“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
We all want to be blessed, even if we’re not 100% sure what that means. To be blessed is simply to be made happy. Jesus gives a list of evidences (called “The Beatitudes”) of a blessed life at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount that seems surprising even to the audience of his day. The Beatitudes are listed in an unmistakable way, echoing the prophecy written of the Messiah in Isaiah 61. In this way Jesus preaches an entire sermon just with his presence among the poor and lowly. Yet his words bring focus to that message. The truths His words communicate are not intuitive to the fast reader, especially this week’s passage. Here Jesus builds upon the first beatitude (Poor in Spirit) when he states, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Mourning vs Happiness
Many among us have mourned the loss of someone deeply loved. It can be deep and long lasting. We can also mourn the loss of a marriage, a pet, or the sale of our childhood home. While the idea of mourning is not foreign to us, understanding it as a healthy practice is not normal.
When God made the heavens and the earth he designed all of his creation to live in perfect joy, peace, and harmony. Jesus’ Jewish audience knew this concept as Shalom. There is a core desire in every person to long for that Shalom state again. We are designed to seek happiness. So it can seem odd that Jesus says those who mourn are blessed. This verse could be interpreted, “Happy are the unhappy,” making the sentence even more confusing.
Sorrow of Repentance
It’s clear from the context of our verse that it’s not the sorrow of bereavement to which Christ is referring to here, but the sorrow of repentance. Jesus isn’t speaking about grieving the loss of a loved one, but the loss of our spiritual innocence and righteousness. While we are saved from the stain of sin and redeemed for eternity, we are not saved from the power or the presence of Sin in our world since God’s restoration is not yet complete (Revelation 21:5). The poor in spirit recognize and confess their total dependence on God, but the critical next step is mourning the effects of our sin that make us poor in spirit. It is only in our repentance that we can be comforted. Repentance is a change in mind, heart, and direction.
Mourning the Sin of the World
There are such a thing as Christian tears. Jesus cried over the sins of others. He wept at the eternal consequences of their rebellion (Hebrews 5:7), and over the cities that rejected Him (Luke 19:41). Jesus was the creator of reality and sees all that is broken by sin and all the missed opportunities. If you have lost a close loved one, you understand this well. You don’t just miss their presence. You miss the way their life intertwined and affected yours so broadly and deeply. You miss their partnership, their provision, their thoughtfulness, their laughter, their role as a parent, their role as a companion and so much more. So while we cannot fully see the effects of our sin and brokenness, we can imagine the far-reaching effects in our world. It can seem that we are unaffected by those who suffer at the hand of injustice or starve in poverty. Our response may be to just turn off the news. But injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. Sin allowed is sin committed. Burying our head in the sand actually contributes to the problem. The root of the pain we feel globally is the brokenness brought about by sin’s presence in the world, and the intertwined nature of our lives (per God’s design) calls us to mourn the loss.
Mourning our Personal Sin
It is not only the sin and brokenness of others that should cause us tears, but also our own sin as well. If we look closely at our hearts for any length of time we can see ways that we have been hurt by our spiritual rebellion; and so have others. We have contributed much love and goodness, but our sin-nature seeks to claw it’s way out. The Apostle Paul wrote to church leaders about this very nature within him (Romans 7:21-24). We Christians who make much of grace sometimes inadvertently make light of sin. There is not enough sorrow for sin among us. (2 Corinthians 7:10)
Comfort and Mourning Continued
True mourning grieves brokenness and sin as the source of the loss, not just the loss itself. This enables the gospel to do it’s work in us. Our passage is not a wisdom writing that points to comfort as a result of our action; instead it’s a prophetic writing that points to something God will do for us in his grace. Those who grieve their own sinfulness will be comforted by the only comfort which can relieve their distress, the free forgiveness of God. Yet still we mourn over the havoc of suffering and death which sin spreads throughout the world until the day when Christ’s work completely restores all things, for only then will sin be no more and “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:17).
Thank God for his patient pursuit of you and for the undeserved comfort of forgiveness.
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing to discuss the implications of the message.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
An Examined Life
As we continue to reflect on the sermon, allow these questions to guide your discussion with others concerning the conviction points and what you sensed God’s Spirit was doing in you through the preached Word. Jot notes to help you remember.
What was God doing in you through the message on Sunday?
Describe how you’ve grown in your understanding of the Gospel (good news of Jesus)?
How are you going to respond to God’s Word in your life?