“Blessed are you, when…” – Part 1
“Blessed are you, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” Matthew 5:11-12
Righteousness, truth and justice are not respected among those with evil intent in their hearts. It should come as no surprise that in the last days evil would become more bold and more unrestrained. The Pharisees hated Jesus with a passion. From the first day He stood up in the temple and began to read the scripture for that day, Isaiah 61:1-3.
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.” Isaiah 61:1-3
But He did not read the full passage and He did not finish the sentence of the second verse. He stopped with “To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD...” and He closed the book and sat down. That He sat down was more than just a tradition, it was an act of posturing Himself to speak as the oracle of God. He sat down to indicate His authority not as a servant who would never sit down in the king’s presence, but He sat down as the King before whom every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the Glory of God the Father.
He stood up to read as a man, as a teacher, as a Rabbi would do as a matter of tradition, but He sat down to speak as God, having all authority in the declaration of His Word.
What He said next changed the entire atmosphere of in the Synagogue that day. Here is the way Luke describes the moment.
“And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” Luke 4:16-21
The men in the Synagogue marveled at that moment and they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” Meaning, Isn’t this one of our local boys and what an audacious claim He is making? So Jesus said to them,
“You will surely say this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in Your country.’ ” Then He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the regionof Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”
Well, if Jesus wanted to win friends or curry favor with these men, this was not the way to do it.
First, He spoke prophetically about what they would say to Him as He would one day hang on the cross being crucified for crimes He did not commit. In this He exposed their thoughts by telling them what they were thinking, as they wanted Him to perform some miracle for them, as entertainment, like the miracles He did in Capernaum. He knew their thoughts and spoke them out loud. That, no doubt, began to set their teeth on edge. But He went on to say.
“Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country.
He said this because He knew they were seeking to dismiss Him as just being Joseph’s son and therefore no one of consequence from whom they should receive counsel. Even though He was speaking to them prophetically they could not, or rather, would not receive His Words.
From their lofty positions in the Synagogue He was nothing more to them than a commoner. But, He did not stop there, but continued, recounting the stories they all knew of Elijah and Elisha, the prophets. In their day who were sent by God to heal and to minister to people who were considered outcasts and irrelevant to them, people beneath them who were to be shunned and avoided. In the case of Elijah it was to a woman of Zarephath, not a Jew, outside of the covenants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. For Elisha it was Naaman the Syrian, a heathen who was cleansed by obeying the Word of the prophet.
Now that was the last straw. He was accusing them of being unworthy of God’s grace and provision and these people who they considered beneath them, were getting the benefit of the promises of God while they were being ignored.
“So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff. Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way.” Luke 4:23-30
They knew His words and the miracles He was doing would be more compelling to the people than the constraints of their system of demands and sacrifices (money making schemes) they were imposing on the people, so they had to get rid of Him. If the people followed Him and believed that He was the Son of God, their extortions, hypocrisies and manipulations would be rejected.
So they tried to kill Him that day, but they failed because in their rage they didn’t notice when He walked through the crowd of them and went on His way.
And so it is with all of us who choose to live righteously and holy in the midst of ungodly people. They will reject us, even persecute us and say all manner of evil against us falsely for the sake of Jesus Christ, because we are not ashamed to own that we belong to Him. But we should let these be an occasion for rejoicing among us because we are blessed. In blessing God will bless us. He will not forget us. He will deliver us, and He will, in due time, lift us up.
So fret no, fear not and take no thought for your life. God will provide, protect and defend you.
“You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the LORD, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the LORD is with you.” And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem bowed before the LORD, worshiping the LORD.” 2 Chronicles 20:17-18
Yes, there are forces arrayed against us, poised and ready to fight. But we will follow the leading of the Lord and worship Him, keeping our hearts and minds on Him. Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, Who for the Joy that was set before Him, endured the cross despising the shame and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Now hear this!
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…” Ephesians 2:4-6
We are seated together with Jesus at the right hand of God, not as servants but as co-rulers, kings and priest unto our God.
“And have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.” Revelation 5:10
Standing, kneeling, dancing, jumping, laying prostrate before God are all postures of Worship and it is good and right that we should do all of them. But, when it comes to us taking our place before the world, we sit down with Jesus to declare His authority, majesty, dominion and power.
Final Word—nothing we do will have meaning or purpose, nothing we do will bring the will of God to bear on any situation or fulfill our calling as His ambassadors if it is not motivated and carried out by love. We are seated together with Him in the Spirit now in order to mirror what He does now here on the earth. As He is (in Heaven) so are we in this world.
“Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.” 1 John 4:17