Stan, who was still standing with some fifty arrows in his body, Phil remained where he was and was himself soon surrounded by warriors. The attack had begun with hilarity, but it turned to fear and desperation when they saw that Stan did not fall. There fear increased when it took nearly as many arrows to down Phil as it had Stan. They dismembered the bodies and scattered them about the forest in an attempt to prevent the resurrection of which they had heard the missionaries speak. But the back of their “unbreakable” pagan system was broken, and through the witness of the two men who were not afraid to die in order to bring the gospel to this lost and violent people, The Yali tribe and many others in the surrounding territory came to jesus Christ. Even Stan’s fifth child, a baby at the time of this incident, was saved reading the book about his father.
"Stan and Phil were not rewarded in this life with the things of this life. But they seem to have been double-blesses with the comfort, strength, and joy of their indwelling Lord - and the absolute confidence that their sacrifice for Him would not be in vain."