Three things struck me when I read this final part of the Beatitudes. First, people who want to dismiss Jesus as nothing more than a good teacher will have to ignore verses 11 and 12. Verse 10 talks about those persecuted for the sake of righteousness. The next verse clearly connects that idea directly to Jesus. The persecution is on account of Jesus. So, Jesus is equating himself with righteousness. Verse 12 connects Jesus’ disciples with the Old Testament prophets which means Jesus is equating himself with God. This passage is one of many that make it impossible to so easily dismiss Jesus. He just didn’t leave that as an option.
The second thing was really a baffled question. Why are so many American Christians surprised when their faith makes people mad at them? Jesus clearly states here and in other verses that, if you are truly living for him, the world will retaliate. However much we may wish it otherwise, we do not live in a Christian world. To further compound that problem, if we are truly living as God calls us to live, we are fundamentally different from the rest of the world. And, despite all the lip service given to tolerance, the world does not respond kindly to differences.
The third thing that struck me was that the “reward” for persecution is the same as for being poor in spirit. The last beatitude loops back to the first. Is this a rhetorical device used to tie things up? Perhaps it is but it is meaningful nonetheless. We aren’t meant to view the Beatitudes as a disjointed list or a menu to choose from. They are a single unit, a description of what ALL Christians are supposed to be. Taken together, these verses show what God wants us to grow to be, the way He wants us to react to the world He sends us into. It would be a daunting prospect except all we have to do is follow Jesus. God will take care of the rest. In such infinitely capable hands, blessed are we indeed.