Image: Wildflowers, Israel
Finally Jesus personalizes his relationship with his followers. He says: “Blessed are you when they slander and persecute you and falsely accuse you of every wrong because of me. Be glad and supremely joyful because in heaven your reward is rich: for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you”. It seems that Jesus selected his followers rather than that they selected him. He called them to follow and that’s what they did. They didn’t have to agree to any set of standardized beliefs or promise to do anything; just follow him.
In the kingdom of heaven, people who were previously poor in spirit can enjoy a rich reward. But it is not without its cost. Jesus says that if anyone wants to be his disciple he must take up his cross and follow him. Expect to face slander and to be falsely accused of things you did not do, let alone being truthfully accused of being his follower. Sometimes to be identified as a Galilean rebel was to court the displeasure of the chief priests as well as the Roman authorities in Jerusalem. Being a disciple seems to be something that lays claim to you rather than you can earn from your own efforts.
Part of the good news is, though, it doesn’t seem to matter who you are or what you have done if you want to follow Jesus. The locals complained that he appealed to tax gatherers and prostitutes. That should indicate a wide enough range of full-time and part-time occupations to cover most prospective followers. But the blessing this time is given not for righteousness sake but ‘because of me’. This is quite personal. It’s as if Jesus wants to be our Saviour and in return be our friend.
Now for party time. Jesus directs us to be glad and extremely joyful After all, what will happen to his disciples will be no different from what happened to those prophets who went before us. Jesus says:
For John came neither eating nor drinking and they say, ‘He has a demon’
The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they say, ‘Look! A glutton
and wine drinker! A friend of tax collectors and sinners.’
All that has lead up to this moment should erupt into a satisfying life of joy. It is the kind of happiness that is pleased with the success of others, not their misfortunes, that lives for the present, not dwells in the past or fears for the future; it is the gratitude that acknowledges sins forgiven, it gives meaning and value to existence and looks to the future with hope.
“Look at the birds of the air, how they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, but your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more valuable than they?
Furthermore who of you is able to add one moment to his life’s course? Observe carefully how the field lilies grow. They neither toil nor spin, but I tell you that even Solomon in all his splendour was never dressed like one of these.”
Time to Party
Tune: A-roving, major key. With wild abandon but not too fast.
These last two blessings are given to those who suffer for Jesus’ sake,
It doesn’t depend on the doctrine we hold or want to persuade lots of others to take.
Just follow the master to miss the disaster - we normally make.
Oh bless me, don’t depress me, I’m meant to despair but I’m not going there.
Some say it's foolhardy but let's join the Party - to celebrate!
The plant life and animals out in the fields, survive without much fuss,
They sleep well, they keep well, they feed well and breed well, or so it seems to be to us,
They cut a fine dash without any cash - and life looks great.
There’s much more to living than getting and giving, our time to building up bling,
How we care for each other and think of ourselves is more worthwhile in the scheme of things
It’s we who decide how we feel and provide – to make our own fate.