“The Purpose of Believers in the World” – Matthew 5:11–16
Hear now the word of the Lord from Matthew 5:11-16.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 5:11-16, ESV
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God endures forever. Well, this morning we're reeling from this heartbreaking news. We're reeling from the news of Jaylen's death. The Jaylen was a noncommuning member. I baptized him on January 22nd, 2017, a little over five years ago. As we've gotten this news, it's left us with so many unanswered questions, so many desperate what ifs. But I think what's very hard as we come to worship and it's very similar, it's a Sunday, like many other Sundays in similar different respects. It's another Lord's day where we called into the presence of God to worship him. We have to ask the question How do we move forward? How do we move forward under the weight of the grief of such a horrific tragedy?
Well, in God's providence, in God's kind providence, I believe that the text he has given us this morning is something that speaks to the moment. This is not necessarily a text that I would choose for a funeral text to sort of directly address the situation. I didn't choose this text with the events of the week going on in mind. I start working on this Monday mornings, working on this Tuesday, Wednesday. I heard the news late Thursday; I was pondering all of this. Friday, all of this is weighty on my heart. Saturday I was revisiting this and thinking about this. I believe that what Christ has for us in his teaching here in the Sermon on the Mount is precisely what we need.
Here Jesus is re-establishing us and the unshakeable hope that we have in the gospel. He is refreshing us in the promises that we have in Jesus that cannot be taken away, that cannot be diminished. He's renewing us for the call that he has given to the church. The unchanging call to the church to serve as salt and light in a corrupt and a dark world. Jesus here is strengthening us, and he is refocusing us on the mission and mandate of the church.
Our big idea then, is we study this particular passage is this that discipleship bears witness to Jesus in the world..
This morning, three parts,
1. The Persecution from the World
2. The Preservation of the World
3. The Protection for the World
The Persecution from the World
So first of all, the persecution from the world in verses 11 through 12. Jesus says here, "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you, falsely on my account." Last week we talked about the Beatitudes in verses three through 10. We talked about how there were eight Beatitudes and we talked about the nature of the Beatitudes is describing a class of people. Blessed are these people, for, and then Jesus would give us the gospel promise. Blessed are these people for they will receive this particular gospel promise.
Now one of the questions is OK, so we have eight Beatitudes, but now it seems that we have a ninth Beatitude in verse 11. "Blessed are you when others revile you", and on and on and on. So the question is, well, why don't we consider this a part of the Beatitudes as a whole? Well, there are two reasons to see what Jesus is doing here at the beginning of the passage we're looking at this morning is different from what he was doing.
The first is that the focus and the direction of what Jesus speaks changes in the Beatitudes. Jesus addresses generalities. He speaks in the third person. Blessed are they. Blessed are those. Blessed are the ones. Then here he personalizes it. Blessed are you. It's in the second person. It's directly at us. Blessed are you.
The second reason, this is the stronger reason, is that Jesus had a very clear order in his mind about the Beatitudes that he spoke. In verses three and eight the beginning and the end of the Beatitudes, the first and the last, both of the gospel promises are precisely the same. In the beginning, in verse three, Jesus says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit for", here's the gospel promise, "theirs is the kingdom of Heaven." Then, in verse 10, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake for", gospel promise, "theirs is the kingdom of heaven." This promise of who shall possess the Kingdom of Heaven bookends the beginning and end of the Beatitudes.
So we see then that there was a structure there, and we'll talk a little bit more about what that structure is in a moment. But what we are seeing here is that Jesus is not continuing on with endless blessed are those, but now he is doing something different. He is transitioning from speaking about the character of disciples, in verses three through eight. Now he is speaking instead about the connection, the relationship that disciples have to the wider world. This is a transitional section.
Jesus is saying you just heard the first part of the teaching about the Kingdom of Heaven. I want you to understand that I was speaking about things that don't seem to be true, things that are counterintuitive in nature. I was telling you, blessed are the people who don't seem to be blessed. Blessed are those who are poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn.
In what sense are those blessed? Well, remember we talked about the fact that Jesus was first talking about the blessedness of repentance, that there is a blessedness of recognizing that I have nothing to offer God poverty in spirit. I have nothing that I can trade with God to purchase the Kingdom of Heaven. I am instead dependent entirely on him.
Blessed are those who mourn. This is not only the mourning over death, but this is the mourning of spiritual mourning, of recognizing that I am a guilty sinner in the sight of God, and my sins are filthy and odious before him. Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. Jesus said there is a blessedness to repentance.
There was also a blessedness then as we repent, we turn from our sin and we turn instead to faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus says that there is a blessedness of resemblance. Blessed are those who then, as we looked at Christ in faith, are transformed and conformed to the image of Christ. So that we begin to resemble God all the way to the point where the world treats us in the way that the world treats God. The world hates God, and the world hates those who resemble God.
Blessed are those then who are persecuted for righteousness sake. Jesus says blessed are those who persecute you. You will look like me, and therefore the world will treat you like they treat me. That means that you are going to be reviled and persecuted, and people will utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Jesus says this is blessed. Why? Why we ask. Why would this be blessed?
Well, Jesus says, first of all, don't make a mistake, I was speaking the truth. I want you to know about that. You heard this right. This isn't just a platitude. You are blessed when you face this situation. Well, Jesus is telling us then that this is blessed and he goes on to offer us two comforting factors to help us digest this hard truth that blessed are those who are persecuted.
First, there's an intensification of the promises in verse 10. Verse 10 promised us that theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Now we read, "rejoice and be glad", in verse 12 "for your reward is great in heaven." You know, we might have been saying after verse 10, well, that's fine, blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Well, maybe that's OK. Maybe I'll get in, sneak into the Kingdom of Heaven. But does that just secure me? Sort of, you know, the cheap seats, the nosebleed seats. Am I going to be far away from the action? Jesus says no. Rejoice and be glad for your reward is great in heaven. That's the first part of the intensification of this promise, the comforting factor.
The second is that he ties our blessedness to the blessedness of those who've gone before us. Blessed, are you for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. If the world hates God, it will hate those who resemble God and that's always been the case. In the past, they persecuted the prophets and now they will persecute you. Understand that you are blessed if you were in this situation.
Again, we have to ask Jesus, how is this blessed? In what way is this blessed to be persecuted, to mourn? In what way is it blessed to be poor in spirit? Now what Jesus here is addressing is a very much a particular kind of suffering. The suffering that comes from persecution. There was also a general principle that stands behind and that undergirds this. It's a general principle that relates to all suffering, how can we be blessed in all suffering, whether it's mourning, whether it's hungering and thirsting for righteousness, whatever it is, how can we be blessed in these situations?
Well, it's because what Jesus is telling us is he is telling us about the gospel hope that we have that is not dependent on our external circumstances. He is reminding us that the foundation of the joy that we have in this life does not depend on whether a particular week has been good or bad. Whether it has been easy or hard. Whether we have been rich or poor. Whether we have had plenty or have been in want. Our blessedness does not rest on those fleeting, ever changing circumstances. Our blessedness is built on the rock solid foundation of Jesus Christ and him crucified. So that we can be blessed even when we are walking through times of great sorrow, even when we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death, as we have been this very week.
How then are we blessed? We are blessed because of the greatness of our reward, we blessed because of our treasure, which is in heaven, we are blessed because of the promises of the Kingdom of Heaven. We are blessed because we have Christ and no one can take Jesus away from him from us. We cannot be plucked out of Jesus's hand. Jesus says we are in the Father's hand and no one can take us out of the Father's hand. It's something that doesn't depend on the temperature you take of the particular day. It depends entirely on the unshakeable, immovable promises of God himself.
This brings all of our suffering into focus. You know, in life, it's so interesting. How blessed people will consider themselves when they finally lay their hands on what they really want in life. This is even true and even especially true, when they've had to sacrifice much on the way toward getting what they want. Think about what people are willing to invest in to sacrifice in life. How much money, how much time, how much energy, how much effort, how much heartbreak, how much sweat, blood and tears that people are willing to invest for success. Think about how much people invest in athletics and sports. When that championship is won, think of the joy. It makes everything that's been sacrificed up to that point worth it! We won.
Think about actors. You know, you hear some of these stories of actors who languish in absolute obscurity for years and years and years waiting to catch a break and they finally get their break and think how happy they are to finally land that big role. Or think about business. I had the, we'll call it a privilege, of working in a startup company with all of what that entails. It's terrible. You don't know what you're doing. Every day is uncertain. You're working so hard and sacrificing so much, and you can't even entirely see at the moment what you were trying to really do. It takes a long time to work that stuff out. But when it works, what a thrill there is.
What a thrill when we reach those successes that we have sacrificed so much for. But all of those successes are so fleeting. You win the championship this year, that's great, we're already making preseason odds on who's going to win next year. You’re irrelevant. You get that job. That's great, that's wonderful, but guess what? Now comes the real work, and now comes all the challenges that come with success. Your business works. You make a lot of money. Great. Guess what? You're going to face all the sorrows and heartache and difficulties and challenges that come from that and from a changing world all the time.
Jesus says your blessedness is something deeper, something richer, something that cannot be moved, it cannot be touched. Your blessedness is in heaven. It's Jesus Christ and he cannot corrupt, he cannot spoil, he cannot rust or fade. Which means that even if you lose everything in this life, Jesus says blessed, are you. Blessed, are you.
During a week where wars have raged, where the economy has stumbled and tottered, when a child's life was taken, this is the hope that we have in the gospel. That our blessedness is not what we have in life, but something that is transcending beyond this world. That blessedness is all of our hope. It carries the entire weight. Nothing else can carry weight in life but this. Blessed, are you. Jesus is reorienting us; he is refreshing us, he is re-establishing us, he is renewing us in the unshakeable, immovable hope of the gospel. Are you putting your life, hope and dreams in anything else? These things, too, will pass away. If your hope is in Jesus, blessed, are you.
Well, again, that's the general principle, the general principle is that our blessedness does not depend on our circumstances, but on the promises that we have in Christ. Again, the particular point that Jesus is making in this context has to do with persecution. Even when, even if, even especially when you will face this persecution, Jesus says, understand you're blessed. We might read what Jesus is saying and verses 11 and 12 as a warning, maybe a tip off. Persecution is coming, maybe you better make yourself scarce. Maybe you better withdraw from the world because it's safer not to be in contact with the world who will revile you, who will persecute you, who will utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on Jesus's account. That's not what Jesus says. Jesus goes on to then reorient us and renew the call of the church to being a faithful presence, of being salt and light in a corrupt and darkened world.
The Preservation of the World
So the second point of our sermon this morning is the preservation of the world, which Jesus talks about in verse 13. He says you. Now, earlier that you was somewhat implied, but here the you is very emphatic, it stated right at the front of the sentence, which is a little bit odd in Greek. You, Jesus says, one commentator points at the emphatic nature of this says, you yourselves and no others.
Remember he's speaking to his disciples, in Matthew 5:1. Of course, this has special significance for officers who teach like I'm teaching right now. You better be teaching in a way that is salt for the world, but Jesus is speaking to all of his disciples. He's saying, don't miss this. He's saying this is you disciples, you and no other and that excludes the Pharisees. Now Jesus will have more to say about the Pharisees coming up, but he's saying you and you alone, not the religious leaders, not the Pharisees, but you and you alone are the salt of the Earth.
The salt of the Earth. Now, why would Jesus compare his disciples to the salt of the Earth? Well, there are a number of potential points of comparison that Jesus might be making, but what's fairly clear in what he's saying here is he's talking about the way in which salt was a preservative, especially in meat. They didn't have ways to refrigerate or even freeze meat. So the way to preserve meat was to salt it very heavily.
Now you think about the way that if you if you left a raw steak on your counter for a day, you probably wouldn't want to eat that. But at the same time, you know, you think about how long that beef jerky has been sitting in that gas station lineup. You know, how many years has it been there before someone purchases it and buys it? The answer doesn't matter because of how heavily it has been salted. That's a preservative. Also, the dehydration, but you get where I'm saying. That's salting, preserves the meat and keeps it from decaying and corrupting.
But salt also gives a flavor. You take one bite of that beef jerky of unknown origin and you see how salty it is, and that's maybe a confirmation that it's safe to eat. Salt gives flavor, and it prevents corruption in the world.
Now, the salt of that day and age was not pure. They didn't have the pure table salt that we have, sodium chloride. What they had rather was, they would go to places like the Dead Sea, which were saltwater areas. They would look for where this salt had maybe evaporated and leaving behind this substance, a salty substance. If you taste it, it tastes very salty, but not all of it was salt. A lot of it was mixed with inert minerals like gypsum. I don't know what that is, but I read that it was gypsum. This gypsum would have no taste. Now there was a way to leach the sodium chloride out of that, which would just leave stuff like the gypsum behind.
So where you thought you were getting a spoon full of salty salt, this material, you were just tasting this inert powder that didn't taste like anything, couldn't preserve your meat, and it was worthless. The only thing you could do was just to throw it out and trample on it again. So Jesus says if salt has lost its taste, how should saltiness be restored? If the sodium chloride has been leached out of this substance, how do you get that back? You can't.
What's interesting here is the word Jesus uses for lost its taste. There is no Greek word for lost its taste. The word that Jesus uses here is a word for made foolish. If salt has been made foolish. This is where we get our word moronic. If salt has been made moronic, has been made foolish. This is the same word that Paul uses in 1 Corinthians chapter one to talk about the foolishness of the world. The world believes that they are wise, that they have everything together and the world on its foolishness opposes the wisdom of God revealed in Jesus Christ and him crucified.
What Jesus is getting at here as the salt loses its saltiness. He's talking about when the church conforms to the formalistic, legalistic religion of the Pharisees. When the teaching and preaching, when the gospel of the church gets leached out so that it has no more Savior, no more ability to keep the world from running headlong into its corruptions, into its decay, into its deterioration. When the church's religion begins to be shaped more by the fashion and the culture of the world, and not by the teaching of Christ.
The pressures of the world on the church, are they everywhere. They are relentless. The world hates what Christ is and who Christ is and what the church preaches from the Bible about Christ. So the world is constantly trying to get us water down this message to the foolishness of the world. While this is a popular and plentiful thing to find religions that are really just parroting the culture's message, ultimately such religion is powerless, absolutely powerless.
I once saw a television clip, maybe you've seen it, it's old, it's been passed around a few times. It was a scene portraying a man dying of cancer. As he's dying, he's grappling with his very guilty conscience. He made a very terrible mistake earlier in his life and it led to someone's death, and he's grappling with this and he's trying to figure out how he can be relieved of the burdens of his conscience in this time. So he asked for a chaplain. The hospital chaplain comes, and she encourages him to forgive himself. Well, obviously you just need to forgive yourself. When he hears this, he's angry. He says it's atonement even possible for what I've done. What does God want from me? And then she offers a powerless platitude. She says, "Well, I think it's up to each one of us to interpret what God wants from us." Then the man moved from being angry to being furious, and he threw her out saying, "I want a real chaplain who believes in a real God and a real hell. I need someone who will look me in the eyes and tell me how to find forgiveness because I am running out of time."
What Jesus is saying is that the only hope for a corrupt and wicked and guilty and dying world is the gospel of the forgiveness of sins that come to the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Discipleship bears witness to a real Jesus who offers real forgiveness to a corrupt and dying world that is running out of time. How the world needs to hear this message, but oh, how the world will hate this message when it's faithfully proclaimed.
Disciples are salt of the Earth. As salt of the Earth disciples who are constantly bearing witness to Jesus, keep the world from straying into corruption, from running headlong into where the sin of this world would carry it, into outright decay and chaos. The world won't thank us for this. And Jesus warns us about persecution, but this is a vital role in the world to preserve it.
The Protection for the World
Still, what Jesus then next says is that some will be attracted toward the light of believers. Some will be attracted toward this light and find hope and refuge in Jesus through the gospel. That brings us to the third section the protection for the world. Jesus is in verse 14, "You are the light of the world."
One commentator, a man named R.C.H. Lenski, says, OK, so salt dealt with the corruption and the foulness of the world. Preserving from decay, giving taste and flavor. Whereas light deals with the darkness and the ignorance and the blindness of the world. Both are getting at the ways in which disciples are faithful witnesses to Jesus in a blind and corrupt world. But they're getting at in different ways.
Now, when Jesus says you were the light of the world that should perhaps remind us of something, we should remember that earlier in Matthew 4:16, Matthew told us that Jesus was the light of the world. He did so by quoting Isaiah 9:2. Here's what we read in Matthew 4:16, "The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death on them, a light has dawned." This is a world where it is darkened, where it is blind. Jesus has come into the world first, we are told, to give great light into a blind and darkened world that walks in the shadow of death. But now Jesus turns around and says that we are the light of the world.
Well, Jesus takes that general concept and goes to directions with it. He applies it in two different ways that help to illuminate, pardon the pun, the fullness of what he is trying to tell us. First, he compares us to a city on the hill. He says at the end of verse 14, "A city set on a hill cannot be hidden." Now, to understand what Jesus is saying about this, you have to think about what it was like to be in the ancient world at night. Nighttime was a dangerous place in the in the ancient world. You would have enemies, foreign enemies that you know you couldn't watch from satellites approach. Foreign enemies, approach in a surprise attack at night, and sometimes they would burn and pillage and destroy along the way. If you were outside the walls of that city, it was a very dangerous place to be.
It was also a dangerous place from thieves who maybe weren't an army, but they would move and they would plunder and they would pillage. Again, if you weren't inside the safety of the walls of the city, you were in danger, you were vulnerable, you were unprotected in the course of the night. But that city, that city surrounded by safe walls filled with people would cast a light that you think about set on a hill. So it's a fortress that it would be hard to march up to take that city on the hill. People could see it from miles away, especially in days before there were too many streetlamps and things like that with all kinds of light pollution in our world. You could see the city and you recognize if you were vulnerable, that you just had to get to the city to find refuge and safety and protection.
Jesus saying this is the corporate witness of the church, this is the corporate witness of my disciples. Especially when we gather on a Lord's day morning, we are light to a vulnerable, scary world. For those who will come into the city and be saved through Jesus.
The second thing Jesus says in verse 15 is he individualizes. This it's not just a corporate reality, it's an individual reality. He says, "Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand and it gives light to all in the house." Just as a city on a hill cannot be hidden, so you wouldn't, you shouldn't hide the lamp that you have lit. Instead, what you do is you put that lamp on top of a stand, it's just one lamp, but it gives light to all in the house. Everyone who sees that light is influenced by it.
In a city, you can sometimes slip into the background, you can slip into the hustle and bustle, and you don't have to stand out as an individual. And Jesus is saying that in the church, you cannot slip into the background. You can't be ignored and invisible. Instead, you as an individual must have your light shine before the world. And your light will be seen by all. Regardless of how people maybe may respond, they will see your light.
So what is the light that Jesus is talking about? Well, he clarifies that in verse 16. He says in the same way, here's the interpretation of the analogy that I'm giving, "In the same way, Jesus says, Let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." The light that Jesus talking about is the good works that his disciples perform in the sight of other people.
When we read this, we have to sort of peek ahead and Matthew chapter six, Jesus also warned us about performing our good works before others. There though the warning is very clear. He's saying, Don't perform your good works before others. Why? Because if you perform your good works before others to gain credit for yourself and praise for yourself, you've missed the point. You've missed the boat. You will have your reward in full. Don't do that, Jesus says. Do your good works in secret.
Then here he is saying, as you live your life in simple, humble obedience to God. Your good works will be a light that all will see. As you do this in humility, other people will come to give glory to your Father who is in heaven as they see the good works that you are performing.
Now how do we know what good works are? Well, that's where Jesus is going next in verses 17 and following which Lord willing will look at next week. Jesus is telling us that it's obedience to the moral law of God, particularly summarized in the Ten Commandments. If you want to know the light that you must shine before people if you want to know how to live and obedient life before God. It's all summarized, comprehensively summarized in the Ten Commandments that Jesus has come not to abolish, but to fulfill.
Those who dwell in darkness, Jesus is warning us through this image of light. Those who dwell in darkness will walk in darkness. They are blind to what they are doing and they are blind then to where they are going. Probably all of us have had the experience of walking through our houses in the night when it's dark. Maybe I get a little overambitious of where I can walk in the darkness without having to turn on the lights. Maybe I'm trying to save money or just too lazy to turn off lights. Or maybe it's a little bit of an acceptable risk. I don't know, but I walk through the lights and invariably I will find a choice Lego left out by a child or something, a chair that was pulled out that I didn't see and now have a bruise to remind me of it on my shin.
When you walk through darkness, even familiar places become places that you don't know what you're doing or where you're going. And Jesus says the whole world lives like this all the time. They can see with their eyes, but they cannot see beyond their eyes. They cannot see the blessedness of disciples whose blessedness cannot be shaken in the gospel. So they are just living according to what they can see, what's right in front of them. It's because of this that we live in such a dark, frightening, horrifying world sometimes.
Now we sometimes try to ignore the darkness of the world, we sometimes try to distract ourselves from the darkness of the world. Sometimes we are clever enough to try to dress up the darkness of the world to make it seem less evil than it actually is. But what Jesus says is that doesn't work. Ultimately, it's only light that dispels darkness, the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We shine then, as one commentator said, as lights in the world, not as the sun who radiates our own light, see my light. We shine as the Moon, where on the darkest night of full moon lights up everything, so that you see the light reflected and refracted from the blazing sun, our God in heaven.
As we trust and obey God, what Jesus says is that the people dwelling in darkness will see a great light, and for those dwelling in the region in the shadow of death on them, a light has dawned. They will not then see our light. They will see the light. The dawning of the Son of God, the true light, the light of life.
Our application, then of this text is this, bear witness to Jesus in the world, regardless of the cost. Whatever it costs, you, whatever you must sacrifice, the mission and mandate of the church that Jesus has given us is to bear witness to Jesus in the world, whatever it costs us.
Discipleship does exactly this, it appears witness to Jesus in the world. Remember, Jesus gives us four reasons to bear witness to him in the world. Because it's worth it, your reward will be great in heaven. Verse 12, to stand faithfully with the forerunners, so they persecuted the prophets. Third, to prevent the world from running headlong into its corruption, as salt of the Earth. Verse 13 and so that others may come to give glory to God as they see the light that we reflect, like moons and reflecting the glory of the sun.
Now again, we've read a lot of this in light of the general point that Jesus is making that our blessedness, the blessedness that transcends the momentary suffering of our circumstances. This is still blessed because we are engaged in holding my faith to what Christ has promised us that cannot be taken away. But we need to return our attention to the particular point that Jesus making the blessedness we have in the midst of persecution. Because what Jesus is telling us is that persecution will come to those who follow Christ.
Now, let's be very clear we live in an outrage culture. Jesus is not teaching us, coaching us, training us to look for reasons, to find reasons under every rock that we should be triggered and find anger and outrage over. Look at what happened to me. The goal is not to fear and to find persecution under every rock. The goal is rather to be faithful. Jesus and then instead wants to retrain us, to rejoice at persecution whenever we find it, not to recoil from it. Because we recognize in it that our blessedness transcends that situation, transcends the suffering, and that it's unshakable in the glory of Christ.
How is this blessedness again? Jesus is teaching us that we are blessed by setting our heart on the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Blessed are those who are pure and heart. The promise that Jesus has just given us is that if you want Christ's kingdom, then you will get it. That's the gospel promise. When we turn from our sins in order to look to Christ for what he offers us, we will get it. That's the promise. The question, then, is do you really want it? Do you want this kind of a kingdom that isn't promising to enrich you in this life and what you can see, are you willing to set your hope in the world to come?
Now in all of this, of course, Jesus isn't suggesting that we should be numb or that we should be impervious to pain and suffering. Remember, Jesus said in verse four, "Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted." Jesus is offering, setting alongside the invisible kingdom of heaven that we cannot see, alongside a world of tears and suffering that we are always seeing. Jesus is saying blessed are you. It's a balm of comfort when we go through suffering, when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death.
If we don't have this comfort, what can you put your hope in? What are you depending upon? Where are you finding your strength, if not in Jesus? In this darkest hour, we don't mourn like those who have no hope because we are not looking to this world for hope. We are looking to the Kingdom of Heaven to give us hope. But Jesus isn't callous, he's not unfeeling. Jesus is the one who wept at the funeral of his friend, whom he knew that he was just about to raise from the dead in just a few more minutes. He wept there seeing the horror of death. He is not saying cheer up. He's not saying, get over it. He's not saying, why are you so sad? He knows our grief.
Rather, in the midst of our tears, he's reminding us, strengthening us, re-establishing us, that you have a hope that cannot be taken from you. You have a life that withstands corruption and decay. It's not perishable. Indeed, in Jesus, it was raised imperishable. You have truth that cannot be extinguished. The blazing light of the truth of God that cannot be extinguished. The flower fades, but the word of our God endures forever.
Therefore, even when you face life's evil and darkest hour, you will have reason to rejoice. Not because of the evil you face, but because of the hope of the gospel. How then do we move forward? We move forward as we learn to cling to the precious promises that we have in Christ and to learn that there we have reason to rejoice. That in this we have nothing to lose because our hope is in heaven and we have everything to gain. That's why we can rejoice, even in the midst of persecution and great suffering. Therefore rejoice.
I'm going to close with a word of comfort from 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. Paul faced far more suffering and persecution and opposition and pain than most of us have. And yet, he writes, "So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away our inner self as being renewed day by day for this light, momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. As we look not to the things that are seen, but to our ever changing fickle circumstances, but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, they're always moving, always changing, never permanent, always fading away as soon as they get there. The things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
Brothers and sisters, let us rejoice. If you're looking to Jesus Christ this morning, blessed are you in the hope of the gospel. But if you don't know Jesus, I'm going to call you to this word. There's no hope outside it. There's no place to go outside this. Whatever you are facing now, good or bad, there is far worse suffering to come in eternity to come. Because those who are not looking to Jesus will not experience blessedness, but will experience the eternal condemnation of being separated from God forever. If you don't know Christ, he offers himself to you. And blessed are all those who take refuge in him. Let's pray.
Heavenly Father, we pray that you would lead us to unshakable, immovable faith in Jesus Christ. We pray that you would teach us to look to him, to trust in him, to depend upon him as our only rock and hope of salvation. Through the darkest hour, when we faced a sea of corruption and decay, we pray that you would give us strength and hope in the Gospel of Christ. In Jesus name, we pray. Amen.