9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Jesus flips societal and economic prejudices on their heads. He says the poor, the needy, the hungry, the mourners, the peaceful … they are the blessed ones. They are blessed because they see their need for God. These are causes to run and cling to God, to have their rewards in heaven, not on this earth, to be heard, to be filled. Those who run to God instead of away from Him, they are truly blessed.
Even those who are persecuted are blessed. Really? Can you imagine? Not many of us can. Above is a picture of Christians in Iraq being murdered for their faith. But Jesus says that it is a good thing when you are persecuted, because when you are persecuted for the truth, you know you are doing the right thing. Also, when you are persecuted your reward is in heaven, not here. Thank God our reward is not so temporary or changing. Our reward is God, and He is in Heaven. Men have always resisted God’s Word and prophets, persecuting those who bring truth. And if you are facing this persecution because you are speaking God’s truth, you are to be glad and rejoice! You are blessed.
I can’t remember the last time I faced persecution. Why is that? Is it because I don’t witness enough? Yes. Is it because I’ve become stagnant and stuck in my faith? Sometimes. Is it because of where I live? Mostly. When I lived in Asia, witnessing to college kids, watching them be abandoned and disowned by their families, I got to see persecution first-hand. This teaching of Jesus does not seem to be just for the early Christians, but for everyone. Truth spoken into cultures that are not God-centered and God-fearing will result in persecution. I’m missing this in my life, and this needs to be an issue of prayer and self-evaluation.
The bottom line is this – I don’t naturally want to be poor in spirit, meek, mournful, hungry, thirsty, or persecuted. I naturally and mostly want to be comfortable, secure, happy, and live a predictable life. In other words, I want to be my own God, in control of my life, be the source of my own happiness, and never need others to help me. This is the lie that needs to be fought daily.
This is why the American dream and the billions of dollars spent on marketing and advertising are so dangerous. I often believe it. I want the picket fence, my own house, two cars, 2 kids, comfort, ease, too much money …. I want Solomon’s problem – let me plumb the depths of riches and ease and see what happens. But here
13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Salt preserves but it also makes food taste more delicious. It enhances and amplifies what is already there. But I am worthless if I lose my “saltiness.” How can we lose our saltiness? By pursuing an easy, comfortable, predictable, secure life. By being safe. By valuing my dreams and wants and needs over God’s call for my life. In other words, by become lukewarm. In other words, by pursuing the American dream of independence and comfort. I need to reach others with Jesus. He desires that all would come to repentance. I need to seek God’s truth and not mine. I need to shine God’s light, not mine. Others need to see Jesus, not me.
How am I shining my light? How am I pushing back the darkness? Where am I avoiding it? How can I shine my light more? By being filled with God’s Spirit. Make disciples of Jesus by telling them and showing them the Good News of Jesus. Doing good deeds to glorify God so that others will see and glorify God. Others need to see Jesus in me. My job is to get out of the way so that others may see Him.
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus came to reinforce and fulfill the Law. Jesus will see to it that all the righteous requirements of the Law are fulfilled in Himself (Romans 8:1-8). If I break God’s laws and teach others to do the same, I will be called “least” in the Kingdom of Heaven. But if I practice and teach others to do the same, I will be called “great” in the Kingdom of Heaven. Really? Moses, David, Abraham, Joseph, Daniel … they are called “great” because they followed God’s commands and taught others to follow God’s commands. Do I do what Jesus says? What if I just followed His commands? What if I just believed Jesus, took Him at His Word and did what He said to do? Lord, let it be.
How am I breaking God’s laws? Through ignorance, disobedience, neglect, or laziness. Am I teaching others to break God’s laws? No, thank God. Am I practicing God’s laws and commands? Not well. What would be different if I were? I would be in the Word and in prayer much more. I’d be making disciples. I would be more joyful, generous, loving, open, honest, vulnerable …. I would what Jesus tells me to do – love the poor, serve the needy, be brutal about sin in my life…. So what now? Stay close to Jesus, read His Word, pray, worship, seek, ask, knock. Be filled with the Spirit.