This final beatitude, given to the disciples on a hillside with crowds listening on shows that this is not a list of requirements to enter the Kingdom of God. If they were then this 8th saying would be an endorsement from Jesus for some masochistic lifestyle!
“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.” (Matthew 5 v 10-12)
I’ve been in church services where the members have affluent lifestyles and whose problems are based around what they thought they should have but didn’t get. I’ve been there with them and their problems have so overwhelmed them that they have struggled to rejoice in any way.
I’ve been in church services where the members have lost what appears to be everything. The women have been brutalised, their children taken, their men have been maimed. They have lost it all. I have been there with them and I have been overwhelmed at their joy in praising Jesus.
Those who appear to have it all sometimes don’t have anything. Their kingdoms may be shinier but nothing of their life matters in the real kingdom.
Years ago, there was a master violinist in Europe. He would play in concerts, and he had a magnificent Stradivarius violin, extremely expensive. He would play the Stradivarius violin in concert and everyone would whisper in the crowd, “Listen to the beautiful sounds of the Stradivarius.” He would play in churches, and people would say, “Listen to the beautiful sounds of the Stradivarius.” He even played before kings and queens, and they, too, would turn to one another and say, “Listen to the beautiful sounds of the Stradivarius.” All the glory went to the instrument.
Then one day this master violinist was walking by a pawn shop. He noticed an old, beat-up, worn-out violin. He walked into the pawn shop and asked how much it would cost. The owner of the pawn shop told him the American equivalent of five dollars. He bought the violin, and he took it home. He polished it, and he refined it, and he tuned it, and he re-tuned it, and he built some character into that violin. Then, when he was to play the greatest performance of his life in a concert hall, he took out the little, five-dollar, worn-out, beat- up violin that he had polished and refined. He put it up to his chin, and he began to play, and everybody in the concert hall whispered, “Listen to the beautiful sounds of the Stradivarius.” (“Rejoicing in Our Suffering,” Preaching Today, Tape No. 74)
I have met and will continue to purposely meet many five-dollar, worn-out, beat-up, violin-type people around the world. At first glance there isn’t much to look at until you realise the master has got hold of their life and something beautiful emerges. I have heard the beautiful sound of the Stradivarius from the amputees of Sierra Leone; the persecuted of northern Nigeria and Burkina Faso; the raped and the child-soldiers of DRC; the prisons of Niger; the HIV stories of Eswatini; the famine of many nations; the slums of Kenya; the graves of Zimbabwe; the orphans of Malawi; the list just goes on.
And the sound coming from the pain … there is none like it in the whole world!
They are happy.
It isn’t an earthly happiness based on circumstance or feelings. But it is a happiness from heaven and found with those who are living in the Kingdom. That’s the true meaning of being Blessed.