Bible Society of South Africa

What is knowing Jesus worth to you? - 12 June 2024

By Ewald Schmidt

Bible text(s)

10Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires;

the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them!

11“Happy are you when people insult you and persecute you and tell all kinds of evil lies against you because you are my followers. 12Be happy and glad, for a great reward is kept for you in heaven. This is how the prophets who lived before you were persecuted.

Matthew 5:10-12GNBOpen in Bible reader

When times are good, friends are plenty. Ecclesiastes 5:11 states: “As goods increase, so do those who consume them.” I see the same tendency is true in the journey of faith, following Christ. When Jesus fed the multitude with bread and fish, there were more than 10 000 people to enjoy the abundance of blessings. But when Jesus was crucified, there were only a handful of followers supporting him around the cross. It brings me to the question: what does it ask of us to be disciples of Jesus? People are much more inclined to ask: what is in it for me? What benefits do I gain when I follow Jesus? We love to hear messages of healing, blessing, hope and having a future. Scripture like today’s (Matthew 5:10-12) is passed over by a lot of readers of the Bible.

Jesus teaches us the principles of discipleship in the Sermon on the Mount. He warns that it will not always be easy to follow him. We receive the grace of God freely, we cannot contribute to it in any way. We have seen this in the first beatitude – when we are poor in spirit, we receive the kingdom of God. But when we commit our lives to follow Christ, it will be a costly decision. We are called to be willing to suffer for Christ. Jesus has stated it clearly in Mark 8:34 – when we want to follow him, we have to deny ourselves and take up our own cross.

Right through the ages of human history, there has been a battle going on, between light and darkness, good and evil. When you choose to follow Christ and walk in his light, you will experience trials, tribulation and rejection. People will insult you for your beliefs. They will tell you how outdated your morals and principles are. When we face the insults and scorn of our neighbours, it may seem as if we are following the wrong path. We may even wonder if the difficult times are due to mistakes we made along the way. We may see tough times as God’s punishment. But Jesus wants to encourage us: this is to be expected. It may be affirmation that you are on the right path. Jesus says to rejoice and be glad when we face suffering for his sake. You will be rewarded in heaven.

When we read this verse, however, it is fitting to caution believers to explore their hearts and deeds. Are you suffering because you did something wrong or mistreated someone? This is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. Make sure that your heart is pure in your intentions, words and deeds towards other people. Make sure that your life bears testimony to the love of Christ. When you suffer whilst doing the right thing, rejoice and be glad. God will help you to endure.

Prayer: Lord, it is not always easy to follow you in this world. Sometimes, I have to make decisions going against my grain, sometimes I have to follow where others are scorning and attacking my beliefs. Please guide me, in your wisdom, to make the right choices in life and grant me the mercy to endure when suffering comes my way. Amen

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