Lesson 63—April 26, 2015
Real Persecution-Part 2
Scripture: Matthew 5:10-12
Lesson Goal: To learn and better understand how a true follower of Jesus Christ should respond when faced with “real persecution.”
In Matthew 5:11, we find the continuing thought of verse 10. Central to both verses is the truth that those persecuted, because of their faith and loyalty to Christ, are blessed by God.
Please notice something of interest and significance in verse 11. In verses 3 through 10, Jesus spoke in third person, “those,” “blessed are those.” But in verse 11, Jesus used second person, “you,” “blessed are you.” There is no doubt that He is speaking directly to His disciples—His followers. Just as Jesus spoke to His followers on that day, His words speak truth to His followers of 2015.
As Jesus spoke these words, remember that His popularity had grown. Multitudes were coming from all areas and regions to witness His ministry and to see and hear Him. But just as His popularity had grown, so had His opposition. This opposition was determined to take whatever measures necessary to stop Him and to silence His voice. Jesus understood what this meant. Now He wants His followers to know and understand what this will mean for them in a personal way. Jesus knew that His popularity would give way to His own persecution, which would lead to His death. He wants His followers to understand that the same hostilities He faced they too will face.
During the past 62 weeks, we have answered many questions asked in our Life Focus lessons. Many of these questions have called us to answer prayerfully and truthfully. On occasion, we have also been asked not to answer quickly or casually. Today, I ask two of the most personal, probing, and important questions you will perhaps ever be challenged to answer.
Again not with vain repetition, but to help you understand the importance, I ask you to answer these questions prayerfully and honestly.
Question 1. How much do you love Jesus? How much do you really, truly love Jesus? Please write your answer only after prayerfully considering the question.
Question 2. What cost are you willing to pay to be a faithful, loyal follower of Jesus Christ? May I remind you that your salvation did not cost you a thing, but being a true and loyal follower of Jesus Christ can be very costly! Please answer after much prayer, thought, and meditation.
We noted a change in verse 11 from third person “those” (V10) to second person “you.” Another point of emphasis, found in a change from verse 10 to verse 11, is also worthy of consideration. Jesus said in verse 10, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,” but in verse 11 He states, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake” (emphasis added).
In verse 11, the Lord Jesus is teaching His followers that they specifically will be persecuted and mistreated simply because they are identified with Him. Because of their loyalty, they will be persecuted.
It is difficult for “twenty-first century, western civilization, United States of American folks” to grasp that from the time of Christ to this present day, people have been persecuted, jailed and killed because they were, and are, followers of Jesus Christ.
Without any commentary or explanation from this writer, please answer the following questions.
How soft is our faith in Christ?
How soft is your faith?
What does it mean to stand for Jesus?
If we find it difficult to be faithful and loyal as His followers in today’s environment, what may the future hold for us?
If persecution came to the King Himself, what should the servants of the King expect? (Please think about what is stated and the significance of this question.)
Please read 2 Timothy 3:12. Notice the word “all.”
Is there a relationship between the “you” of Matthew 5:11 and the “all” of 2 Timothy 3:12?
Along with the shift from third person, “those” in verse 10 to second person “you” in verse 11, and the comparison of “persecuted for righteousness’ sake” in verse 10 with “for My sake” in verse 11, please notice that the “blessed” of both verses is expounded upon in verse 12 to include “rejoice” and “be exceedingly glad.”
In fact, according to John Stott:
How did Jesus expect His disciples to react under persecution? Rejoice and be glad! We are not to retaliate like an unbeliever, nor sulk like a child, nor to lick our wounds in self-pity like a dog, nor just grin and bear it like a stoic. We are to rejoice! Why so? Partly because, Jesus added, “great is your reward in heaven.” We may lose everything on earth, but we shall inherit everything “in heaven.”
John MacArthur tells us that we should note in verses 3-9 that these beatitudes have to do with inner qualities, attitudes and spiritual character. In verses 10-12, we find Jesus speaking to external things that happen to His followers, but we also find what should be the true believers’ (followers) response to these external things (persecutions) that come into our lives.
Simple Truth Worthy of Thought
As difficult as it is to face persecution (the real persecution that Jesus spoke of and that the Old Testament prophets faced), perhaps even more difficult is understanding what a true believer’s response and reaction should be to real persecution. Jesus said our response should be “blessed, rejoicing, and extreme gladness.”
Real persecution includes the verbal insults that are hurled our way (V11). Greek “oneidizo” literally means “casting one’s teeth, to throw insults in the face of, to mock viciously.”
Can you remember some times in Jesus’ life when He endured such persecution “oneidizo”? Please support your answer with Scripture.
Real persecution involves the false accusations that are cast upon true believers. These verbal insults may be the words spoken directly to our faces with the intent to hurt and harm us; they may also be the false, evil words spoken against us in the secret places, primarily behind our backs. Please read Matthew 11:19.
The great Christian writer, Arthur Pink, stated: “It is a strong proof of human depravity that men’s curses and Christ’s blessing should meet on the same persons.”
Please explain this statement. When we (followers of Jesus) are persecuted for righteousness’ sake and for the cause of Christ, we are in some pretty good company.
As we move past the beatitudes, let us remember the words of Dwight Pentecost:
There is a studied contrast between the characteristics of the righteousness Christ demanded and those of the supposed righteousness of the Pharisees. Christ demanded that people recognize their need, but the Pharisees recognized no need. Christ required repentance, and the Pharisees denied any need for repentance. Christ required a demonstration of mercy; the Pharisees withheld mercy. Christ expected pure hearts; the Pharisees were concerned only with the externals of their religion. Christ instructed His followers to be peace makers, but the Pharisees only stirred up discord and strife. Christ prepared His followers for persecution; the Pharisees became some of the persecutors.
True righteousness is not about the doing of “stuff.” True righteousness is about the purity of our hearts which results in external actions that please and honor God.
To learn the ultimate truth concerning true righteousness, please read 2 Corinthians 5:21.
For a very special blessing, memorize 2 Corinthians 5:21.
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MacDonald, William. Believer’s Bible Commentary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995.
Pentecost, Dwight. The Words & Works of Jesus Christ. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981.
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Pink, Arthur. An Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount.” Grand Rapids: Baker, 1950.
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