Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
There is a cardinal rule in sermon preparation. The first words you speak should describe what you will be saying for the rest of the message. However, Jewish rabbis followed a different rule. After circling a subject for some time the teacher would draw together his different ideas to finally state what he has to say.
The beatitudes follow this second principle.
At some point in your life the world is going to treat you very badly. But you can still experience great joy because God has given you the gift of eternal life. This is the heart of the sermon on the mount.
It is this idea of eternal life that we must explore. As a young Christian I thought heaven was about real estate. People who served God well would be given great rewards. Those who don’t will scrape in by the skin of their teeth.
But what good is real estate if you are not alive to enjoy it? God’s gift is life – eternal life. And life is far more valuable than mansions and crowns.
This is the heart of Jesus’ sermon. When people mistreat us, remember this. You will not die, you will live.