This week’s message is one of the most challenging to put together and deliver. It comes at a time when a few of our families are up against some significant health challenges and you are listening closely for hope, for a sign, for God to do something life changing. It comes at a time when some of you are on the fence about whether to go all-in and surrender your life to Jesus and this message will either assure you to go all-in or it may cause you to take pause.
In Matthew Chapter 5, verse 10, Jesus comes to the final beatitude in this sermon on the mount and he decides to end this section this way: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10)(NIV)
John the Baptist was born about the same time Jesus was. He was born to Elizabeth and Zachariah. God’s plan for John the Baptist is that he would prepare the way for Jesus earthly ministry. He would preach a message of repentance, calling people to turn their hearts back home to God. From the moment he was in his mother’s womb, God’s hand was on him, God’s spirit was in Him. He was a man who loved the fresh air of the outdoors. His clothes were made of camel’s hair. His food was locusts and wild honey. He stood out among the people. And people came from everywhere to hear him preach, confess their sins, be baptized by him in the Jordan River. He stirred up the religious leaders of his day, but most of all He pointed the world to Jesus.
But in Matthew Chapter 11, verse 2, the fresh air John the Baptist was used to, has been replaced by the stench of the dungeon of King Herod. His voice, that led so many to repentance and renewal has opened the door to his own prison cell.
Persecution takes many forms. A missionary in to the middle-east is imprisoned for preaching the gospel. A teenager finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time and she is arrested for being part of the crowd. A good man at work takes the hit for someone else’s mistake. A person goes on mission and contracts malaria. A pure and innocent young wife is infertile while an irresponsible teen is carrying a child she doesn’t want. A good mother and wife has cancer without a cure. A man of God (John) is sentenced to death while a man of passion (Herod) is winking at his niece.
In this final beatitude, it is the affect persecution has on the believer that Jesus is addressing. Persecution often identifies unmet expectations. And unmet expectations bring questions.
“Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”
Persecution brings with it disappointment that often demands a change in command. When we don’t agree with the One who calls the shots, our reaction is sometimes the same as John’s. “Should we look for another?”
God has never turned away the questions of a sincere follower. Not Job’s, Not Abraham’s, not Moses’s, not Johns, Not Thomas’s, Not Mine and Not Yours!
The Kingdom of heaven is the answer to our suffering. Heaven is home. It’s home to those who are poor in spirit, who mourn the state of the world brought by sin, who hunger and thirst to be filled by Him. Who show mercy, who remain unmixed with the world, who bring a message of reconciliation to those around them and yes, are even persecuted for it.
It’s home where one day Revelation Chapter 21 verse 4 says “He will wipe every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away and He will make everything new.” (Revelation 21:4-5a)(NIV)
I look forward to unpacking this challenging teaching with you this weekend at 5:30pm Saturday and 10:30 a.m. Sunday. Remember, Saturday night is our Fall Kick-off and we will be meeting outdoors for worship and great food. Dave