Beatitudes - Matthew 5:4
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted".
What comes to your mind when you hear or read the word—mourn?
Do you consider mourning occurs because of persecution or poverty?
Do you mourn for sin?
Or do you mourn for both?
In Isaiah 61:2 God promises to “comfort all who mourn.” This is in the context of oppression and the people seeking forgiveness for sins.
So, I have three options to think about—you may agree or not.
2. Sinful mourning;
3. Spiritual mourning.
Natural mourning, or perhaps we could say human mourning, is probably most recognised when a loved one dies. There is the familiar sight of wreaths, a coffin and the grieving family together with their friends.
But in secular life the definition of mourning is not necessarily limited to death and funerals. It can also be a word that describes how one might feel about misfortune, loss of material items, loss of a job, failure in an exam, or something that’s deeply regretted.
A question—is there a Biblical promise of blessedness whenever death happens?
Most of you are aware that my family and I are grieving the loss of little Henry. Our grief is deep and still very raw. We have felt the love of God in so many ways, and in the love of our friends. We do feel blessed, supported and encouraged.
Yet, I still ask the question, is this natural mourning what Jesus was referring to when He spoke of the blessing of being comforted?
In the Bible are a number of examples of what can be understood as sinful mourning.
2 Samuel 13
1 Kings 21
In the New Testament, Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus. But, he recognised his error, attempted to return the 30 pieces of silver but of course, we know that it did not work out for him. Matthew 27:3-10 tells this story.
Clearly, Judas recognises his error so does this make the scenario different? It does appear he is solely motivated by fear. What’s more he did not seek forgiveness and his subsequent action left no room for the forgiving grace of God.
In his consideration of the situation Judas found himself in, J C Ryle, the first Anglican Bishop of Liverpool, had this to say:
It is possible for a man to feel his sins, and be sorry for them, to be under strong convictions of guilt, and express deep remorse, to be pricked in conscience, and exhibit much distress of mind, and yet, for all this, not repent with his heart. Present danger, or the fear of death, may account for all his feelings, and the Holy Ghost may have done no work whatever in his soul.
How imperative for us to be sure we grieve for our sin, not the consequences. We need to repent with our heart.
Is my grief for my sin real? Has it directed me to heart repentance? Have I humbly sought God for forgiveness and cleansing?
I have to admit that while putting this sermon together, I have been challenged to think about my reasons for grieving my sin.
Do you know what your reasons are?
Could sinful mourning be what Jesus meant in this verse?
Then there is Spiritual mourning. In 2 Corinthians 7:10 Paul writes:
Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. (NIV)
Paul’s comment appears to be a contrast with natural and sinful mourning. Is it more in line with spiritual mourning?
The stories of Cain, Amnon, Ahab and Judas each showed us worldly sorrow. As 19th century theologian Charles Hodge put it: “… the sorrow of unrenewed men, the sorrow of the unsanctified heart.”
In each case there were not simply negative results, but disastrous results!
Godly sorrow cannot be manmade—mankind cannot replicate it. Godly sorrow is a gracious act of God as His Holy Spirit works in the hearts of His children. It leads to positive and life-giving results.
Here and now we grieve in what we might call a worldly way—and that’s as it should be. It’s why we grieve for Henry.
And think back to Jacob’s depth of mourning when he believed his son Joseph was dead. Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth, refused to be comforted and wept for Joseph for many days. Or the depth of mourning when Jacob himself died—the Egyptians mourned for 70 days.
Or, think of when Mary Magdalene broke the news that Jesus had risen, it was to those “who were mourning and weeping.”
In each of these circumstances the Greek word pentheo is used. This is the strongest word in the Greek language for mourn.
So, mourning as we might readily understand it is not wrong, but it is not what Jesus was meaning in this verse.
Jesus is referring to the most important mourning—recognising our sin for the right reason, not just because we fear the consequences.
That said, I don’t think it is too big a stretch to suggest that we mourn not only for our own sin, but that we also mourn for the evil in this world—the cause of so much suffering and misery.
Jesus mourned—he wept over our sins and the consequences of them.
He died for this.
Should we not weep over the evil in our world?
As we look at the context in which Jesus was speaking, we understand that the blessing of being comforted was not principally for folk who mourn for a loved one, but those who mourn the loss of innocence, morality, self-respect.
As we acknowledge and ask forgiveness for our sin, from our heart, we will be comforted by the free forgiveness of God.
Old Testament prophets tell us that “consolation” was something the Messiah would give.
Our Messiah pours oil on our wounds, speaks peace to our damaged consciences.
In this verse, I believe Jesus is referring to the sorrow of repentance rather than bereavement.
May we not be afraid to weep Christian tears and remember that sorrow can be the source of blessing.
We look forward to the time when, as
Revelation 21:4 says:
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."