Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted (Matt 5:4 ESV)
While my focus is on mourning, each Beatitude builds on the previous so allow me a minute to address what it means to be both “blessed” and “poor in spirit.”
“Blessed” means to be a recipient of divine favor or approval. The opposite of blessed is cursed. There are only two paths, blessed or cursed. The blessed person in Matthew 5:3, the one who is “poor in spirit” is the one who is humble and acknowledges their need for God in every area of their life. God’s divine favor, approval, endorsement rests on those who are “poor in spirit” and their reward is “the kingdom of heaven” life spent in eternity with the Holy Triune God.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (5:4). In the Greek mourning is a present, active, participle which means that we should be repeatedly mourning. This is not a one time event! Only the person who is poor in spirit is the one who is able to authentically mourn. And how do we do this? Why should we mourn? Pastor Keith yesterday (6 Dec 2020) gave three layers or reasons for why we mourn: over personal sin, over the persistence of sin, over the pervasiveness of sin.
Many cultures today (especially in the States) do everything they can to run from or mask pain and discomfort. The world promotes that we should be as happy as we can because the world is bad enough. As Lloyd-Jones states, “The whole organization of life, the pleasure mania, the money, energy, and enthusiasm that are expended in entertaining people, are all just an expression of the great aim of the world to get away from the idea of mourning and this spirit of mourning” (Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 1976, p. 43).
The Gospel does indeed say, “blessed are those who mourn.” Once we acknowledge that we are “poor in spirit” we have no choice but to authentically progress to mourning over our sins personally and corporately. We are called to mourn, to rejoice and to be content. I mourn and lament the sin that is within me that has helped promote the problems that we have in this world today. Like Paul, I mourn and hate the persistence and pervasiveness of my own sins and the sins of others that are causing the problems that we are seeing in society today (Romans 7:18-24).
Folks, I will be honest, I have been mourning what has happened and is happening in our world today. I am fully aware that for those of us who are believers in Jesus Christ that we are Kingdom citizens first and foremost. I am NOT asking God for things to go back to how they were prior, I acknowledge and am fully aware that God’s ways, plans and thoughts are NOT mine and I am following Him! However, I also know that if I do not acknowledge my grief and admit that I am mourning to God, myself and others two things will happen definitely happen 1. I will become angry and 2. Anger will cause me to sin in which I miss/forfeit God’s comfort. There’s also a 3rd component which is more of a risk, if I do not acknowledge to others that I am mourning, I may miss the comfort that God has given them to give to me.
Unlike the first hearers of Matthew’s Gospel, we have the Holy Spirit indwelling us. We have the Comforter of comforters inside of us who will help us, strengthen us in our mourning when we acknowledge our brokenness over our sin, when we express our hurts, pain and fears to Him. We should not stay in mourning, we should experience His comfort and the comfort of others; however, we cannot deny that we have a need to mourn. Again, mourning is a byproduct of the one who is poor in spirit. Being poor in spirit and mourning both have to do with our vertical and our horizontal relationships in the face of oppression and opposition.
Mourning requires self-examination and self-reflection. This Advent season, may we not run from mourning but rather run to mourning, knowing that in the Incarnation, God Himself took on Flesh to reconcile sinful man to Holy God by dying a criminal’s death on a cross, buried and in the grave for three days, Resurrected from the dead, who is seated at the right hand of God the Father. Fifty days after Jesus Ascended to Heaven, the Father through the Son sent the Holy Spirit to indwell, comfort, advocate on behalf of all those who will believe in Him.
May we mourn knowing that God will comfort us now and even more so in eternity. I have no idea what mourning looks like for you dear reader, but know that Jesus is with you and that He loves you and so do I.
Father God, help us to mourn and lament our sin and the sins of what we see around us. Thank You Father that although we are called to mourn we are also called to rejoice. Lord God, thank You for being a God who allows us to express our emotions and that You will help us process our emotions and circumstances in a manner that honors You and brings You glory. Lord God, Your glory is the manifestation of Your Holiness. Lord God, make us more aware and more sensitive to our spiritual poverty in this Christmas season. Lord God, 2020 has been a tough year for just about everyone in so many different ways. Lord God, make us sensitive to NOT look down on those who are mourning but to comfort them, being quick to listen and slow to speak. Lord God, thank You that mourning and comfort go together. Lord God, thank You for the gift of this reader. Meet with them today. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.