In this series, we are looking at a famous passage of the Bible known as the beatitudes. These eight statements, made by Jesus in the sermon on the mount [Matthew 5:1-10], are some of the most shocking and disarming words Jesus spoke. They teach us his way of living, the characteristics, and priorities which should be evidence of our being his followers.
These statements list the characteristics that, as followers of Jesus, we are called to pursue.
The idea of having blessed and mourning in the same sentence makes no sense. It goes against everything we think, humanly speaking, would make us happy. So what is Jesus talking about when he says "Blessed are those who mourn"?
I recently had the very sad experience of watching a funeral car pass us for a child who had lost his battle with cancer. His parents walked in front of the hearse hand in hand to greet the many people who had come out in support of this well-loved boy. The mourning I witnessed was deep and painful to see. There is great sadness when we lose those that we love and it is right to grieve them, but where is the comfort in the loss of this young lad who had his whole life in front of him?
Jesus knows and understands the mourning over loss that we experience - he wept too, at the tomb of his friend Lazarus. When we grieve, there is real comfort in the knowledge that our saviour walked in the same broken world that we do, understands our pain and was always filled with compassion for those who suffer. But the natural mourning over the death of a loved one isn't something we look for or go after.
We mourn in other ways too - sometimes sinfully. We mourn the absence of things we long for but that God has withheld from us. There is a place for godly lament, when we cry out to God in our pain, but our sinful nature makes us more inclined to sulk and complain - the kind of mourning that leads to bitterness and pushes God away. That kind of mourning cannot be the kind of mourning Jesus wants his followers to pursue!
So what kind of mourning does he mean here?
There is a kind of mourning that followers of Jesus should know and pursue - the deep grief and sadness over our own sin, the sin of others
and the sin we see in the world.
We don't have to spend long looking at the news to see the devastation of sin in our world. We grieve over a world without hope and full of brokenness, but bringing this message closer to home is much more painful. Examining our own hearts is something that feels pretty uncomfortable - we don't like to dig too deep into our own heart as we know that it won't be good. It's easier to deny our sin, or cover it up - but holding on to sin is what robs us of the joy of being right with God. All sin is against God. When we sin we betray our loving heavenly Father, we are rebelling and turning away from the source of all life! In fact one puritan preacher calls sin the “devil's excrement”! Our sin is serious - so serious that the only way for God to deal with it was to lay it all on his own dear and precious son. Our sin is something that we should grieve over, it should hurt us to be the cause of Jesus death on the cross - but how ever hard we try we cannot escape our sinful nature on our own - we are slaves to it. Paul says:
"So I find this law at work: although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?" Romans 7:21-24
This is the inner turmoil of a believer that mourns their sin. Even Paul, an apostle, describes himself as wretched! Perhaps you can identify with this?
As followers of Jesus we should be battling with sin every day. There will be sin deep in our hearts that no one but God knows about. If we ignore it, we miss out on the blessing Jesus promises, but when we begin to see the reality of it, and what it cost him, we are humbled before God and we mourn.
So where's the blessing in all of that?
When God shows us our sin, as painful as that may be at the time, its result is breathtaking. True mourning over sin is heart work - and it leads us to repentance.
“Yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry
but because your sorrow led you to repentance”.
2 Corinthians 7:9
Our grief over sin is not supposed to plunge us to self pity and despair. For the Christian, repentance always comes with hope! We mourn our sins, but that it not the end of the matter - God is compassionate towards us:
“The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit”
"a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise"
This leads us to the second half of this beatitude... “For they shall be comforted”
The greek word for comfort is 'parakaleo': to console, to encourage, to strengthen.
God himself is described as the God of all comfort
and Jesus gave us a comforter - the Holy Spirit*
We have one who walks beside us whatever sin struggle or difficult circumstance we may be mourning. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to bring us new life and point us to what Jesus has done so that we can know the grace and mercy of God every day. The Holy Spirit brings fresh meaning to God's word and impresses his promises in our hearts to comfort us.
What a comfort to know that we are no longer ruled by sin and need not be overwhelmed with guilt! Jesus death has brought us forgiveness and everlasting life.
And the greatest comfort of all is that one day the Lord Jesus will return!
On that day he will gather us under his wing, we will see him face to face, and be like him!
All suffering will cease - and with it mourning and every battle with sin will be gone!
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
"Look! God’s dwelling-place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.
They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes.
There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain,
for the old order of things has passed away."
All scripture references taken from (c) 2011 New International Version