Blessed are you when they revile you … Rejoice and be exceedingly glad …

We now come to the last beatitude. We see that it is an expansion of the previous beatitude of persecution for righteousness sake. There the reward is the Kingdom of Heaven. The closer we are to persecution that is brought about by our walk with Jesus, the closer we are to the Kingdom and the more real it becomes to us. Here in this last beatitude, two things stand out. First, Jesus makes this last beatitude personal. He is, so to speak, turning His face directly towards us and addresses us with a personal “Blessed are you.” He is telling you (me!) directly that if you (I!) take to heart the beatitudes and live by them, you (I) will not escape persecution. Second, He promises great joy that is commensurate with the persecution. I have seen Christians from Israel and Pakistan who know more persecution than anyone else I have ever met. They have truer deep down joy than those Christians that manage to escape persecution. They live closer to the Kingdom though they live with incredible oppression. It is in the things we fear the most that we find Jesus and the Kingdom of God!

I have often wondered over the irony of the first beatitude and the last. They form a parenthesis around the rest in the middle (this is called an inclusio). In the first, those who are truly poor in spirit believe with all of their hearts that they are not spiritual. They feel their spiritual poverty and neediness, and are not impressed with their own righteousness (from within). In the last, they are considered spiritually warped and unrighteous by their persecutors (from without)! The irony is that both they and their persecutors believe that they are not righteous! Yet Christians that consciously live by the beatitudes do not despair because they know that their righteousness is in Christ. Moreover, in some hidden place in the darkened hearts of their persecutors, they know they are persecuting someone more righteous than they are out of envy, fear, and hatred. Jesus wants to touch that darkened part of the hearts of persecutors by the sacrifice of His disciples. After all, none of us are very far from being persecutors! Have you ever felt envious of those who are more righteous than you are? I have!

Brothers and sisters, we have worked through the beatitudes together. May Jesus give us all a heart to actually live by them!

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