The Sermon on the Mount! Jesus begins with the Beatitudes, and the life he describes is nothing like that pursued by the world. Consider those whom Jesus speaks about: the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers. And, then, there is this: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (5:12). A couple thoughts. One, when we suffer for our faith, if I can put it this way, Jesus tells us that such suffering is his fault – “on my account.” That seems an odd thought, doesn’t it? But Jesus doesn’t stop there. Whatever suffering we know in this world will be nothing compared to our reward in heaven.
Paul put it this way: “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17,18). What encouragement! What hope! What assurance! Though so afflicted and weighed down, how we rejoice!
Rejoice, O pure in heart,
rejoice, give thanks, and sing;
your festal banner wave on high,
the cross of Christ your King.
Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice, give thanks, and sing! --E. H. Plumptre (1865)