Verse 10 is the final of the eight beatitudes, then you kind of have verses 11 & 12, just hanging out there. These two verses continue with the theme of persecution, but there is a transition happening here. Grammatically, He switches from using the third person to the second (blessed are those vs. you). Some have argued that these act as a transition section to the upcoming ‘salt & light’ teaching, and I think that makes the most sense. I think Christ is talking more broadly to the crowd and then narrows in to His disciples. Something like, ‘speaking of persecution, it will happen to you, my close followers. Also, you will be as salt and light.’
However, for my purposes, I’m lumping all the persecution in together and then move on to Salt and Light next week. One a side note, in the ‘fun with reading commentaries’ category, D.A. Carson says that it makes sense that Christ will follow peacemaking with persecution, while John Stott, says that it is a strange succeeding point. I’m actually inclined to disagree with both, as I don’t see as much of a connection. Peacemaking is us intervening with two other parties, while persecution is someone else’s reaction to us. I don’t seem them as countervailing actions. Anyway, back on topic.
This might be the most straight forward and easy to comprehend of the beatitudes. For one, it isn’t dependent on us, other people need to act in this instance. So, what is ‘righteousness sake?’ One thing it isn’t, is for being a member of the church, that would be anachronistic to the hearers of the message. As it is the last of the beatitudes, I view is taking up any of the preceding beatitudes. Of course, later on in the Sermon, Christ will expound on a number of laws and even more so in later parable (such as loving your neighbor) that are necessary for righteousness.
Interestingly, the promise of this brings us right back to verse 5:3, where we started. As we discussed, poor in spirit can be seen as knowing you are spiritually bankrupt, which is essentially the opposite of self-righteousness. Now, it is for true righteousness, the promise to come is the same.
This verse becomes much more specific relative to the prior verse. We move from ‘those’ to ‘you’, the disciples, and from ‘righteousness sake’ to ‘because of Me.’ This moves from an inference that something could happen to almost the expectation that something will happen. This should have been somewhat startling to the disciples, remember, this was quite early in Christ’s ministry (the beginning actually). As Jews, they would have some idea of religious persecution in the broad sense, but now they are being told that be doing something specific (following Christ), persecution will happen. People will revile you and say false things about you. With the benefit of hindsight, they should have seen maybe Christ was not the type of Messiah they were expecting.
If the persecution comment wasn’t surprising enough, the statement comparing them to the Prophets should have put them over the top. On the one hand, they are told the reward is great, on the other, they can expect some of the same treatment they knew the prophets had received. Also, to put them on the level of the prophets tells us about who they thought Christ was. The prophets were those that spoke for God, often with direct revelation from Him to the world. If them following Christ meant they would be giving the word of God, then clearly they saw Christ for who he was.
Follow along in the series – Intro, The Poor in Spirit & Those Who Mourn, The Meek and Those Who Hunger & Thirst, The Merciful, Pure in Heart, and Peacemakers.
Commentaries used in this series:
Sermon on the Mount (The Story of God Bible Commentary)
The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7 : Christian Counter-Culture)
Studies in the Sermon on the Mount
Matthew (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)
The Expositor’s Bible commentary : Matthew, Mark, Luke, with the New international version of the Holy Bible (Expositor’s Bible commentary, Vol.8)
Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries)
New Bible Commentary