What It Means to Rejoice in Suffering

How can it be said there was joy set before Jesus when he was marching to his death? Because Jesus was able to look past his present, momentary, circumstances to something more. That enabled him to go through hell on earth because he knew something better was on the other side.

Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Matthew 5:11

All you english majors just noticed something cool that happened. Jesus switches here from the 3rd person to 2nd person. The entire sermon thus far has been in 3rd person. He’s been saying blessed are they, blessed are those who. Now he switches, Blessed are YOU.

This isn’t by mistake. Jesus knows that some people in the crowd are going to follow him. They are going to do what he’s been saying. Jesus knows in the coming years some of the people in this crowd will be persecuted, falsely accused, and criticized. So he looks them right in the eye and says blessed are YOU. Jesus knows it’s going to get rough so he is speaking to them so that when those times come they have something to flash back to.

Jesus is personalizing this message for his audience then and for us now. Blessed are you when people revile, which means to criticize in an abuse or angrily insulting manner. Jesus qualifies it again when he says falsely. Based on things that aren’t true, based on misconceptions. He ends this verse with “on my account.” Simply put, when our hills match Jesus’ hills. When you are accused of hanging out with sinners, when you are accused of saying Jesus is the only way. When you are accused for saying and doing the things Jesus said and did.

Jesus is saying don’t be surprised when this stuff happens to you. He’s saying I’m with you when this happens. And it’s in this context, all the suffering and all the persecution, that Jesus says something most of us will think is just outrageous.

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:12

Are you serious? How can we rejoice and be glad? That word rejoice is an interesting word. It’s been translated a bunch of different ways in English. But in the Greek it was one word and used in many different ways. It was a greeting. So it could be translated as greetings or hail. It was a popular greeting. Joy to you, greetings, hail.

The phrase “be glad” means rejoicing in hope, excessive joy. It means to be joyful beyond what your circumstance should allow.

So the question becomes how can Jesus say be glad in the context of being lied about, criticized, falsely accused, and persecuted? How can he say rejoice, be glad, joy to you?

You need to understand the weight of his words. He’s not saying this in a trivial sense. He’s not telling us to fake it, to grin and bear it. He’s saying that there is something in us that endures beyond your current circumstances. There is something in you that despite how dark and bad your life might be you can still rejoice.

If anybody has even understood this it would have to be Jesus, right? He understands this more fully than you and I ever will. He understands how dark and how evil circumstances can become.

This word rejoice is used a few other times in the NT. Here’s one of them.

And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings (Same word in the greek), Rabbi!” And he kissed him. Matthew 26:49

You know who said that? Judas, as he was betraying Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.

Here’s another one… and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail (Same word in the greek), King of the Jews!” Matthew 27:29

As they are crucifying Jesus they are saying rejoice, King of the Jews. You see Jesus knew what it was like to be mocked, betrayed, falsely accused, and persecuted. Catch this, even as they were mocking, beating, and crucifying him saying Hail, be full of joy, Jesus WAS.

It’s not a mistake that Jesus used this word here. Jesus was telling everyone that follows him that they will be taking shots. Jesus took the first shots, and all who follow will follow in his footsteps. And it’s in those moments we can be full of joy. It’s in those moments we can be peacemakers.

That is why this was later written about Jesus. Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy (Same word) that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

How can it be said there was joy set before Jesus when he was marching to his death? Because Jesus was able to look past his present, momentary, circumstances to something more. That enabled him to go through hell on earth because he knew something better was on the other side.

Jesus is looking at the crowd on the hillside, and he’s looking at us today and he’s the exact same thing. He has credibility to say rejoice and be glad because he puts it in the context of what he is about to walk through. He says great is your reward in heaven. There’s something better on the other side. He gives encouragement to let us know we are not alone when we go through pain, persecution, trail, and trouble.

We are blessed when we bring peace to this world. Both in our relationships with others and bringing those around us to peace with God. But because of this we will take shots, we will be persecuted. But even in those moments we can be blessed. Whenever we take shots for righteousness, which includes bringing peace but not just peace, we can rejoice. Our reward is in heaven.

We are called to bring peace to a dark and hurting world. We are called to bring peace to a world that will persecute us. But that doesn’t change our mission. What Jesus said may seem a little crazy to us. But he lead us by example. He brought peace between us and God. And now his charge to us is to bring peace to the world.

So here’s my question. Will you be a peacemaker? Will you bring peace to your families? Will you point your co-workers to the peace they can have with God? Will you stand up when you see a situation that needs peace?

This world doesn’t need more people throwing fuel on the fire. This world desperately needs more peacemakers. Peacemakers that aren’t afraid to take shots for the things Jesus took shots for.

Read the previous article in the Series: Blessed are Those Who Are Persecuted

3 comments on “What It Means to Rejoice in Suffering

  1. Really like this. Back in 2007 I spent a month working, and then traveling across southern India. It seemed daily newspapers were accusing missions groups of “buying conversions”. This was because these groups would offer different charity to those in need. Literally these Christians were being reviled for doing good. I thought of this teaching every day I read the paper there.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. autisticaplanet

    A very insightful and timely post.


  3. Pingback: What Jeremiah 29:11 Really Means – rethink

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