Matthew 5 - IVP New Testament Commentaries
Encouragement for Those Persecuted for the Gospel
In his final beatitudes Jesus declares not "Happy are those," but "Happy are you." Here Jesus takes his ethic of nonretaliation (5:38-47) to its furthest possible length: not only must we refuse to strike back, but we are to rejoice when persecuted. The persecution itself confirms our trust in God's promise of reward, because the prophets suffered likewise (13:57; 23:37; 26:68; 2 Chron 36:15-16; Jer 26:11, 23). The prophetic role of a disciple is analogous to (Mt 10:41-42; 23:34) and greater than (11:9, 11; 13:17) that of an Old Testament prophet. When we represent Jesus and his message faithfully and suffer rejection accordingly, we may identify with ancient prophetic leaders like Jeremiah, Isaiah and Ezekiel.
But here Jesus summons us to a greater honor than being prophets; he summons us to bear the name-the honor-of Jesus. The characteristics Jesus lists as belonging to the people of the kingdom are also those Jesus himself exemplifies as the leading servant of the kingdom and Son par excellence of the Father (11:27; 20:28). Jesus is meek and lowly in heart (11:29); he mourns over the unrepentant (11:20-24); he shows mercy (9:13, 27; 12:7; 20:30); he is a peacemaker (5:43-45; 26:52). If he is lowly, how much more must be his disciples, who are to imitate his ways (10:24-25; 23:8-12)-in contrast to worldly paradigms for religious celebrities (23:5-7).