Our "Be Happy
Attitude" today is based on the incredible words of the 8th
Beatitude of Jesus Christ, "Blessed are those
who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of
heaven." (Matthew 5:10)
Jesus Christ was prophetic when He proclaimed these
words to the thousands of people on the lakeside hill of Galilee. This week is
known as Holy Week in all Christendom, where believers around the world
remember the persecution and passion of Jesus Christ. First there was the
falling away of His popular opinion ... then came His arrest and mock trial. He
was stripped ... He was flogged ... He was given a mock crown, one made of
thorns which pierced into his head. Then Jesus Christ was crucified with
thieves and He was buried.
He was "persecuted because of
righteousness." I believe that Jesus led by example. He wants us to know
that even when we are "righteous," when we do the right thing, we
will not always be applauded, but will even be condemned by the public, yes, even
February 9, 2001 was just another beautiful day in
the paradise of Hawaii as Captain Scott Waddell commanded is submarine through
the beautiful Pacific waters. It was a routine day with routine drills that his
crew had done a million times before; nothing was out of the ordinary. They had
a few guests on board who were civilians. When suddenly, as they made a rapid
ascent to the surface, they hit a Japanese fishing vessel, which sank and
killed nine young Japanese sailors. What a horrific tragedy! Commander Scott
Waddell had to deal with the responsibility of this tragedy. The grief and the
blame came from everywhere, Japan and America. It was overwhelming, but in
spite of the recommendations of his attorneys and advisors, Commander Waddell
decided he needed to do the right thing. He
would take responsibility for the actions because the tragedy took place under
his command. He decided he would apologize to them as best as he could. Today,
in his book entitled, "The Right Thing," he shares his testimony and
his incredible faith in God to help him through these incredible tough times.
Regardless of how good you are ... regardless of
how hard you try to do the right thing ... there are times in your life where
you are going to face persecution. It happens. Later in the same chapter
following the Beatitudes, Jesus Christ, in the Sermon on the Mount tells us
that: "The rain falls on the just and the unjust
alike." (Matthew 5:45) Bad things happen ... they happen to
"A willingness to accept continuous action."
Now the word "persecuted" is an
interesting word. In the Greek language the word "dioko," meaning
"persecuted," is in a special tense. The Greek language has fifty
different tenses. In the English vocabulary, we have only three tenses ...
past, present and future. And so the tense, which is used here, is actually a
passive perfect participle. To put it into English, it simply means a "willingness to accept a continuous action." And
that is the tense that Jesus used in this Beatitude, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness..."
The Puritans defined "righteousness" as
"ought-ness" ... that we "ought to
do" ... or as Commander Scott Waddell said, "I must do the
"Blessed are those who
are persecuted for doing the right thing (righteousness), for theirs is the
kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:10)
Jesus knew as He spoke these words, that He would
face persecution. Each of the Gospel writers tells about the last events of the
life of our Lord. Read their accounts of how on Palm Sunday Jesus entered
Jerusalem with a loud "Hosanna" from the crowds, but immediately
after Palm Sunday, He begins to experience His first persecution ... the swing
of popular opinion against Him. Read how He is then arrested and His mock trial
is held. He is flogged and a crown of thorns put on His head. He is stripped
naked; His garments are auctioned off ... basically gambled away. He is paraded
through the streets and mocked. Then Jesus Christ suffers the most horrific of
all persecution, He is crucified, He hangs on a cross between two thieves until
Persecution comes in different forms and in
different levels. Jesus experienced all of them from the least to the most
horrific persecution one can ever experience.
are those who are persecuted ... theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:10)
Each of us, at one time or another, experience the
least form of persecution, the falling away of popular opinion and criticism.
My children would say that they are being "persecuted" when their
friends criticize and put them down. They are both teens, of course, and as
teens the popular opinion and the admiration of their peers is probably the
most important thing in life. That is why they have to wear the right T-shirt. If
it doesn't have the right label on it, the tide of popular opinion fades
quickly. And, of course, the shoes ... you know ... they need to be the right
brand of shoes. Not just any shoes will do. I try to take them to K-Mart and I
say, "Here's a great pair of shoes, and they are only $9. They look
identical to this pair of shoes that you want for $50. What's the
Money, a lot of money, but more than that, the one
with $50 have a certain name on it. And they want that name so that they have that popular opinion. I teach them constantly
that popular opinion comes and goes. If all you do is seek immediate
popularity, you are only a follower. The leaders will never have immediate
popularity, but they will have ultimate respect.
And I teach them that they have to make decisions in life. The choice is immediate popularity or ultimate respect.
The persecution of Jesus began when the popular
opinion swung against Him. Then His persecution became one of horrendous shame
as He was arrested, tried like a criminal, and stripped naked.
There are those who have suffered in this same
manner, treated so shamefully by other human beings. It is difficult to imagine
what people have endured, and endure today, through such torture and abuse.
I remember as a young man listening to Corrie ten
Boom, who came often to our home and she spoke here in church on numerous
occasions. She delivered her unforgettable messages in what is our Arboretum
today. (It was used as our worship center before the Cathedral was built.) I'll
never forget the time when she was here and I had just graduated from college.
Now that I was a seminary student, I was reading scripture in the morning
worship service. This was in 1976. I have a photo that was taken with Corrie
ten Boom, where my hair, in the picture is long, flowing al the way to my
shoulders with a little flip on the end. (That's the truth).
I admired this older woman, a saint who had
suffered so much. And I shall never forget how Corrie ten Boom shared with our
congregation about her experiences in the Holocaust. Her family tried to save
the Jews. As they would come through their town in The Netherlands, Corrie and
her family would hide them. They were part of the underground that saved
thousands of Jews. But ultimately Corrie's family was found out and they were
captured. I remember how Corrie told about the most humiliating and the most
horrendous thing for her in the entire Holocaust experience. She and the other
women prisoners would be stripped naked, and forced to stand before the captors,
not once, not twice, not three times, but many, many times. And Corrie said
every single time it was worse. It was so humiliating, so degrading. She said,
"Finally, it dawned on me that this happened to Jesus too, and if this
could happen to Jesus, and Jesus is my example ... and now it is happening to me, then I am simply doing what Jesus did."
And she said, "I know that Jesus gave me that thought and it gave me
peace. It gave me comfort and I could bear the shame and cruel treatment."
When Jesus Christ gave us those words,
"Blessed are those who are persecuted ..." "willingly accepting this continual action of tough times,"
and do it for righteousness ... then we receive the promise that "We will inherit the kingdom of God." Yes, then
we will receive the special blessing of the presence of God. And we will know a
peace that only comes from God.
Jesus experienced the persecution of the change of
popular opinion, the persecution of the shame of being arrested and stripped
naked, and then the persecution became violent as the beating and flogging
The name and face of Private Jessica Lynch has been
on all the news this week. I think we need to applaud the young men and women
who saved this incredible soldier of ours. It is amazing that so many people realize
what is the right thing to do, then will take action to do it! Private Lynch would still be in the hospital if she wasn't dead by
now, except for one Iraqi who went to visit his wife, a nurse, in the hospital.
While he is in the hospital, he hears about this American, a captive, and he
goes to look through her window and sees the Iraqi commander beating her. His
heart breaks and he walks six miles ... six miles through war-infested roads, to get to our troops and tell them about Private
Lynch. If that is not enough to risk his own life and the life of his family,
he walks back through this war torn area again to get information, to become an
inside spy, if you will, to save this woman. Then he walks back again and
provides all the information to rescue her. Without his heroic action, she
would still be there! He did the right thing!
"Blessed are those who
are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of
heaven." (Matthew 5:10)
Jesus was beaten and bruised as He was paraded
through the streets. "The King of the Jews." They threw a purple robe
on Him, as a joke. Then they took a crown of thorns and jammed it unto His
head. There is no doubt, whatsoever, that the blood streamed down His face. It
would be in His eyes, almost blinding Him. He would taste His own blood as it
rolled over His lips. As they crucified Him they wanted everyone to know that
there is no king of Israel ... there is no king of the Jews ... there is only
one king and his name is Caesar.
But little did they know that you cannot rule by
persecution. You cannot rule with fear. And Jesus rules instead with love of the highest dimension. Today, 2000 years
later, we celebrate the victory of Jesus! He conquered the grave. Jesus Christ conquered death and He is alive! And so
today we can conquer the persecutions that come our way.
Easter is coming! Death cannot prevail! Life
prevails! Today we travel through the wilderness of living with its challenges,
with its different kinds of persecution, and struggles. Yes, these are tough
times. But we know that Jesus Christ is the greatest leader of all because He
leads by example. He suffered. No one ever suffered
more ... no one will ever suffer more. And so we know that we will get
through. We will find the tremendous comfort and peace of His mercy in our
Today make a stand for Jesus Christ.
Stand up and show that you are ready to accept His
Holy Spirit of God to carry you through your challenging times.
Stand up for the conviction of truth!
Stand up for the reality of righteousness!
Stand up to receive your special blessing of peace from God.
Dear Jesus Christ, I stand up for You today. I
stand up to receive Your blessing. I stand up to be able to take the incredible
journey to everlasting life with You. I thank You, Lord, for the incredible
power that You have given me to transform my life, to help me to see through
persecution to the ultimate blessings. Continue to empower me, O Lord, with
Your Holy Spirit and may I feel Your guidance no matter where I go, I pray.