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LESSON 10 - WHEN MEN SHALL REVILE YOU (MATTHEW 5:11-12)

Copr. 1998, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.  All Scripture references are to
the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984
International Bible Society,  unless otherwise noted. Quotations
from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes
the teacher uses a blackboard.

INTRODUCTION:  Imagine a new employee has just been hired into your
place of work.  The very first time you meet this new employee, he
insults you. Then you hear that this new employee is telling lies
about you behind your back.  Finally, every time you walk past this
new employee, he tries to trip you.  How do you feel towards this
new employee?  Now imagine that everyone in your office starts
doing the same thing to you as this new employee!  Are you thinking
"happy thoughts?"  Jesus specifically suggests in today's lesson
that happy thoughts should result, so let's explore this startling
idea!

I. WHY HAPPY?

     A. Turn with me to Matthew 5:11-12. Read. List for me the bad
     things that this text says is going to happen to the saints.
     (Insulted, persecuted, lie about you in a bad way.)

     B. What kind of attitude do these verses suggest we should
     have when this happens to us?  (Remember we have discussed
     that "blessed" means "happy?" This says we will have happy
     thoughts!)

          1. How many times do these verses tell us we should be
          happy about this? (Three times. Notice the pattern here.
          These verses list three bad things that will happen:
          insults, persecution and lies. Then three times we are
          told to be happy about it: "Blessed," "rejoice," and "be
          glad." Note that "happy thoughts" is an inadequate
          description of the emotion. The "be glad" in the Greek
          means "leap for joy!" You are not just happy, you are
          leaping!)

          2. How can this be true? Why should we have happy
          thoughts about this? ("Great is your reward in heaven.")

     C. This is a delayed reward for the righteous. Are delayed
     rewards common or popular in our society? Are they cause for
     leaping for joy?

          1. Are you currently working on a delayed reward?

          2. Or are you currently paying for some reward that you
          already got? (Our society is called the "instant
          gratification" society.  Instead of saving for a car, we
          get the car now and pay later.  The whole installment
          credit plan is built on this idea of instant reward,
          delayed payment.)

          3. Can you remember a time in your life when you were
          working on a delayed reward? (Law school was a delayed
          reward for me. I did not care for the kind of "insults
          and persecution" from the faculty that is expected in law
          school.  I did not care for the hard work. I did care,
          however, about the end result.)

          4. A fighter goes into training before a fight. An actor
          practices before a show.  Do you think we should practice
          delayed rewards in our lives (and the lives of our
          children) now in order to be able to have a "leap for
          joy" attitude when the kind of trouble described in
          Matthew 5:11-12 rolls around?

               a. Or is this an attitude that is beyond the human
               experience? Is this an attitude that can only come
               from the Holy Spirit?

     D. Look again at the nature of our reward in v.12. Are those
     who happily suffer through this simply promised heaven?

          1. Are some of those who are saved given "greater"
          rewards in heaven than others? (This is something rarely
          discussed in our church. Jesus seems to say that
          something beyond "mere" heaven is given. Heaven is the
          believer's destination. However, the reward of the
          believer when in heaven can vary.)

          2. Is this idea of "classes" in heaven consistent with
          the rest of the Bible? (This is a very interesting topic
          that we cannot spent too much time discussing. There is
          great contrast in the Bible on this subject. If you look
          at the first five books of the Bible, you are hard-
          pressed to find a "hero" who is not rich, famous or
          powerful.  Even Moses, who seemed to have to "unlearn"
          the attitudes of a prince of Egypt, was the leader and
          judge of God's people.  When you continue on through the
          judges and kings, those who obey God do well.  It is only
          when you get to the prophets that you find some who are
          not "doing well."  Even then, we have Daniel who is
          obviously a very highly placed, powerful government
          administrator in two different kingdoms.  It is only in
          the New Testament where the "heroes" clearly come from
          the ranks of he poor. Not only does Jesus give warnings
          about being rich (to the astonishment of His disciples
          who were schooled in the Old Testament -- see Matthew
          19:24-25), but we have the writings of James, who sounds
          quite hostile towards the wealthy. (James 2:2-7) Because
          of our "New Testament" views and our egalitarian society
          we shy away from this idea of "classes" existing in
          heaven.)

     E. Looking at Matthew 5:12 again, who is the pattern for those
     who face insults, persecution and lies now? (The prophets.)

          1. Since the prophets were the "exception" in the Old
          Testament to the rule "obey and do well" (see Deuteronomy
          6:3), is that the reason they have a special reward in
          heaven? (I think that is what Jesus is telling us.  That
          if your experience on earth was especially rough because
          of your obedience, you will have a special reward in
          heaven.)

II. PERSECUTION A SIGN OF FAITHFULNESS?

     A. Remember last week we were beating ourselves up a bit with
     the idea that if we were not suffering persecution, it might
     well be because we were not very faithful?  Remember me
     talking about walking around in "enemy lines?"  You told me
     that if we could do that, maybe it meant we were no threat to
     the enemy!

          1. Why does Jesus say in v.12 "in the same way they
          persecuted the prophets who were before you?" Why doesn't
          He say, "in the same way they persecuted all the faithful
          who were before you?"  Is it possible that only a certain
          class of Christian can expect this more serious
          persecution?

          2. What is a prophet? (Unger's Bible Dictionary says,
          "one who speaks for God.")

               a. Does this suggest that only those who speak for
               God will be persecuted?

               b. Or does this simply mean that when we are
               persecuted we should know that Godly people forged
               this trail before us? (We should all speak God's
               words to those in need of hearing them.  However, I
               am troubled by the fact that it only mentions "the
               prophets."  Let's look at a parable to see if we
               can better understand this.)

III. THE VINEYARD PARABLE

     A. Turn with me to Matthew 21:33-35. Read. Let's break this
     down so we can understand it.

          1. Who is the landowner? (God. He owns everything. Psalms
          50:12.)

          2. Who is the vineyard? (Us. The church. See John 15:5)

          3. What does it mean when the text (v.33) says the
          landowner "put a wall around" the vineyard? (We have been
          speaking about persecution. This says that God protects
          us.)

          4. Why does the landowner "dig a winepress?"  What does
          this have to do with us? (As the vines, we have a real
          interest in the winepress! The winepress helps to
          transform the fruit of the vines.)

               a. What does the "wine" from the winepress
               represent? (It would be our good deeds! Our
               allegiance to God. See John 15:4 again.)

          5. What is the purpose of the "watchtower?" (Once again,
          this shows that God is watching over his vineyard: us!
          He is protecting us.)

          6. What does it mean when it says the landowner "rented
          the vineyard?"

               a. Can the church be rented?

               b. Can you be rented? (A renter is temporarily in
               charge, to some degree, of the property. People can
               be "in charge" of a church or another person.)

               c. What were these renters supposed to do? (The text
               (v.33) says the renters were "some farmers."
               Farmers would be people who theoretically knew how
               to tend to the vineyard. If the vineyard is us,
               then the "renters" would be those who claimed to be
               "in charge" of us.)

                    (1) Would these farmers be spiritual leaders?
                    Or could they be just anyone who thought they
                    knew how to raise vines? (You would think that
                    the landowner would only rent to those who
                    correctly understood how to tend the vineyard.
                    This would seem to describe spiritual leaders
                    who have the right spirit.  As verse 35
                    indicates, however, something becomes
                    seriously wrong with the "farmers.")

               d. What is the obligation of the farmers? (To get
               fruit from the vines.)

                    (1) Which means what? (As before, tending the
                    vineyard so that it produces good works and
                    allegiance to God.)

          7. If the renters did not want to "pay the rent," what
          were they doing with the rent?

               a. Or is it more likely that they turned out to be
               lousy farmers and they just did not produce any
               "fruit?"

          8. Why would the renters beat and kill those the
          landowner sent to collect the rent? Does this mean the
          renters no longer had allegiance to the landowner? (Yes.)

               a. To whom did they have allegiance? (Themselves.)

     B. Let's read on. Read vv. 36-41. Who are the servants? (This
     sounds like the prophets referred to in Matthew 5:12. These
     are clearly God's representatives. Those who are sent from
     God.)

          1. As you look at this, tell me:

               a. Who causes the persecution? (The farmer/renters.)

               b. Why do they persecute? (In v.38 we get the first
               real insight into their motives.  They want the
               vineyard.  This clears up our previous discussion
               about motives. It is not that they are lousy
               farmers (although they could be), the problem
               arises from the fact that they want the "fruit" and
               the vineyard for themselves. They are selfish.)

                    (1) How could a man keep the "fruit" that would
                    otherwise go to God? (Allegiance. Self-glory.)

               c. Do the renters/farmers persecute everyone?

               d. Who is "the son" in vv.37-39? (Jesus)

               e. Is it possible to just be a "branch" in the
               vineyard and avoid all the nastiness?

     C. Our lesson suggests that Matthew 5:11-12, because of the
     "verb forms" used,  was spoken only to the disciples.
     Jamieson, Fausset and Brown's commentary also suggests that
     Jesus has narrowed His discussion to the disciples at this
     point. Does that square with this parable? (This looks like a
     conflict between "leaders" who are in a fight over who is
     rightfully entitled to the fruit of the vineyard:  God or
     man.)

          1. What obligation does this place on religious leaders?
          Must they most closely examine their actions and
          allegiance? (Yes!)

          2. Does this also mean that if we are the vineyard, that
          we might not feel the brunt of the persecution? (This
          parable suggests the class of those who are seriously
          persecuted may be smaller than the class of all
          Christians. However, since the Beatitudes reflect a
          growth in our character, we all have the possibility (and
          opportunity) of entering the "leader" stage where we are
          more completely at the center of the conflict.)

          3. If such persecution not only reflects your allegiance
          to God, but also your "leadership" status (and greater
          reward), does that more clearly reveal a reason to be
          happy when you are suffering? (Yes!)

IV. NEXT WEEK: "YOU ARE THE SALT."  Study Matthew 5:13!