Merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers. Jesus looked at his disciples, deep into their hearts, and offers his heart, his work, his love, his blessing. (See yesterday’s post for the start of this list)
But then the list gets really really hard. Because Christ followers are dying right now. I’ll be more accurate. They are being killed right now.
Because of Jesus.
Because they decided, somewhere, somehow, to identify with Jesus, they are being killed and harassed and robbed and tortured and exiled.
Jesus was clear. Being identified with Him is dangerous.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. [Matthew 5:11-12]
And then, a couple years later, he was insulted, he was lied about, he was persecuted, and he was killed. He described, ahead of time, what happened to him.
Of course, this accuracy in description makes sense.
1. He speaks historically about what only he would know. He says to rejoice because there will be a great reward in heaven, because the prophets were persecuted and, he implies, they got a great reward in heaven. How would Jesus know that? He was there when they got the reward.
2. He speaks predictively about what only he would know. He says to rejoice because there will be a great reward in heaven which, Paul says, happens to Jesus. According to Philippians 2:5-11, He (Jesus) willingly “became obedient to death.” God then lifted him up.
But there is a condition.
The persecution comes “because of me.”
Sometimes we decide what Jesus would like. We think that He would really like it if we told people to stay off the lawn he made, for example. We don’t ask him, we just decide. When people get mad, we think they’re mad at him.
They are mad at us deciding for him and for them what he is saying.
Just let him speak. Because in the middle of all that we’ve layered on, there is still Jesus’ clear message. Relationship with God is broken. The way forward is to turn to the foolishness of the cross. Our righteousness, holiness and redemption are from Christ and can be found by turning to him. Not to ourselves and our own rules and understandings and struggles. We have freedom in Christ.