"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."
Very rarely do I ever go to the grocery store. I thank God for giving me a godly woman who can handles such daunting tasks. I frequently say that it is not good for man to be alone. And this is one reason why I say that. God knew what he was doing when he created Eve. He knew that there was a great deficiency in man that would not be able to perform such insurmountable undertaking. I wouldn’t even doubt it that God might have sent Adam to the grocery store and, when he got back God said, “This isn’t going to work.”
However, sometimes I have to venture out to the grocery store to pick up a few things. And I have to say that I don’t like doing it. It requires skills that I just don’t possess. It takes a gift or a trained eye that I do not possess.
For instance, when I come to the produce section, I see before me all the heads of lettuce or a barrel of apples. And they all look the same to me. So what I have to do is pick some up and look at them individually to see if I can find a good one. But still, unless there are super obvious defects, they all look the same to me.
I don’t think that I will ever buy a cantaloupe or a pineapple on my own. Because no matter how closely I look at one of these things they all look the same. My mother told me that when you buy a cantaloupe, you have to smell it to see if it smells right. So I picked it up and gave it a whiff. I couldn’t smell anything!
The same is true for a pineapple. My wife will come home with a pineapple. And when my mother comes over she will say, “Wow. That’s a great pineapple! Where did you get it?” Now, how does she know that it is a great pineapple? I’m not sure what in the world distinguishes it from a bad one. But my wife and my mother both know. They have an eye for these things. They know the indicators. They can detect subtle differences that distinguish a good pineapple from a not so good pineapple.
You know, when you look out at the masses of humanity, it can be much the same. When you look out at a crowd of people, they will all look very much the same. And this is why Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount with the Beatitudes. In the Beattitudes Jesus talks about the person who is blessed of the Lord. In other words, he is talking about a Christian!
So what Jesus does for us in these beatitudes is define for us what a Christian is. He gives us the defining traits (or some distinguishing features) that characterize a Christian. So when we come upon someone in the street we can determine with a good deal of accuracy who is of Christ and who is not. Even though we cannot see their heart, if they possess these traits then we can assume that this person has a personal relationship with Christ.
But what is more important is that we can come to see whether we are a Christian or not. You know, one of the biggest problems today is self-deception. We have a lot of people who think that they are Christians, when in fact that they are not. They have this notion of what a Christian is, but unfortunately it is a false notion. It is not a Biblical notion. So, even though they would say that they are a Christian and they may go to church and do all sorts of wonderful things, they have no clue what it really means to be a Christian.
That’s why it is important that we listen to what Jesus says in these Beattitudes. If for no other reason, we should do this study so that you can understand what it means to be a Christian. It is ultimately so that you can rest assured that you are in Christ, or you can come to realize that you are not a Christian and correct that.
This morning we are going to focus our attention on the second of these beatitudes. Last time we were together we said that a blessed person is one who is poor in spirit. That is to say, a Christian will recognize that he is spiritually bankrupt. He has no righteousness of his own to offer God and deserves not one of the least of his benefits.
This morning’s beatitude tells us that a blessed person (or a person who is a Christian) is one who mourns.
I. Who are blessed?
Now if you are listening to me, your faces should wrinkle up a little. This shouldn’t sound right. A blessed person is a mournful person? This is even more perplexing when you think about the real meaning of the word blessed. It means “happy.” Happy are those who are sad. But there’s more. The word for mourn is a unique word in the original language. In the Greek language there are a lot of different words to denote the emotion of sadness. There is a word that means gloomy—sort of a down spirit. Then there is another word that means really sad. It sort of ups the intensity to the feeling of strong grief. But the word translated mourn here ups the intensity even more. The idea is passionate lamenting. Or you might say, to bewail. What we are talking about is an uncontrollable expression of intense anguish.
Let me give you an example that you will be somewhat familiar with. Let’s say you are out there on the deck pounding in some nails. You are pounding along nice and well and all is hunky dory until you miss. You land that hammer right on top of your thumb. You all know what happens next. You can’t stop it. It just comes flying out of you. Your mouth opens and out comes the bellowing wail of pain. After the initial shout due to the pain, you continue to pour out these shrieks that make your neighbor’s alarmed. Those shouts are due more to some of the emotions you are not experiencing. It is a mixture of anger (at the hammer, of course) and sadness (Why did I do that?).
That’s what we are talking about. That emotion. That strong, geyser-like grief that is expressed.
You know in Jesus’ time everyone would have understood what he meant when he said this. Back in Jesus’ day they had professional wailers. These were people who would be hired for funerals. Say if a person died, they would call in these wailers and they would sit outside, weeping and wailing for the dead person. That’s all they did. They didn’t cater the meal or have anything else to do with the funeral. They just wailed. And the more wailers a person had at their funeral indicated something of the greater prestige of the person. But these were typically women who simply cried and moaned and howled and hollered for hours, if not days, on end.
And that’s the kind of person that Jesus says is blessed. Someone who expresses that kind of emotion is one who is a Christian.
Of course, it is important to keep this in its context. Because then we know what these people are weeping and wailing over. It would be silly to think that it is just sad people that are blessed. No. They are sad for a particular reason. But what is the cause of their wailing? What exactly are they bewailing?
The context reminds us that this has to do with one’s sin. Remember that this follows on the first beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” That is, those who admit that they are spiritually bankrupt.
So Jesus tells us here that the blessed person will not only recognize his sinfulness, but he will be severely cut up over the sins that he commits.
Now, are you starting to see the difference there is between a Christian and a person of the world? Most people in the world could care less about their sins. Sure, sometimes people regret that they did this or that. Or maybe they are a little saddened that they hurt someone or upset them. But rarely are they so grieved that they could be said to mourn (or bewail) their sin. Most of the time people don’t take their sins all that seriously. Most people will down play it or laugh it off. That is of course if they even acknowledge it at all.
But a Christian is one whose heart breaks over these things. He is torn apart by even the least of his sins when he really thinks about them.
You know why? Because he recognizes something of the nature of sin. He understands how evil sin. It is a sin against God. It is a sin against an infinitely holy God. And so his sin is infinitely evil. And this sin causes him to be separated from God.
Why is there such grief at funerals? Why is it that people weep and cry out when a friend or family member passes away? It is because they have lost their loved one. There is separation. They don’t get to be with the person who meant so much to them anymore.
And this is why a Christian feels the way he feels about his sin. He is grieved by it because it what separates him from God.
Now you might say, “Come now. This is preposterous! Christians are not supposed to be so morbid.” We live in a happy slappy culture. And a lot of people say that Christians are never supposed to be down like this. I know that some would consider this outlandish that I am saying this.
But its true. And if you think about Jesus you’ll know that I’m right. It is interesting that we don’t hear anything in the Bible about Jesus laughing or being even in the least way jovial. This isn’t to say that he wasn’t. But it is interesting that the Bible mention it or give any indications of it.
However, it does say that he was a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief. We do know that when Jesus went to raise Lazarus from the dead he was filled with sorrow to the point that he wept. We don’t know exactly the cause of his weeping. Some say it was because Lazarus had died. Some say it was because he knew that Lazarus was in heaven and had to come back to life. Some say he was sympathizing with the people all around who were so sad. Other say it was because he himself would one day have to die! Whatever the reason, these were not tears of happiness. They were tears that had to do with the existence and/or consequences of sin.
And there was one time when Jesus looked out on the crowds and it says that he “had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” Literally translated it says “His bowls hurt.” It was a way of expressing excessive emotional turmoil. We might say in our day, “It was gut wrenching.” Why was he so sad? Because these people were not being cared for. The spiritual leaders were neglecting their jobs. He was grieving the existence and consequences of sin in the world.
So when we look at the overall tenor of Jesus’ life, we see that he was a mourner. Of course, ti wasn’t his sin. He didn’t have any sin to mourn. But he was a mourner of sin. He was one who agonized over people’s sin.
And here we learn that those who are Christians will be like the Christ. And I can ask you: Is this a characteristic of your life? Do you find yourself broken over your sin? Are there times when you just fall before God lamenting the fact that you have sinned? Maybe it is the silent weeping because you did it again. You fell into that same temptation again.
If you haven’t, then you need to realize that you are not a Christian. If you do not really saddened by your way of life, then you should not expect that you will go to heaven. Because heaven is for people who are repentant. And part of what it means to repent is that you are truly sorry for your sin.
But if your sin does grieve you and you find that there are times where your heart is just broken before God, then you may rest assured that you are a Christian. You are blessed of God.
And you are going to look at me and say, “I’m blessed!?” What do you mean, “I’m blessed”? I’m carrying around all these tears and you say that I’m blessed!? How in the world can you say that I’m blessed?
Well, it is because Jesus says you are blessed! You might not feel very blessed. But you are. And Jesus tells us why.
II. Why are they blessed?
And he says you are blessed because “you will be comforted.”
These words remind us that though the grief we experience may be intense, we can be happy because it is temporary. It will not last.
So you see here that there is a tempering of the mourning. I’ve painted a rather dismal picture so far. I’ve said that the Christian is a mourner. He is someone who will weep over his sin and sometimes lament it with great passion. But we must remember this: A Christian is not someone who despairs over his sin. God does not that happen. Once the Lord brings you low, he stretches forth his hand to sooth your sorrowing soul with the gospel of Christ.
As a matter of fact, he brings you low in order to bring you to this solace. The Holy Spirit will never leave someone in the dungeon of sorrow. This is why the Bible says, “Sorrow may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” It is because the Spirit is operative in a Christian’s life. Think about it, the Spirit is the one who brings you face to face with your sin. He is the one who initiates the conviction and rouses the grief you feel. But he only does this so that he can bring you to Jesus—the one who is the remedy for sin. That’s his job!
On his last night with his disciples Jesus said that He was going to send them the Comforter. Some versions translate it “helper,” but it’s the same word here in Matthew 5. He was talking about the Holy Spirit. The holy Spirit’s job is to bring peace to the troubled souls.
Jesus went on (in John 16) to say that the Spirit has one job. It’s to glorify Christ. That is to say the Spirit will comfort his people by pointing their attention to the saving work of Christ. He reminds you that Christ has made full satisfaction for sin in his cross and resurrection.
One theologian has said that for every one look you take at yourself, you must take 1,000 looks to Christ. That’s summed up well in what Jesus says here. That’s exactly what the Spirit does in the mourner’s life. He brings the consolation of the gospel and reminds that pour soul that Christ has become the Savior.
Of course, this is only part of the comfort Christ promises. If this were it, we would still be sullen. For this would be an endless cycle. You sin, you mourn, you’re comforted. You sin, you mourn, you’re comforted.
If you are a Christian, you know that this mourning thing is not just a one time thing. It is characteristic of your whole life. There is always an ebb and flow to your mourning for sin. That’s why ultimately Christ is pointing us to the greater hope that we have—the ultimate hope: the consummation of our redemption.
Remember that with the first beatitude Jesus said, “Yours is the kingdom.” I think that in this second beatitude he reinforces that idea. The kingdom that is yours will one day be a perfect kingdom. Christ will come again, and he will establish his kingdom in its fullness. No longer will it be just a spiritual kingdom, but it will be fully realized. And we will have no reason to mourn anymore, because there will be no sin to mourn.
Jesus affirms here what we read in the book of Revelation. In Revelation 21 the apostle John talks about the new heavens and the new earth. And as he sees it coming down from heaven he says, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."
This is the comfort that we have now. This is why mourners are called blessed. We have the promise that one day all shall be made completely new. We will not suffer because the plight of sin will be removed.
No other people have this kind of happiness. They may enjoy this life now. They may be very “comfortable” because they do not make much of their sin and all seems jolly with them. But there will come a time when they do grieve. They will find themselves lamenting their sin continually. That’s because they will find themselves thrown into hell. And there they will find themselves weeping and gnashing their teeth. Then they will wail and bemoan their foolishness. and there shall be no comfort for them.
But for those of us who mourn, there is blessing. There is comfort. There is the comfort that one day we our comfort shall be complete. As Martyn Llyod-Jones has said, “In that eternal state we will be wholly and entirely blessed, because there will be nothing to mar life. Nothing to detract from it. Nothing to spoil it. Sorrow and signing shall be no more.”
Now I hope that this meditation provides you with the kind of discernment that is needed. I hope that now you can look into your soul and discern whether or not you are in Christ or not.
I know that there are some among us who do mourn their sin. You might not see tears streaming down their faces, but their hearts know what it is to grieve their sin. Those of you who have heard this message and have thought: Yes, you know exactly what I feel like. I want you to know that you are blessed. You will be comforted. You’ve been comforted with the gospel already. But one day, you will be free from your miseries. You will be free from your sin.
But if you are here today and you recognize that you have not mourned your sin—you’ve been rather flippant about your sin, then you must recognize that this eternal comfort is not yours. And the comforts that you now enjoy will one day be taken away from you. I do pray that you are becoming more sober about your way of life. I hope that this message has pricked your conscience and shown you that you are not one of Christ’s people.
And if your conscience is stirred, then go to Christ. Renounce the sin that you have enjoyed. Mourn the sin that you have cared nothing for to this point. If the Spirit is speaking to you now, then listen to him. God to Jesus and rest in him as your Savior. Let the redemption that he has purchased with his blood be your only comfort in life and in death.
I have not been to many funerals, but I have seen enough that I have caught some differences between them. I conducted one funeral where a relative of the deceased cried uncontrollably. It was hard to give the message because the person could not control his sobbing. All through the message he would let out grunts and moans because he was so upset. The death of this loved one had caused him such grief that he could not stifle the pain that gripped his heart.
Beholding his pain I felt sorry for him. I knew that no amount of Kleenex could be of benefit to him. His sorrow was deep, but there was no consolation.
To and extent we must replicate that grief. We must experience a deep rooted agony because of our sin. Its offense must grieve us to no end. But unlike that man, our tears of grief should lead us to tears of happiness. For we do not pick up tissue after tissue with only thoughts of despair, but we have consolation of the gospel. Jesus Christ has died, all who trust him as Savior are forgiven.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.