“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “
Jesus our Lord calls those who suffer persecution happy. He gives them possession of his kingdom. But not all suffering is blessed. What kind of suffering is blessed?
First, it is not
1. suffering for crimes. When you commit theft and are punished for it, that is not righteous suffering.
2. suffering for doing evil such as being a busy body. Being hated for being a nosy meddler in other people's affairs is not righteous suffering. We should not be bishops in someone else's diocese.
3. suffering to boost our pride or ego. If you are serving a good cause for your own name sake, it is not blessed persecution. You already have your reward in full.
4. suffering that we intentionally try to bring ourselves- a martyrs complex. We don't chase after persecution, doing things for the sole hope of being persecuted. God is sovereign over persecution and trying to force his hand is a tempting of the Lord.
Rather Blessed Suffering is suffering for the sake of Righteousness.
So how do you know if you are suffering for righteousness sake?
1. God alone is truly righteous, so he determines what is a good cause.
2. God’s law is righteous, therefore any good cause must conform to his law.
3. God’s wisdom is needed to know a righteous cause. (Proverbs 2:9) You can have zeal for the law of God but without wisdom in knowing when and how to apply it, you can become like the Jews who had zeal for the law but no knowledge and therefore they crucified Christ and persecuted the apostles.
A lack of wisdom may cause you to become zealous for causes that are not the causes of righteousness. There is a temptation to become more passionate about causes that are really preferences than actual righteousness. We become evangelists for causes that are not the cause of Christ and then become a busybody or worse a murderer.
Zeal without knowledge has wreaked havoc throughout history, often having lasting unintended but devastating consequences. For example, Jim Brown in the 1800s had a zeal to end slavery. Brown advocated the use of armed insurrection to overthrow the institution of slavery. In October of 1859, Brown led a raid on the federal armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (today West Virginia), intending to start a slave liberation movement that would spread south. He quickly took the armory, but seven people were killed, the first one dead being Hayward Shepherd, a recently freed black man shot by one of Brown’s men. The people he intended to help were made worse off. The slave revolt didn’t happen but what did happen was that this assault aggravated the division in the States and led to succession, the bloodiest war on American soil, a ripping asunder any notion of the United States as federated under the US constitution, bringing terrorism onto the south that left it impoverished for decades and putting in terrible policies which have bloated the federal government, centralizing power in the hands of a few. Furthermore, the abolitionists full of zeal became feminists who became prohibitionists. Prohibition was a complete disaster and has harmed the cause for biblical law to be the foundation of civil government for a century. Feminism still destroys everything it touches. Zeal without wisdom and obedience to the law of God is dangerous.
A righteous cause has God as it author, his word as the standard, and his wisdom in applying it. Furthermore it has his glory as its end or purpose. Therefore we face blessed suffering when we suffer for a righteous cause. We can rejoice and be glad when we face this type of suffering.
What causes are you facing suffering for? It is because you proud and zealous, lacking wisdom. Is it because you are zealous for causes that are not the Lord's? Is it because you are doing evil? Is it because you rush to judgement? If it is is this type of suffering than weep and mourn because you are storing up judgement.
But if you are boldly, faithfully, joyfully, persistently and obediently following the cause of Christ and you suffer, rejoice and be glad. Your reward is bountiful and stored in a place where no persecutor can get to take it away.
Psalm 118 says "Open to me the gates of righteousness; I shall enter through them, I shall give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord; The righteous will enter through it. I shall give thanks to You, for You have answered me, And You have become my salvation. The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief corner stone. This is the Lord’s doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it."
The Stone that was rejected, Jesus Christ the crucified one, has defeated the Serpent and accuser of the brethren, and he has overcome the world, and atoned for our sins. He who died is now alive and is that chief cornerstone upon which we who are his are being molded and shaped into building blocks built into the holy temple of our God.
Jesus Christ, wonderful counselor, who was unjustly accused before a hypocritical court of liars and tyrants now sits enthroned over all the nations in the heavenly courtroom from which he dispenses justice and mercy. The Messiah who the Jews handed over to pagan gentiles to be mocked, spit upon, and beaten is now worshiped in reverence and holy fear by both gentiles and Jews alike, together in one body, the church, the holy Israel of God. The Great Physician who was mercilessly scourged, bruised, and broken, now offers mercy, healing and comfort to the broken and downtrodden.
The holy lamb of God who could not carry his own cross but was helped by Simon from Cyrene who was forced to bear the cross for him has now enabled millions to voluntarily take up their crosses daily to follow him through suffering, persecution and even to death. The innocent and righteous one who crucified along with two thieves was numbered among sinners now takes sinners like you and I and numbers them with the saints. The one arrayed in glory before time began who had his garments gambled over and divided among the heathens now clothes heathens in righteousness, garments unstained by sin.
The prince of peace who was crucified with the inscription charging him as “the King of the Jews” now sits at the right hand of God as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The Son of God who cried out "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me" now is exalted by God the Father above every nation, every throne, and all of creation. One day every knee will bow and every tongue confess him as Lord. The one called Emmanuel, God with us, who was acquainted with grief and sorrow is now the great high priest who beckons us to draw near to find mercy and grace in time of trouble. The Son of Man who breathed his last breath and died is now alive. The grave could not hold him. He is alive. He is the resurrection and the life.
(An excerpt from a sermon on Mark 16 preached 4/21/19 at Sovereign King Church.)
God often chooses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. And the weak things of the world to shame the strong. If the weak and foolish are faithful, how much more shameful is it that the wise and the strong are rebellious to the King. It is the faithfulness of the lowly and despised that God uses to rebuke those who should know better.
We can see this dichotomy well in John 19:25
Therefore the soldiers did these things. But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
In this verse we read “Therefore the soldiers did these things.” What things? They had mocked Jesus Christ. They stripped him of his clothes leaving him shamefully exposed. They then piddled around with his clothes, playing a game of chance for his tunic. These men were soldiers. They are hard. These are men who know how to wield a weapon. They have seen their fair share of violence. They are well-trained fighting machines. We wouldn’t call them effeminate. Yet, here are these battle-hardened men fiddling with trinkets as the Creator God in the flesh hangs on the cross. This is the central point, the center stage, of all of history. The King of the Universe is before them and these men are fighting over used clothing. They are consumed with a desire for earthly garb rather than being consumed with faith in the Son of God and a passion for justice.
John 19:25 says "therefore the soldiers did these things BUT…" The word "but" is used to contrast what came before with what comes after. "But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene."
Men who should protect and fight for justice are consumed with trinkets and partake in the grossest injustice of the word but standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdalene. What you see here are the tender affection of these pious women to our Lord Jesus in his sufferings. When all his disciples, except John, has forsaken him, they stood by his cross. These dear faithful women are standing by the cross.
There is a sharp disparity between the strength of soldiers and weakness of women in this verse. The soldiers, Pilate, the Jews, and even the apostles who fled are disgraced by the faith of the women. While Jesus hangs naked exposed to the shame of the world, God uses the weak to shame the strong.
God graciously bestowed honor on the women here in this passage by having them at the cross. Women faithfully serving God as women not usurping what God has called them to is glorious. And God uses it to shame the men. There are precious women who faithfully serve God looking to the cross, treasuring Jesus Christ, and pouring out tears of love on him while too many men are content to tinker around with the things of this world.
Men, let us not be these Roman soldiers, strong on the outside but inside weak and pathetic good for nothings who play games while eternity hangs in the balance. Don’t be content to trifle with trinkets while the true treasure is near. Let us not be put to shame while women and children are faithful to God.
Dear God, give us repentance now for having ever been contempt playing with junk rather than serving your son.
John 19:5 Jesus then came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold, the Man!”
Behold, the Man: Here he is beaten and bruised. The plowers plowed upon him back: they made long their furrows. He has given his back to the smiters, and his cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: he hid not his face from shame and spitting.
Behold the Man: he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
Behold the Man: He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Behold the Man: His appearance was marred more than any man And His form more than the sons of men.
Notice how the Mob responds. They are not satisfied with the torture of Christ. Here is a man before them who has been beaten beyond recognition and they are not happy. They did not have compassion upon him. Vs 6 So when the chief priests and the officers saw Him, they cried out saying, “Crucify, crucify!”
They had no mercy upon him. This is according to our Father’s plan. God spared no mercy on His son so that you and I may have the mercy of God. The Father’s wrath was not satisfied until the son of God was crucified and dead. Until Christ bore the curse of hanging on the tree, the curse of the law, God the Father was not satisfied. Be mindful of how wicked our sin is. Scourging was not enough to cover our sin and shame. That favorite sin that you hang on to requires the full wrath of God poured out on Christ on the cross. The only thing that can satisfy the divine wrath of God for your sin is the complete suffering and death of Christ. They yelled Crucify Him. Crucify Him. But Our sin yelled Crucify louder than the mob that day.