Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on account of me. Rejoice and be glad, because your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
An Aroma of Christ’s Presence
This final section of the Beatitudes excites me. Some people see it as a repeat of the one before, but I see a significant difference. Jesus says “persecuted…on account of me.” Why would anyone ever persecute you on account of Jesus? Why would anyone ever revile you, speak all kinds of evil about you, on his account?
The only explanation that makes sense to me is that somehow, I have come to remind them of Jesus. They see me, and react to me as though I were him. Jesus said to his followers in John 15:18, “if the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” Paul tells us in 2 Cor. 2:15-16, “we are an aroma of Christ’s presence among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.”
You Look Like Jesus
There will be those in our world who reject Jesus and his way, and then anything or anyone who reminds them of Jesus. If you have stood as a beggar before the gate of the kingdom of heaven, owned your need, grieved its brokenness, surrendered to the King, and lived with a longing to be all that God created you to be, turned to people in your world with mercy, loved them wholeheartedly without agenda, sought to overcome the barriers that divide, and worked to make the world more like the place that God created it to be…somewhere in that living, God will have so transformed your life that you will begin to remind people of Jesus, and some will persecute you for no other reason.
But there will be other people in your world who taste something of God’s presence in your life, they sense a fragrance of Jesus’ real presence coming through you, and they will be drawn to know the Jesus that you follow. It’s the other side of the coin.
Do you remember μακαριος? In early Greek it meant to share something of the life that was with the gods. When we have learned to live in the posture of the Beatitudes, our lives indeed take on something of the life that is in God himself, and we are truly blessed—μακαριος.
If we signed up for this Christian gig as fire insurance to keep us from going to hell, or as assurance of prosperity and peace in this world, then being persecuted on Jesus’ account will not sound very inviting. But if we entered into this kingdom to follow Jesus as King and to become like him, then being persecuted on his account will be the signal that we have indeed had our longings met—we have hungered and thirsted for righteousness—and we have been filled.
The Impact of the Beatitudes on My Life
I see the Beatitudes as a whole, and the first four in particular, as being a key for meeting each new issue that Jesus brings up in The Sermon on the Mount.
As I read the passage, I find myself being constantly faced with my challenges; holding onto anger with other people, discounting the value of certain people in my world, lusting, feeling like my simple yes or no will not be enough to convince people of my intent, doing things to impress people with my spirituality, not loving my enemies, wanting the guy that cut me off in traffic to get a ticket, worrying about my basic needs, not persisting in my prayers, passing judgment on people simply because they are different, feeling uneasy over all those folks who seem content to walk a different path with so much confidence, and then the failure to actually practice the teaching of Jesus instead of just reading them.
For me, faced with the reality of all the areas in which I still fall short, the first four Beatitudes beckon me to come back and work through the process all over again with each new issue; owning my brokenness, grieving that after all God has done I still fall short, refusing to just try harder I surrender, and confess my longing for my life to match that for which God created me in the first place.
Therefore, the Beatitudes fill me with hope that I am involved in a process of sanctification with God that he will ultimately complete.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the final post in a series exploring the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12. Read the last post on “The Beatitudes: Blessed Are the Persecuted.”
The series is based on Dr. Bill Fowler’s Gilhousen Lecture given July 14, 2020 at YTI. Watch the entire lecture on Facebook here.