A Commentary by John Stott

Matthew 5:10-12. Those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake (continued).

This is what Bonhoeffer (who incidentally was brought up in the same Lutheran tradition as Nietzsche) termed the ‘extra-ordinariness’ of Christian life. ‘With every beatitude’, he wrote, ‘the gulf is widened between the disciples and the people, and their call to come forth from the people becomes increasingly manifest.’ It is particularly obvious in the blessing on the mourners. Jesus ‘means refusing to be in tune with the world or to accommodate oneself to its standards. Such men mourn for the world, for its guilt, its fate and its fortune. While the world keeps holiday they stand aside, and while the world sings “Gather ye rose-buds while ye may”, they mourn. They see that for all the jollity on board, the ship is beginning to sink. The world dreams of progress, of power and of the future, but the disciples meditate on the end, the last judgment and the coming of the kingdom. To such heights the world cannot rise. And so the disciples are strangers in the world, unwelcome guests and disturbers of the peace. No wonder the world rejects them!’

Such a reversal of human values is basic to biblical religion. The ways of the God of Scripture appear topsy-turvey to men. For God exalts the humble and abases the proud, calls the first last and the last first, ascribes greatness to the servant, sends the rich away empty-handed and declares the meek to be his heirs. The culture of the world and the counter-culture of Christ are at loggerheads with each other. In brief, Jesus congratulates those whom the world most pities and calls the world’s rejects ‘blessed’.

Tomorrow: Matthew 5:13. You are the salt of the earth.

The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of the Sermon on the Mount. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.