#292 – WHO ARE PERSECUTED? (23/2/21)
Mathew 5:11. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
Yesterday we looked at what it means to be in the kingdom of heaven. That those in the Kingdom of heaven have a new allegiance and new hearts and a new attitude. But now Jesus shifts the emphasis. Jesus makes this personal.
Jesus says “blessed are you!”. Jesus is talking to the crowds. Some are there for the miracles, some for words of wisdom and teaching, some because they think he will bring in a new kingdom and set them free. But as we saw yesterday, Jesus is showing what the real kingdom, and what true citizens of this Kingdom are like; true citizens are prepared to suffer for their allegiance to Jesus.
Jesus now says that if you want to follow me you should expect persecution. Later in the sermon on the mount Jesus says.
Matthew 10: 34-39. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person's enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Jesus is reminding us of our change of allegiance, and the cost this brings; if you truly follow Jesus it will lead to direct confrontation and conflict with others.
As we have been looking at these Beatitudes, we have seen that each is a safeguard and balance to the one preceding. So with this one regarding persecution; if we are 'peacemakers' (the previous Beatitude), we may be tempted to compromise too much. Jesus is here stating that while we are to be peacemakers, we must never lose sight of our first allegiance to King Jesus; we are to be obedient to what he teaches even if this leads to persecution.
COMMUNITY GROUP STUDY - BLESSED ARE THE PERSECUTED
It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.
Can you remember a time when you were wrongly accused of doing something?
Introduction - please share in your group
This week we are finishing the Beatitudes with the final one.
Please read Matthew 5: 10-12.
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
In many ways, this is perhaps the most challenging Beatitude. It is hard to imagine how being persecuted is a sign of being blessed.
In finishing with this, Jesus brings the Beatitudes to a close. He concludes as he started by reminding his hearers and us that it is those who are followers of Jesus - those who are now in the 'kingdom of Heaven' should expect to be persecuted. Jesus emphasises that this is “You”.
These verses highlight 2 reasons for the persecution of people in the kingdom of heaven.
1. Righteousness sake: a great cause
Gods righteousness and justice - a life shaped by the Beatitudes is one that, turns the world's values on its head. When you but up against a different value system - you are going to face opposition
2. On Jesus account: a great name.
Please read John 15:20-21.
“Remember the word that I said to you: A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.”
The world, the flesh and the devil will attack those who are active citizens of the Kingdom of God. Our response is to be one of peacemaking, gratitude to God, prayer and love, even for our enemies! We are to respond by keeping our eyes on the 'reward' that we will receive.
1. Did God speak to you about anything in particular from Sunday's message or the blogs this week?
2. How, and from whom, could we expect persecution?
3. Jesus says our response to persecution is to “rejoice and be glad”. What makes it possible for a Christian to do this?
4. What other verses can you think of that link joy and persecution?
5. How can these help you and others?
6. What could your response be to the fact that Christians face persecution?