The Beatitudes: Blessed are the Persecuted

Matthew 5.1-12 – Beatitudes
We sometimes talk about the last hurrah! – squeezing in that last bit of something good. Like when Indian Summer comes in the fall, that last bit of warm weather before winter settles in on us – that is the last hurrah of summer.

What we have come to know as Palm Sunday is a last hurrah. Except the followers of Jesus were not looking for what came next. Jesus tried to prepare them. Even moments later, following the people’s praises, the Gospel of Luke reports that as Jesus “approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ”If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.”

The last hurrah … or in this case the last “Hosanna!” quickly turns to “Crucify him!” “Crucify him!”

The last “Hosanna” meaning “Lord save!” These cries of hope soon turned from seeking salvation to seeking death, the death of the one they hailed King.

Where did all his supporters go? Now they were no where to be seen. There was no one to stand up and defend him – no visible supporters; no audible praises are to be heard now.

Peter promises to never deny Christ, to never disown him. He says, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” Peter promises to be persecuted for righteousness sake.

But even though Jesus says he has prayed for Peter that his faith may not fail, Peter cannot stay awake to pray with Jesus. And just as Jesus foretells, as Jesus is arrested, Peter follows at a distance. He enters the courtyard where a servant girl recognizes him, “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about, Peter says. And Peter skittishly retreats out into the entryway.

The servant girl sees Peter again, she tells those standing around, ‘This fellow is one of them.” Again Peter denies.

Then others say, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” And Peter calls down curses upon himself, and swears to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”

And the rooster crows …

Have you ever heard the rooster crow? How many times have we denied our association with Christ or kingdom belief? Maybe we are not even threatened with persecution, with physical harm; but just the threat of people’s disapproval, just the threat of stating what is not the popular choice, maybe what is not politically correct or socially acceptable.

I remember as a high school student, in a psychology class being the student picked out in the room to respond to a question, because the teacher knew what church I went to and he knew the response he was looking for.

I remember as a college student, sitting in a sociology class, listening to a disgruntled former Christian/church go-er, shared his mystic spiritual experiences and then gave his tainted definition of what Christianity is. Do you sit there and let him influence this entire class of students who are at an impressionable age … or do you risk speaking up?

What do you remember? Who has asked you questions? Who has asked for your opinion, because they know you are a Christian? Did you arise to the occasion… or did you here the rooster crow?

Kirbyjohn Caldwell, a UMC pastor praying at the inaugeration of Pres. Bush prays, “respecting all other religions this prayer is humbly submitted in the name of Jesus Christ.” Rev. Caldwell dared to be politically incorrect!

In a recent Minnesota shooting a member of a church opens fire upon other church members because he is disgruntled with the direction the church is headed. Will the church risk standing up for the mission to which God has called us, even when those who are a part of us deny that call? Or will we hear the rooster crow?

Martin and Gracia Burnham, missionaries in the Philippines, were taken as hostages by a terrorist group. Martin explained the Gospel to the rebels. The Burnhams were cooperative and gracious as prisoners. Still they knew they may be killed; another American hostage had been beheaded shortly after their own abduction. Martin, age 42, had experienced a forewarning of his own death; he comforted and encouraged his wife:

“The Bible says to serve the Lord with gladness,” “Let’s go out all the way. Let’s serve him all the way with gladness.” The couple prayed together, recited Scripture verses they could remember, and sang. Then, taking advantage of one of the rare times Martin wasn’t chained to an soldier or to a tree, they rested in each other’s arms.

Later that same day the group was discovered by military ranger and Martin was killed in the crossfire. Gracie lived to tell the story.

“Let’s serve him all the way with gladness.” As the worldview around us shifts; as Christianity is questioned, labeled, misunderstood … we have a choice:

to serve Christ all the way with gladness OR
will we hear the rooster crow?

~Christians persecuted around the world
~Christians who are put in key positions/influential places
~all Christians wherever we may work or play

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