Jesus has already said that you are blessed if you are persecuted on account of your own righteousness in His 8th beatitude. In His 9th and final beatitude He gives a greater blessing to those who are persecuted on account of Himself. “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.”
Jesus mentions being insulted, persecuted and slandered. One wonders if Jesus’ comment here was based on His remembrance of what the writer of Chronicles said regarding the fall of Jerusalem, “The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy.” To be mocked (insulted) and despised (persecuted) and scoffed at (slandered) is most uncomfortable and unpleasant – but this is historically how the ungodly treated those who represented God rightly. Therefore when they treat us the same way, we are – in a way – identified with them. We already know that, because Jesus has already said that the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are persecuted on account of righteousness. Nevertheless, now Jesus tells us that a great reward in heaven is ours if we are insulted, persecuted and slandered, for His sake. Those who are so treated not only have a place in the kingdom of heaven, but they are to be rewarded when they get there, and greatly so – for they did not only identify with the prophets (which is an honor all on its own), but with Jesus Himself.
In saying this, Jesus is laying out a number of implications to those who are listening; Firstly, that He Himself is a greater prophet than all prior prophets. Secondly, that the suffering the prophets endured on account of their obedience to God was not in vain, but produced for them an eternal blessing – a reward in heaven. Thirdly, that if one enters into that same work – of calling people to be reconciled to God (and now much more so through Jesus), that a great and eternal reward is to be gained. So much so in fact, that one can and should rejoice and be glad in the here and now even in the midst of the insult and persecution and slander!
It is a good thing to be persecuted for living a life that is right before God. It is quite a better thing to be persecuted for being actively involved in the work of God. Such is the work that Christ calls us to, for He purposes us to bless us far more than we deserve. So He does not assign a 9-5 job, but a life of so living for Him that those around us are brought to a point of decision – either they will say yes to Jesus and enter the kingdom of heaven with us, or they will deny the spiritual reality of His presence and so seek to work actively against it (and therefore us, as the embodiment of His presence).
If you had to make a choice, you ought to wish rather to suffer for Christ than to enjoy many consolations, for thus you would be more like Christ and more like all the saints. Our merit and progress consist not in many pleasures and comforts but rather in enduring great afflictions and sufferings. If, indeed, there were anything better or more useful for man’s salvation than suffering, Christ would have shown it by word and example. But He clearly exhorts the disciples who follow Him and all who wish to follow Him to carry the cross.Thomas à Kempis
When was the last time you were insulted, or persecuted, or slandered for Christ’s sake?