In case you missed it, we have walked through a series we called, 8 Simple Lines. 8 lines that Jesus said as he started to teach what has become known as the sermon on the mount – Jesus’ hillside chats.
These 8 simple lines are counter cultural, upside down, kind of reverse thinking when comparing them to conventional thought.
If there’s anything Jesus did and said that was upside down, it was his death. When does dying ever move anything forward? Death is a stoppage in play, permanently. But this week (Holy Week), as we focus on Jesus’ sacrifice for the world, we’re reminded that it’s his death that launches us forward into new life.
Here’s where we’ve been so far in this series…
The 1st line? Blessed are those who acknowledge their spiritual poverty…
The 2nd line? Blessed are those who grieve what is wrong and unjust…
The 3rd line? Blessed are the meek & humble, who stoop down to serve others…
The 4th line? Blessed are those who hunger & thirst…after God and his values…
The 5th line? Blessed are those who show mercy…because that is the way of grace…
The 6th line? Blessed are the pure in heart…they will see God…
The 7th line? Blessed are the peacemakers…they’re identified as children of God…
(these are all recapped in Sunday Conversations)
This last line is more than a line. It’s more like a paragraph. Jesus ends with a bang – the most upside down Beatitude of them all…
Before we read it…let me ask you…
Have you ever gotten in trouble for doing something good? Penalized for doing the right thing?
– Tried to break up a fight and end up in the Principal’s office anyways…
– Tried to stop a disaster, but you ended up filthy and messy just the same…
– Defended an innocent person or party, you got hurt in the process…
Even though you won’t benefit immediately or may get roughed up along the way…we are called to do good, to plant goodness, to plant Jesus, etc.
Galatians 6:9 says “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people…” (niv)
“So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all…” (msg)
With that in mind…the 8th and final simple line…
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
(it doesn’t end there)
“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.
Two things we notice:
– Just like the other lines…this is some backwards thinking…the most backwards of all of them
– There’s more than one line…it’s more like a paragraph…so this it’s either important or Jesus was longwinded. I’ll go with important.
Like every other line in this text/series we’ve asked the same question: Jesus, what are you trying to say…to them and to us?
Here are a few take aways…
Holy Trouble Makers
This is very consistent with Jesus’ other teaching we find in the gospels. He his constantly challenging us to live differently, to make a difference, to swim upstream (if you will), and to be counter cultural.
It’s almost like Jesus is saying “I want you to be Holy Trouble Makers”
There’s bad trouble and there’s good trouble. Better put, you get in trouble for doing bad things, rightfully so, but you also get in trouble doing good things.
Jesus is calling us to do good, even if it means we may get in trouble for it, or if the reward is not imminent.
I find it very interesting and fitting that this Beatitude about Persecution comes after the Beatitude about Peacemaking.
People who make peace, who fight for peace, who creatively and strategically manufacture peace are often the same people who are persecuted for it afterwards.
Martin Luther King was a good kind of trouble maker.
Mother Theresa was a good kind of trouble maker.
Clarence Jordan, a farmer/preacher/NT scholar, led a mixed race community in the 1940s. Against much opposition, he was determined to live out the Beatitudes and the nonviolent ways of Jesus that loved your enemy. He was a good kind of trouble maker.
We have lots of them today too.
When Jesus says, blessed are the persecuted, he’s saying, blessed are those who are willing to do what’s right, no matter what the cost.
Walter Bruggeman says something about this in his Lent reading guide, “Blessed is the church that does not easily come to terms with the present…knowing that the present reality is not good enough…God wants better. If you take that list of poor, hungry, weeping, persecuted, it means that the church is to be odd in the world, noticed in the community for walking to a different drummer.”
So be Holy Trouble Makers who walk to the beat of a different drummer.
Plant seeds of hope, peace, goodness, and all things pertaining to God’s Kingdom
What happens when and if we are persecuted? When and if we actually do get into some kind of trouble for doing good? For Jesus?
We are spreading and planting seeds of hope; seeds of goodness; seeds of peace; seeds of anything and all pertaining to God’s kingdom.
My Nonno (grandfather) used to make wine. And we had this press in the garage. He would squish those grapes to death…literally…they were not recognizable any longer. But soon after comes the wine. Soon after comes the drink.
There’s a mexican proverb goes like this, “They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.”
Pope Francis recently tweeted, “Jesus made Himself like the grain of wheat that falls to the ground and dies to give life. Our hope springs from that love-filled life.”
This is of course inspired by Jesus’ words in John 12:24 where he says, I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
These seeds grow into fruit that reflects the values of God’s Kingdom and the character of Jesus.
Jesus bookends the Beatitudes with the same promise “…for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven”
Poor, Hungry, Grieving, Persecuted…they all receive what is the most valuable – a place in God’s Kingdom.
In Good Company
This last thing from the Beatitudes might be my most favourite part of all 8 of them.
Eugene Peterson paraphrases it well… You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.
I love, love, love, love this.
You know the saying, “You are who you hang around with”. Jesus takes this a step further. If you live in this way, being a Holy Trouble maker, you will be in good company. You enter into a the ‘good’ crowd when you live out these 8 simple (not so simple) lines.
Who are they? All the people we read about in the scripture who risked reputation and safety to do good. All the people who have made a difference in history in the name of Jesus: the peacemakers, the pure in heart, the holy trouble makers.
And…Jesus…he himself the good company we are a part of when we live with no fear of pain, poverty, struggles, persecution, but with passion for peace, good, righteousness, and living out the values of God’s Kingdom.
People who live out these 8 simple lines are associated with the person who first said them – Jesus.
Jesus, more than any person, went around as a HOLY TROUBLE MAKER, knowing full well that he would die for his cause, but he did it anyway, because he knew what the seed of his death and persecution would turn into – the church – the kingdom of heaven living in us and around us.
Mother Therese (a previously mentioned holy trouble maker) pinned these words to a wall in her children’s home in Kolkata:
People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. LOVE THEM ANYWAY.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives, DO GOOD ANYWAY.
If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies, SUCCEED ANYWAY.
The good you do might be forgotten tomorrow, DO GOOD ANYWAY.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. BE HONEST ANYWAY.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight, BUILD ANYWAY.
People really need help but may attack you when you help them, HELP PEOPLE ANYWAY.
Give the world the best you have and you might get kicked in the teeth, GIVE THE WORLD THE BEST YOU’VE GOT ANYWAY.
Back to Jesus, who’s mission eventually killed him. He came anyway!
(We might say)
Jesus, they’re going to hurt you, spit on you, misunderstand you, and kill you…
I’M GOING TO LOVE THEM AND SERVE THEM ANYWAY!
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small(er) group discussion:
Have you ever gotten into trouble for doing good? What did that look like? Was it worth it?
What different ways can you use to describe persecution? Knowing that others are persecuted far worse for the cause of Jesus elsewhere, what does this word mean to you?
Why is it interesting that Peacemaking is followed by Persecution is Jesus’ Beatitudes?
If there was a good chance you’d get into some kind of trouble, are you passionate enough about doing what God has called you to do anyways? What kinds of things are worth pursuing with persecution on the horizon?
Can you think of any Holy Trouble makers in history? Recent or not so recent?
When Jesus says we’re in good company? How does that make you feel? How much are you willing to identify with Jesus and his mission?
Read and pray through Galatians 6:9 as you close out your conversation.
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For some extra challenge and inspiration, watch this video on the final Beatitude.