Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Beatitudes - Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

Today we are continuing through the beatitudes in our series on the Sermon on the Mount.  Today we will be discussing the second beatitude.
Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.  Matthew 5:4 NKJV
On its own, this verse sounds like it makes no sense at all.  Happy are those who are sad? I mean even though comfort is great, I would rather just skip the mourning.  In fact, there is a disease called Munchhausen Syndrome where people make up all kinds of illness and calamity to get sympathy.  Some have what is called Munchhausen Syndrome by Proxy, which is similar but it is where one makes up illnesses in other people they are close to (normally their children) to garner sympathy.  So, unless you suffer from one of those conditions or are just strange, we all generally would rather not have to be comforted than choose to mourn just to be comforted. 

So what is this verse saying?  To understand that we need to look at it light of the preceding beatitude.  Each beatitude does not exist in a world unto itself, but they are all related and a progression of sorts.  It is when we have that poverty of self when we come face to face with the righteousness of God that we mourn.  It is that kind of mourning this verse is referring to.  None of us have lived through any of the great revivals that have swept though America long ago.  There were two Great Awakenings in this land where God poured out His spirit upon the land causing many in Christ to see their selfish living and those outside of Christ to come to Him for the first time.  One hallmark of this time were churches filled with people weeping on their knees before the Lord for the sin in their lives.  Most of the time today when we weep at church it is because we are in dire need of Him for something or we are so full of the spirit that we weep tears of joy.  None of those are bad things, but the real interpretation of this verse is weeping for our sin.  I know that is not a popular concept in church today, but it is a Scriptural one. 
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.  James 4:8-10 NKJV
Some teach that we should not mourn our sins because Jesus paid the price on the cross for those sins.  Well, that is exactly why we should mourn.  Our sin put Jesus on the cross.  He suffered for our sin.  The only begotten Son of God suffered miserably because we counted our own pleasures above his suffering.  How can we not mourn?  How can we not quake under the conviction of the Holy Spirit screaming in our hearts whenever we fall into sin.  How can we not fall to our knees in utter abjection when we come face to face with our Lord.  How can we not weep for our misery of hearts when we ponder the holiness of God.  But, no, we do not mourn our sins.  We are flippant with our confessions if we make them at all and many times they have the sincerity of a child forced to apologize for a wrongdoing.  That child, like us, is not sorry, it is only out of fear of punishment that the child apologizes.  It is only the fear of chastisement that causes us any attempt at an honest confession of our sin.  That is not the heart to come to God, though.  We are not to weep for fear of punishment, but out of recognition of the wrong we have done.  We weep not because God will punish us as that punishment was paid by Jesus, but because we have failed Him.

Once again, let us look at a few examples in the Bible of people who represent those who mourn. 
To the Chief Musician. With stringed instruments. On an eight-stringed harp. A Psalm of David. OLORD, do not rebuke me in Your anger, Nor chasten me in Your hot displeasure.
Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am weak; O LORD, heal me, for my bones are troubled.
My soul also is greatly troubled; But You, O LORD—how long?
Return, O LORD, deliver me! Oh, save me for Your mercies' sake!
For in death there is no remembrance of You; In the grave who will give You thanks?
I am weary with my groaning; All night I make my bed swim; I drench my couch with my tears.
My eye wastes away because of grief; It grows old because of all my enemies.
Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity; For the LORD has heard the voice of my weeping.
The LORD has heard my supplication; The LORD will receive my prayer.
Let all my enemies be ashamed and greatly troubled; Let them turn back and be ashamed suddenly.  Psalm 6 NKJV
David was really under the conviction of God when he wrote this.  His was in pain, his enemies were mocking him, and his soul was vexed for the sin in his life.  He wept and wept hard for the sin in his life.  Look what happens, though, when he mourns deeply for his sin. God hears his prayer.  The psalm begins with David being at the end of himself and sick over the sin in his life, but it ends in victory with God hearing his prayer.  His repentant mourning was turned to victory.  Blessed was David in his mourning, for he was comforted by God.

Another example comes to us by way of a parable.
Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.' And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. Luke 18:10-14 NKJV
The Pharisee felt pretty good about himself compared to others.  That was his problem.  He did not view himself as compared with God but as compared to the world.  The tax collector (one of whom the Pharisee compared himself to), on the other hand, saw himself in light of who God was.  He would not even raise his eyes to gaze upon God his sin so mourned him.  He beat his breast crying out for mercy for the sinner he was.  Jesus tells us that it was that tax collector who was justified that day.  He mourned so much for his sin that he would not even look upon God.  He was ashamed of what he was.  He was miserable for the sin he committed.  In that, blessed was the tax collector who mourned for his sin because God justified him.  Though he was ashamed to look upon God, God looked down on him and raised him up. 

The last example for today is Peter.
Now when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. And a certain servant girl, seeing him as he sat by the fire, looked intently at him and said, "This man was also with Him." But he denied Him, saying, "Woman, I do not know Him." And after a little while another saw him and said, "You also are of them." But Peter said, "Man, I am not!" Then after about an hour had passed, another confidently affirmed, saying, "Surely this fellow also was with Him, for he is a Galilean." But Peter said, "Man, I do not know what you are saying!" Immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, "Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times." So Peter went out and wept bitterly.  Luke 22:55-62 NKJV
Before this all happened, Peter said to Jesus that even if the whole world were to abandon Jesus that Peter would never leave him.  Peter made the error of not comparing himself to Jesus, but to the world.  Peter thought he was much better than he really was.  Jesus told him that before the rooster crowed, Peter would deny him three times.  After hearing that prophesy, Peter upped the ante in saying that he would even go to his death for Jesus. Of course, Jesus was right and after denying Jesus three times and the rooster crowed, Jesus turned and looked right at Peter.  Even more important, Peter saw Jesus looking at him.  Peter then saw who Jesus was and what he just did.  His pride was crushed and he wept bitterly.  He finally saw himself not as compared to other men, but as compared to the Lord. All the pride and bravado that marked Peter's walk up to that point were crushed in that one gaze from his Lord. 

Of course, this is not the end of the story.
So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Feed My lambs." He said to him again a second time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Tend My sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." Jesus said to him, "Feed My sheep.  John 21:15-17 NKJV
Peter was forgiven by Jesus, restored as an Apostle, and given a ministry.  Peter was a leader in the early church, but he could not have been that leader if he were not humbled first.  He came to to the end of himself on that fateful night and out of Peter's humility, the Lord was able to raise him up in His strength.  Blessed was Peter, for he wept bitterly for his sin and the risen Lord comforted, forgave, and restored him to the calling he was now prepared for.

I will close with one additional example.  I know I said Peter was the last, but we are that example as well.  There is a well known passage in Revelation that is often referred to when talking about the glory of Heaven and how there will be no more hurts and sorrow.  I love that passage for the same reason, but I think there is an additional meaning to that passage.  What I am speaking of is when Jesus wipes the tears from our eyes.  I think those tears are not just from earthly sufferings, but from coming face to face with our Lord.  Think about it, someday we will stand before the Lord we love.  We will look upon directly the One who suffered and died so that we may live.  I know for me, I imagine myself seeing Him face to face that first time will bring me to the realization of just how much I do not deserve to be there.  I will think of those 22 years I wasted before I acknowledged Him as Lord.  I will think of all the sin during those years that He chose to die for because He loved me when I did not even care about Him.  I will think of even those years after I accepted Him, all the time I spent on meaningless worldly junk while other souls were perishing.  I will see those times I sinned and made a poor witness of the Lord bringing shame upon Him.  I will think of everything I ever did not did not glorify Him.  I will think of every minute I wasted upon myself.  There will be lots of weeping I am sure when I see the Lord face to face and come to that realization that any bit of "good" I thought I had was garbage.  There will be lots of weeping when I face the one who was scourged, humiliated, beaten, and crucified so I could be there that day and how I so many times had some worldly meaningless pleasure I needed to attend to instead of helping others get there as well.  I will weep, bitterly.  But then something truly and totally amazing will happen.  My Lord will put His arm around me and wipe those tears from my eyes and welcome me into the joy of the Lord.  I may still weep, but for the first time they will be tears of pure gratitude when I come to the full realization of just what it is that the Lord has done for me. "Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted."
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:4 NKJV

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