We are back on the beatitudes tonight. I really enjoyed last week, and the conversations that it started and the conversations that continued throughout the week about it. For those of you who weren’t here last week, we are trying something new. What we are doing is I am giving a message on one beatitude each week, and then we are taking some time as a church community to sort of just dive into it together… ask questions, see where the conversation goes.
So this week, we are looking at the second beatitude. And this is what it says:
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)
Now I mentioned this when we did our overview message, and I just want to recap this before we get into anything much deeper, but James epistle begins by saying:
“consider it a joy when various trials come your way…” because it produces something in you… something that you simply can not produce on your own.
But like we said, that can be very hard pill to swallow when you are living in a moment of disbelief.
When something happens that has no explanation.
I remember I did a funeral here a few months ago for a 33 year old woman who died the night before Thanksgiving. Life was just taken away far far far to soon. and I had never done anything like that before, and didn’t know much going in, but the one thing that I knew going into that moment was this:
“There are no words.”
Do I believe that the family going through this tragedy will have something produced in them through it, yes. Absolutely.
Did I say that to them that day? No. Of course not.
I mourned with them. Because that is what Paul says to do. (Romans 12:15)
A friend of mine had a younger sister who got mixed up in some pretty messed up things… she used a lot of drugs, and somehow she got on the bad side of one of the dealers… I don’t know if it was over a payment, or another issue, but what they believe happened was this drug deal gave my friends sister some sort of a bad dose of the drug that she was taking…
and it killed her.
Basically, she was murdered.
and I remember going up to my friend at the funeral, and just saying to her “I don’t know what to say to you right now.”
and she said to me, “that is because there are no words.”
she knew going into that day, that nobody was going to say anything that would actually make the situation any better. No words would help.
But no words were necessary. All she needed were people who would mourn with her.
So, we mourned with her.
But at the same time, I believe with all of my heart a couple of things… in fact I have discovered them first hand.
The more that comes against your life, that you endure… not only the greater the testimony you will have… but also, I truly believe… the greater the anointing you will have.
If God knows that you still trust him even when everything is broken then he will know that he can trust you even when things are good.
But on the flip side of that… the more God has entrusted to me, I have found, the more has come against my life. The more trials that have come against my family, against my marriage, against my health.
Because we have a real enemy in this world. And he is crafty. And he does all sorts of things that leave people devastated.
and not only that but we live in a broken world. A world where strength is the goal, and happiness is the goal, and success is the goal.
and when things like tragedy get in the way of those goals… you begin to evaluate real quick just how much value it all actually has.
We will say this a few times today, but really, “blessed are those who mourn” is a continuation of “blessed are those who are poor in Spirit…” it is like a staircase that you climb.
and you may think, “well, based on your description of poor in Spirit… I don’t see how mourning… which is something so physical… so present in our lives… How that could be like being poor in Spirit?”
Here is how:
Mourning instinctively forces you to take off your mask.
It forces truth.
Let me explain.
So much of our lives are an act. We all know that. The literally definition of a hypocrite is a stage actor… someone who wears a mask. We talked about this before and will go pretty deep into it a few Sunday’s from now…
but a hypocrite is not necessarily someone who says one thing and does another (though that sometimes is the case), a hypocrite is someone who acts. Its someone that you never really see the “real them.”
but in life, so often, We put on a show for our public, but when a true tragedy actually hits home… the lights go out. The curtain falls, and the show is over.
Anyone around you in those moments has a backstage pass to your life.
and you need those people in those moments. Of course.
but When you find out that you lost a loved one, or you find out someone you care about is really sick, or was in an accident… or you find out that you are really sick…
You don’t care about what everyone else thinks. It literally does not matter anymore.
Something happens in you. Something similar to what happens when we are poor in Spirit. When we finally realize that we are broken on our own and only Jesus can fix us, that reality changes us.
and when you are met with a situation that reminds you just how broken our world is… suddenly there is no value in trying to impress it anymore.
What does an impression gain you anyway?
Its not natural to be accepted without truly being known… and so even a person who has used the crutch of a mask likely will return to reality in moments of brokenness.
The natural posture of a broken person is to mourn.
and “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)
Luke’s gospel records it this way,
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” (Luke 6:21)
and again, in Luke, Jesus gives us a set of woes to go right along with the set of blessed’s… and this is VERY interesting. He says in Luke 6:25 “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.”
and this is when something incredibly practical suddenly gets incredibly spiritual.
It is strange, at least for me, when I look at the first beatitude, I feel like Matthew spiritualizes it.. poor in Spirit… while Luke brings it back to earth by saying “blessed are those who are poor, NOW.” But in some ways it switches on this beatitude.
Even though Luke says “mourn now” and “laugh now” something about this just has a spiritual tone to it that can’t be ignored.
this may sound a bit strange when we first read it… like it is bad to have laughter now, when obviously that can’t be the case…
Laughter is important. I had a friend named Drew, he was without a doubt the closest friend that I had who is no longer living. He died when he was, I believe 27 or 28… but one of the strongest memories I have of him is laughter.
He was one of those people who would laugh at his own laughter. He would begin to laugh at something, and then would find himself laughing so hard that it would cause him to laugh more.
and of course, everyone around him would laugh at how much he was laughing at himself.
Laughter is a symbol of joy. and one with a lot of history.
The story or Abraham and Sarah and the promise God gave to them to have a child culminated at laughter. Sarah was barren. She couldn’t have children and that was the desire of her heart. It was all she ever wanted. and instead for years she watched as all her friends had kids and she had none, eventually her own husband had a son with their maidservant, because that is what humans do… they get a promise from God, and they think that God needs our help to see that promise through.
So Sarah lived a very dark and depressing life. She grew bitter at Hagar, bitter at Abraham, bitter at God. The literal translation for what happened to Sarah’s heart after it was broken again and again by disappointment was this, “she lost her wonder.”
But when God finally showed up and finally fulfilled his promise, Sarah bore Abraham a son, and she named him Isaac, which meant “laughter.” Saying, “God has brought me laughter. Another way of putting it was,
God has restored my wonder.”
Laughter is a good thing.
It is hope in the midst of a hopeless situation.
It is a child in the barren womb.
The whole message of the sermon on the mount is a hopeful one… it is about how this new kingdom functions right in the midst of the current Kingdom we live in… the whole thing, for us, is about what our lives should look like here, in Detroit, while being citizens of the Kingdom of heaven. And if we are going to be the salt and the light of the world as we talked about last week, obviously we must be carriers of the joy that comes with the message of Hope.
Jesus is not saying that we should always be sad in this earth and if we are sad now, then we will be comforted later.
No. We are the light of the world.
Lights are bright. They illuminate things… They illuminate life.
So what is this saying?
James sheds a little light onto it. If you were here when we did our introduction to the beatitudes a couple of Sundays ago, you may remember me telling you guys that a lot of people believe that the book of James, written by Jesus’ little brother James, is really an interpretation, or in some ways an exposition, of the sermon on the mount. Well James says in 4:6-10 -
“But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”
I think that the most revealing words in this whole passage is when James tells us to “Cleanse your hands, you sinners.”
If you resist the devil, he will flee from you. But when we live as if our sin costs nothing then we are distancing ourselves from the gospel. Because though grace is a free gift it did not come cheap.
Look at the beginning, yes, God gives more grace, but who does he give it to? The humble. He opposes the proud. He opposes the ones who exalt themselves on account of their own actions or their achievements. It is to the person who has created a life that they have justified by their deeds that James is saying “you need to mourn.”
It is time to acknowledge, this world is broken, and so are you.
Humble yourselves… Make yourself meek. and let him exalt you.
This is an upside down kingdom! The first are last. The last are first. The ones who laugh when they should be mourning have received their reward… but those who mourn will be comforted!
Remember last week when we talked about how some old testament prophecies Jesus kind of quietly fulfilled, but some he made very clear that he was the fulfillment of? And of course Isaiah 61 was one of those because in Luke 4 he gets up, he opens the scroll to Isaiah 61, and he begins to read. and he reads: (Luke 4:18-20)
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
But what is so significant here is where he rolls up the scroll. And I think I showed you this the first sermon I ever preached as pastor here… but this brings light to the way that Luke’s gospel presents this beatitude.
Because Jesus in this moment read only half of that scripture.
In fact, the way that we break up scriptures into chapters and verses… Jesus literally cut it off mid verse!
This is what Isaiah says in 61:1-2
“61 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
Now… it is incredibly important to notice that Jesus stopped reading BEFORE the day of vengeance of our God… Where Isaiah put a comma, Jesus put a period.
Right after Proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor.
and then he sat down, and said, like we talked about last week…
“I fulfilled this.”
Because Jesus, in fulfilling this amazing prophecy, he has ushered in a new era… the age of grace.
The year of the Lord’s favor.
Because it is not the day of vengeance of our God.
Is that day coming? Absolutely! but it is not here now.
You see, everything in the entire bible is about Jesus Christ. Every prophecy is about him, really, every story is about him.
And some of the prophecies he already fulfilled, and some of the prophecies he is yet to fulfill. And the second half of Isaiah 61:2, as he made it abundantly clear when he rolled up that scroll… he has not fulfilled yet.
and everybody in that crowd, their eyes were fixed on him because every single one of them knew that verse… they knew it. They knew he didn’t finish it.
First of all, they couldn’t believe that he was claiming to be the fulfillment of it,
but what had to have been an even bigger shock to them was the realization that the fulfillment was going to come in stages.
So Jesus has ushered in the year of favor… the age of grace… the definition of grace is “unmerited favor”
and that is what Jesus has come with. But what hasn’t happened yet is the day of vengeance, but on the flip side of that, what also hasn’t happened on the grand scale yet, is comfort to all who mourn.
I believe with all of my heart, that because this particular beatitude speaks of an ULTIMATE comfort that is still to come… and comfort is so crucial to healing… that is the reason that so much was written for how we comfort each other. How we mourn with those who mourn. How to the weak are are supposed to become weak… how when two of us stand together God answers our prayers.
It is also one of the many functions of the Holy Spirit. He is known as “the great comforter” and will bring to your mind the life giving words of Jesus when everything else seems to be falling apart.
I also believe that is the reason why the bible does speak so highly of suffering in this life… because of what it produces in this life. Because there is a reward for perseverance, and it gives people a reason to continue when everything in them wants to quite.
Now… this beatitude, the second beatitude…
this is in a lot of ways an extension of Matthew 5:3, blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.”
Mourning is a part of being poor in Spirit.
Acknowledging and mourning over the broken person you are and the broken world we live in is certainly an attribute of being poor in spirit… of submitting to the reality that nothing is even fixable apart from Jesus Christ.
So mourning is spiritual.
But it also is incredibly real. Which makes the whole thing extremely extremely complicated because there is this constant flow between what is practical and how you care for a person, and right alongside of it there is a spiritual side to this, because everything is spiritual. And everything broken in our world has a cause and we can’t ignore that.
Because not everything that happens to you is on account of your sin. Not everything broken that happens is done in a reaction to something that you did yourself.
But… everything broken that happens is on ACCOUNT OF SIN.
Of the sin of man. Of the fall of man that goes all the way back to the garden.
and the fact that God can take something broken, that in reality, is broken because in a general way man turned its back on God… and he can use that broken thing to produce something healthy in you, like what James 1:2 says, something that at the end of the trial and time of growth leaves you perfect and complete and lacking nothing as it says.
That in and of itself is grace.
Let me read to you one of the verses that I have in my life at times taken great comfort in… yet at the same time guys, I find it to be totally disturbing that it is in the bible at all. And in one of the next couple of series we do on Sundays, we will study this more. But look at what the Apostle Peter says in 1 Peter 5:10 -
“after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
How great to know that Christ has a plan to personally restore, confirm, strengthen and establish us, but it begs an important question:
The word Peter uses here that is translated as establish is the word themelioō, which means to lay the foundation or to make stable. It's the same word that the writer of Hebrews (1:10) uses when saying "You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning"
So for reasons beyond any humans capacity to understand, in the same way that God laid the foundation of the earth, our foundation is built on the moments that we wish were never a part of our lives in the first place. Why would it be this way? Why is it that before Jesus can lay a foundation and make us stable, we first have to suffer for a little while? Why build a foundation on suffering?
ponder that for a moment. we will get back to it.
but I really believe, one of the reasons mourning now can be a blessing, now, is it means that you feel things. You can’t lose the significance of a moment that you have felt deep in your soul.
James tells us (James 4:14) that our lives are like a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
Hebrews says this and it is so powerful, “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
There are things in our lives that harden us. That we can grow numb to. and we don't have a lot of time on this earth but when we are here we need to make sure that we understand that every moment matters… the hard times matter. Mourning definitely matters. Mourning grounds us. It causes us to not whisk through life but it causes us to constantly re-evaluate it.
When people fail to mourn, it is normally because they are trying to ignore the fact that life is temporary, that mortality is a reality… and if we acknowledge it then it makes it real.
So sometimes people avoid a mourning posture but in doing so we miss out on a very real part of being human. and typically there comes a moment in a persons life who has lived like that, when eventually it all comes out.
and it should.
Feeling things matters. It shapes us. Mourning matters. It shapes our foundation as Peter says, because the reality is that everything we believe and live for is built off of a foundation of suffering.
Jesus Christ suffered. He chose to suffer, so that we could boldly approach the throne of grace in our suffering (Hebrews 4:16).
So that we could be healed by his stripes (Isaiah 53:5).
I want to share with you a moment that I think often is lost in the story of Jesus’ Crucifixion. Because it is one of other times besides the beatitudes when Jesus sheds a little light on mourning.
and you have to understand the context of this moment… the significance of what is happening here when he says what he says.
See Jesus is walking toward his death. Simon of Cyrene was just seized and was carrying the cross of Christ and as Jesus is heading toward his death… it is only moments away now… the crowd had already yelled “take him away.”
They had already yelled “crucify him.”
He was betrayed by one of his best friends and then an entire group of people who he had for years just loved, now turned their back on him. His heart had of have been hurting so bad, and that is when we pick up in Luke 23:26-31 -
26 And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. 27 And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. 28 But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ (side note - I used to know a girl like this… I worked at a restaurant with a girl who always said she would never have children. She loves children, but she refuses to bring children into this world because of how screwed up it all is… and she is not even a Christian. There are a lot of people like that.) 30 Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31 For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
First of all, this is amazing because Jesus here quotes a verse from Hosea, he quotes Hosea 10:8. And this passage of Hosea is about “the day ofvengeance of our God” this is talking about judgment day.
but Jesus tells them to not weep for him.
He is on a mission. He already wrapped his mind around this thing, and he knew it had to happen. But he also knew what it would accomplish.
The problem is, people are weeping for him not realizing that they put him there. Not realizing that it is their sin that he was dying for.
Because of this one act, the sins of the world that had put him there, could be forgiven.
Because of this one act, pain and suffering would be met with comfort. So he tells these women:
Weep for yourself. Weep for your children.
Weep for the state of our world… because it is getting so bad when you will envy the ones who never had children. Because who wants to bring children into a world that is going to kill them?
And then he says “For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
Most commentators agree on what he is saying, though it is obviously very abstract and certainly should cause some curiosity.
See when you are starting a fire, you want to use dry wood. Not green wood. Dry wood catches fire much easier. The green wood obviously is referencing Jesus, and most believe the dry wood to mean the world. The people who are so broken apart from Jesus. And Jesus is saying that if this is the fate of the only man who was ever innocent, what is going to become of all the guilty?
Theophylact was one of those early commentators, who lived in the early 1100s and he said this as a summary of this verse.
“If they do these things in me, fruitful, always green, undying through the Divinity, what will they do to you, fruitless, and deprived of all life-giving righteousness?”
The world is falling apart. And judgment is coming.
Luckily for Christians… for followers of the way… for people who are poor in spirit…
Jesus was judged for us.
But when we look at the state of ourselves… and we look at the state of our world… how could we do anything but weep?
Weep for yourself. Weep for your children.
Weep for the state of our world…
Because we live in a society where some women can’t get pregnant and whose bodies can’t carry a child when it is the only thing in the world that they desire… while others don’t want the children that they do have.
Weep. Because many children in our city are raising themselves.
We went to the school across the street on Wednesday and spent some time in a classroom with these amazing kids… and they were so ecstatic to have visitors. You could literally see the look on some of their faces, as we listened to them… the incredible joy that someone actually cares about what they have to say enough to show up at their school in the middle of the day. It was so obvious that for so many, that was not normal.
Weep. because our society makes it easier to have an abortion than it does to adopt a baby into a loving home.
Weep. Because the love of Jesus cost him his life. But don’t weep for him. Weep for us who put him there.
Weep for yourself. Weep for your children.
and for the world we are raising them in that ignores the needs. And selfishly takes from whomever it desires to achieve its means. Weep, for a lopsided system that will never get better until Jesus returns. Weep for the 663 million people who live every day without clean drinking water, including some in our own backyard, weep for orphans, and the widows, and the countless innocent lives taken in religious wars with no end.
Because if you can’t mourn for the injustice that has a face, then you will never mourn for your own sin which can masquerade itself as all sorts of justifiable things.
Weep for yourself. Weep for your children.
Because they are being raised in a place where we call evil good, and good evil.
Weep for yourself. Weep for your children.
Because the decisions that you’ve made are haunting you. They are keeping you awake at night. The things that happened years ago are still fresh in your mind. But Jesus can free you of that if you can just approach the throne of grace poor in Spirit.
Because even in the midst of this dark and evil Kingdom, there is a new Kingdom that Jesus has invited us all to be a part of. No matter how dark your past, no matter how deep your wounds.
and weeping… true weeping, is a sign of being poor in spirit. of dependency on the only one who can make you whole.
Weep. Because Jesus wants to comfort you.
but you can’t be comforted if you don’t feel. Weeping is an absolute sign that there is life in your heart. That their is blood in your veins and that there is hope for your future… because we haven’t grown calloused to wrong. We haven’t grown numb to sin. We haven’t gotten used to disappointment.
And we know enough to know when something is just not right.
We know that the world is supposed to be a very different way than the way than it is.
Weep for yourself. Weep for your children.
Weep for the future.
Weep, because Jesus meets us in the broken places of our hearts,
and he tells us:
“Blessed are those who mourn, (another way to put it is approved by God are those who mourn… and even crazier way to say would be HAPPY are those who mourn…)
for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)