Have we come today hoping to hear something uplifting? If you have, that is perfectly natural way to feel. Most people would say it is a perfectly healthy state to be in. But it is not exactly a Biblical way to be. I am sure that all the people who came to hear Jesus on this day when He delivered the Sermon on the Mount came with the same desire in their hearts. It would be no small thing to travel as far as many of these did, from all over Galilee, and ascend this higher ground where Jesus was situated – to do all that, and not to feel some sense of hope and expectation that it would be worthwhile.
So you can imagine, when they heard Jesus utter these paradoxical type statements, they would be surprised. They would struggle to grasp the benefit of what He said. The poor in spirit are the ones who are truly rich and great. They who mourn are the ones who are truly happy and comforted.
For them, as it is for us, it is necessary to realise that the Christian is quite unlike the person who is not a Christian. The world regards a statement like this as quite ridiculous. The world has no interest in mourning. The world wants to see people enjoy themselves.
But the Gospel says the reverse. Our Lord does not fit in to the pattern and outlook of the world, and all that the world regards as healthy and normal. “Blessed are they that mourn.” They are the only ones who are happy. In the parallel passage in Luke 6 you will find it is put there in a still more striking manner –
“Woe to those that laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.” Right here we need to pause and say – this sounds like madness. This sounds like everything the media would pounce on and ridicule – we would be fools & party poopers to accept this teaching. This is definitely not the image the modern church with their big bands want to the world they want to win.
How can it be possible to pronounce a woe on those who are enjoying themselves? Well friends….! Try to imagine this from the point of view of our Lord, whose eyes were always perfectly open to the Kingdom of Heaven.
Jesus looked at the crowds with pity – He saw them as sheep without a shepherd. He saw them accelerating towards a lost eternity. He could hear the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. He could hear the cries of those like the Rich man in hell, begging for mercy – for just a cup of water – and what He beheld was people hard, deceived, fixed & set in their ways – unteachable – and laughing and enjoying themselves – “Woe to those who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.”
This reflects upon us. It is a measure of our understanding of the Kingdom of God and Heaven, just how we fit in to such a viewpoint. If we can fit in with a gathering of people who are not disciples and believers in our Lord Jesus Christ, while they are cavorting and full of merriment – watching them laugh and joke while they sit as it were on the edge of a bottomless pit of endless torment, and not be disturbed for them & warn them – and somehow think it is good to see people enjoying themselves – then we have grown hard and indifferent to the things of God.
The world wants laughter & entertainment, but our Lord pronounces a woe upon it. But He promises blessing and happiness, joy and peace to those who mourn. So we need to pray for understanding and help as we listen to how all this applies to us.
By spiritual we mean, the Lord is not referring to mourning that arises from tragic circumstances. Nowhere did our Lord & Saviour teach that a person who mourns and grieves in a natural way is necessarily going to be blessed and comforted. The moment that sin came into the world, suffering followed. “In pain and sorrow you will bring forth children – cursed is the ground because of you; through pain & toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, …by the sweat of your brow you will eat your food.”
If it were not for sin, there would be no suffering, and if it were not for suffering there would be no mourning. It is natural to mourn when things go wrong. In the book of Ester, Haman mourned when his plans for greatness fell apart. That is natural, but it is quite wrong to assume there is any blessing & comfort connected to it. In Rev.18, all the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over God’s judgments. So there is much mourning in the world which is the result of sin & God’s displeasure. But that is not the mourning spoken of here.
Several years ago we attended a Presbyterian church where the minister was fond of using this verse as a basis of comfort for those facing grief & sorrow. If he took a funeral, he would often apply this text to those who were grieving. “Blessed are they who mourn.” I pointed out to him it was false comfort to misapply God’s word in a false manner. But it was apparent that the all important thing to him was to maintain his Mr Nice Guy popular image.
Having said that, it does not mean we keep a light view over mourning for tragic circumstances. It is our opportunity. Obviously, when we have family or friends who are deeply grieved we seek to comfort them. “Speak a word in season to him that is weary.” – “We weep with those who weep.” It is our opportunity to speak of God’s comfort and the importance of being right with God, and making our peace with God.
But the essential thing to bear in mind with this Beatitude – “Blessed are they that mourn” is that it is spiritual. We must know how to apply this in a spiritual way, and to understand the context in which our Lord uttered it.
Mourning follows as a necessity from being ‘poor in spirit’. It is inevitable. As I am confronted with God and His holiness and contemplate the life that I am meant to live, I see myself, my utter helplessness and hopelessness. I cannot help but mourn that I am this way. The person who truly faces themselves and examines themself and their life, is a person who must mourn for their sins.
If you look at all the great Christians of the past, you will see they were people given to self examination. They thought it a good thing to review their life each night and ask – “What have I done; what have I said; what have I thought; how have I behaved toward others? Now if you do that any night of your life, you will find you have done things for which you are ashamed. You will be conscious of harbouring thoughts & ideas & feelings which are unworthy of a believer. And anyone who is a Christian will be smitten and they will experience those things the Apostle Paul writes of in Rom.7. They will say, “the good that I would I do not, and that which I hate, is what I do.” They will discover this war in their members; they will hate what they are and they will mourn for it.
If I object to this kind of teaching, it just means that I do not mourn and therefore I am not one of the people who our Lord pronounces as blessed. If I think this is nothing but morbidity then I am simply proclaiming the fact that I am not spiritual – I am unlike the Apostle Paul and I contradict the teaching of the Lord.
This is why our Lord Himself mourned. “He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” That is why He wept at the grave of Lazarus. It was not because His friend was dead, because He had gone to raise him. He saw this horrible ugly foul thing called sin which had entered the world and brought death & misery. He saw that people thought more of life & death than they did of offending God. He wept over Jerusalem for the same reason.
It was the same spirit in Jeremiah’s ministry that moved him to weep profusely for the people of Jerusalem – 1 “Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people. Oh, …if I might leave my people and go away from them; for they are all adulterers, a crowd of unfaithful people.”
It was folk like Jeremiah that were spared and comforted during the destruction of Jerusalem when God said to the destroying angels – “come not near anyone who sighs and cries for all the abominations done in the midst of her.”
It stands to reason, because the person who truly mourns their sinful condition is going to repent. And it is the person who repents that is truly happy. It is only such a person who is able to embrace Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour and Redeemer.
This is a comfort we do not expect. It is given by God freely in His grace. We do not deserve it. It is important to insist that it is God who gives this comfort. He is called the God of all comfort. The HS is called the Comforter. He knows how to apply the Word of God to the soul of a believer. He binds up the broken hearted. It is God who does this.
We must insist on this, because there are many people who foolishly comfort themselves, and promise themselves all kinds of blessing. The comfort spoken of here is not the comfort a person promises themselves when they feel bad about their sins. There are some who say, ‘it is good that I feel bad about my sin.” Perish the thought. That is a false comfort. That is not the spiritual mourning & godly sorrow the Scripture talks of.
The person who is deeply cut for their sins is the person who comes with a broken heart before the Lord, and does not spare themself in their grief to confess all their sins. They are able to claim the promise that all their sins are forgiven. “God is faithful & just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Only the Christian can know this joy of sins forgiven.