The last two beatitudes in Matthew (Mt 5: 10, 11-12) speak about persecution and the reward for enduring persecution. We shall discuss these two “beatitudes of the persecuted” together. Matthew 5: 10, which has no parallel in Luke, is the last of the second set of four beatitudes in Matthew. By repeating the promise: “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” this beatitude forms an inclusion with the first beatitude (Mt 5: 3). Besides, the expression “for righteousness” is also found here as at the end of the first set of beatitudes (Cf. Mt 5: 6). Moreover, the short beatitude of the persecuted in Matthew 5: 10, which comes from Matthew’s special source, also prepares for the longer beatitude (Mt 5: 11-12) derived from the ‘Q’ source.
“Blessed are the persecuted” (Mt 5: 10). Here Matthew uses the perfect participle of the verb “persecute” to emphasize the continuing effects of the persecution which already took place. The persecution mentioned here may echo the troubled history of the Matthean Church. Probably it reflects the Jewish persecution of the Christians before Matthew wrote his gospel. Although the Church-Synagogue separation has already taken place, the Christians are still suffering from the effects of that persecution. The expression “for righteousness’ sake” in Matthew 5: 10 is the same as “on my account” in Matthew 5: 11. It means then persecution suffered on account of Jesus and for the sake of faith. In the next beatitude Matthew describes persecution in detail but in general and vague terms as compared with Luke 6: 22-23. In Matthew 5: 11-12 there is a change from the third person to the second person and Jesus addresses his disciples directly. This change introduces Jesus’ direct address to his disciples in the rest of the sermon.
The disciples of Jesus must expect the same fate as that of the prophets and indeed and that of their master (Cf. Mt 23: 29-39). He is their model even in suffering persecutions. Not only the beatitude of the persecuted but all other beatitudes have a Christological basis. All of them exemplify and describe the person of Jesus. In order to inherit “the great reward in heaven” (Mt 5: 12) the followers of Jesus are invited to be like him. Jesus’ beatitudes are, therefore, a challenge to his followers to appropriate and personalize the blessings contained in them.