Good Mourning

Good Mourning

The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, Matthew 5:1-10. Seeing the crowds, he went up to the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom. I am in the kingdom of heaven. The word of our Lord, thanks be to God. May be seated. Let me pray for the preaching of God’s word. Father, as my words are true to your word, may they be taken to heart. But if my words should stray from yours, may they be quickly forgotten. I pray this in the name and in the power of Jesus Christ. Amen.

I read of an encounter during the Aikman Nazi war crimes in which Yehail De Nour, who was a principal witness, came face to face with Adolf Aikman. Aikman was one of the principal operators of the Holocaust, one of the architects of what was known as the final solution to the Jewish question. And after Aikman was finally captured in Argentina, and in 1961, he was brought to trial in Israel. There was a little bit of a mistake in the courtroom, and Eichman and Janure found themselves literally face to face in the same passage. Janour was stopped cold. When he looked him in the eyes, Janour began to sob uncontrollably. In later interviews, he was asked, What motivated the tears? Was it anger? Was it fear? Was it horrid memories? Or was it joy and relief in the sense of pending justice? Deneure remarked that he realized that Aichman was not, quote, a Godlike army officer. He was an ordinary man. And he says, I was afraid about myself. I saw that I am capable to do this. I am exactly like he. End quote. Aichman, or Dinar, rather, was struck by the horrible reality that, quote, Aichman is in all of us.

As a result of the fall, each and every one of us are radically depraved. That is, our sinful nature radiates to the extremities of our personalities, our character, our actions, even our dreams are tainted with our sinful nature. This line of thinking, New Testament scholar, Kent Hughes writes that we as humans, are not just susceptible to sin. We, each of us are sinners. Sin is in us. And so blessed are those who mourn. For they shall be comforted. I don’t have to tell you that there’s pain all around us. You feel it in your own lives. You see it in the lives of friends and family around you. You turn on the news and you see it there, brokenness, sadness, death, and violence. And if we were to focus on that, if you were to fully be able to open your ears to the victim’s cry, if with your eyes you could see the bloodshed of the innocent, if your hearts felt that of the desperate, we would find ourselves overwhelmed with despair, incapacitated by gloom, truly hopeless. And yet our Lord paradoxically and even ironically declares, Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

What a contrast from our world and from the way of our world where advertisements and urges abound to to show us how to rid ourselves of pain, how to remove distress. Is your car or garment or spouse tired, worn out, or broken down? Try our new and improved version. Pleasure, entertainment, enjoyment, dare I say, happiness and fulfillment are one-click, one-purchase, one-decision away. We’re regularly exhorted to simply remember our favorite things, and then we won’t feel so bad. That’s the message of the world. We’re regularly exhorted. Calvin, in his day, reminded us that in our culture, there’s a deeply rooted understanding that, quote, blessedness is only for people who are comfortable and at ease. End quote. This is the same message that we face daily. Comfort, ease, good. Struggle, difficulty, bad. And this is why this message, this word from Christ, is so essential for us today, because I think the church has been affected by this same malise. Generally speaking, most evangelical churches have removed a call to confession. Many denominations have removed the language of sin from their preaching, their confessional and doctrineal statements, and even their everyday use. You may feel uncomfortable talking about sin to friends, to family members, even to consider it in your own life.

Jesus may still save. But what he saves us from is just a mundane and purposesless life, not from the fires of hell. Jesus has become the ultimate life coach, not the rescuer of my soul, from the penalty of my own sin, from the death and destruction that I ought to face. We downplay this. Martin Lloyd Jones puts it this way. He says, I sometimes think, however, that the ultimate explanation of it all is something deeper and more serious. I cannot help feeling that the final explanation for the state of the church today is a defective doctrine of sin, coupled with a failure to understand the true nature of Christian joy. There is a double failure. There is not a real deep conviction of sin, and there is a superficial concept of joy. I think it is that superficial concept of joy that Jesus is addressing in his sermon on the plane, which you can see, Pastor Lloyd talked about that a little bit in Luke 6, last week, where at least four of the beatitudes are given a parallel version of, and then a linking woe. We can see the one connected with our text this morning is in verse 21, Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.

And then the linking woe in verse 25, Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. There are some, and even some of us were some, that only live life for the moment. The goal, the ambition, the pursuit is, in a sense, to eat, drink and be married, for tomorrow we may die. And this pursuit of momentary laughter, coupled with the pushing away, the suppressing of, and the denial of the effects of one’s sin in one’s own life as well as in the world around us, that is what Jesus is speaking against in his woes. Hughes writes, Laughter is essential, but the world despises sorrow so much that it has gone wild in its attempt to avoid it. But Jesus stands as a stark contrast. He was a man of mourning, weeping at the death of Lazarus, weeping at the unbelief he saw all around him in Jerusalem, weeping even to the sweating of blood in the garden before his betrayal, when he began to feel the weight of the burden of our sins, which he would carry to the cross. It is no wonder that Isaiah calls him a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.

And Jesus shows us that there are good reasons to weep. And let’s consider why people weep. There are natural reasons to weep: tears over a friend’s death, a tragedy that brings pain into the life of a loved one. It is good and natural mourning. It’s not the primary focus of our beatitude this morning, but it’s part of it. To understand the type of morning that Jesus is speaking of here, we need to see the connection between the first and the second beatitudes. These beatitudes build on each other. They pivot and swing. They lead up to the hinge or the pivot of the hunger and thirst for righteousness. And then we see what a life like that looks like. But here, as we consider our beatitude, we take it in connection to the first beatitude, our recognition of our spiritual poverty. That is that we have nothing to present before God, that we have no way to impress God, no ability in ourselves to win his favor because we know that we are spiritually bankrupt. That is poverty. That is the knowledge that leads to an ability to genuinely mourn over the sin in our life, as well as the effects of sin in the world around us.

These beatitudes build. A huge remarks that blessed are the poor, and spirit is primarily intellectual. And what he means by that is those who recognize that they are spiritual begars are blessed. And then the second beatitude, those who mourn, is its emotional counterpart. Once we recognize that we’re spiritual begars, we can mourn from it. It naturally follows. When we see ourselves for what we are, our emotions will be stirred to mourning. A clear look at the sin in our life could be completely overwhelming. John Calvin, the great reformer, knew this. That’s why he warned. He said, Nor are we meant to be wholly self-absorbed. There is precious little happiness within. We would always be miserable if we only took account of what, of all that was inside of us, end quote. He knows that our misery would defeat us. It would render us pathetic, sad, gloomy if we bore the burden of our sin. And yet, seeing the sin in our life ought to bring us to tears. Christ’s tears were certainly not for his own sin, for he committed no wrong, and yet still he wept over the impact of sin in a fallen world.

He wept for Lazarus, even knowing he would raise him from the dead. Why? Perhaps because he knew that Lazarus would die again, perhaps because he knew the pain that his death was bringing to Mary and Martha and so many others, perhaps simply because he knew the pain of death. And so he calls us to mourn. Among the options in the Greek for words that deal with this range of meaning, weeping, grieving, mourning, crying, lament, et cetera, Jesus chose the word that several scholars have noted have the deepest meaning and an ongoing sense. It’s because the morning here that Jesus is speaking of is that of spiritual sorrow in our lives. I think Paul gives a beautiful example of this in 2 Corinthians 7:8-11. He writes there, For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it, for I see that letter grieved you, though only for a while. As it is, I rejoiced not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief brings a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you. What also the eagerness to clear yourself, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment at every point you have proved yourself innocent in this manner. Paul was willing that his brothers and sisters in current would experience the grief of clearly seeing their own sin. Because when they saw that, when they recognized their spiritual poverty, that would bring a mourning for a repentance that brought, as Paul put it, a salvation without regret. One of the things that I regret is that early on in my life of trying to share the gospel with people, I would try to help them understand why Jesus could be good for them. I would begin to find myself wanting to communicate how wonderful it is and try to talk them into it. And some might say, Well, I don’t know, maybe I’ll give it a try. And I would feel like that would be some a win or a gain, giving Jesus a try. Buying into the idea of a relief of whatever the pain and the anxiety and the frustration that they might be feeling that maybe Jesus would be better for them.

That’s missing the gospel. The gospel is that we are all sinners, that only Jesus can save. I wish then I understood more deeply what I know now, that a true friend, longing to share the good news of the Gospel to someone, needs to perhaps take a long time in helping those we love recognize what’s going on in their own life and where that is heading them. The wages of sin is death. Kent Hughes writes, You cannot be forgiven if you are not truly sorry for your sins. Jesus doesn’t just make our life better. He takes our recognized sin and He nails them to the cross so we bear them no more. Our text doesn’t call us to mourn our sin. It also encourages us that those who mourn are blessed and they’re blessed because they will be comforted. Michael Green notes, They have seen the depth of the world suffering and of their own sin, and it has broken their heart. And when this is true of us, we are wide open for the comfort God longs to give. That reminded me of a passage in Isaiah 30:8, where the New American Standard version declares that the Lord longs to be gracious to you.

He waits on high to have compassion on you. There is true comfort. And it’s quite different from the wisdom of the world. Michael Wilkins comments on this contrast. He notes that there are those that are self-satisfied and they are tempted to rejoiceice in themselves and their own accomplishments. We see this all around us, and we also ought to recognize that that self-delusion eventually wears thin. True comfort is only found when we recognize that while we can’t bear the burden of our sin, we don’t have to because Christ can and he has. James calls us in his letter and he charges us. He writes this, Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. These words, this charge, this call, it may seem a bit rough to our ears, but salvation can come from no one else. The release from the guilt of our sin, its burden and grief, that release, that lifting can only come from the Lord, and it only comes after we recognize the weight and the penalty of our own sin.

I think Jesus explains this himself. Well, when he declares in John 16:20-22, he says, Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrow, but your, a sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. And then he says, When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come. But when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish for joy that a human being has been born into this world. So also, you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take this joy from you. So do you embrace this sorrow? Are you able to mourn? And do you regularly mourn? First over the sin in your life, and then over the ravages of sin in the world around you? Jesus tells us that the blessed Christian can and must. For it’s only after he admits his guilt that he can experience that joy of forgiveness. It’s only after she sees the filth of her sin can she marvel at being washed whiter than snow. Calvin again notes, These things you will suffer and they will wound you to the very core and make you weep, but nothing will take your blessedness from you.

Why? Because my last word to you is wait for the consolation of Israel, perhaps referring to the Good News in Isaiah 61, where Isaiah declares, 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 broken heart to proclaim liberty to the captives, the opening to the prisons to those who are bound to proclaim a year of the Lord’s favor, the day of vengeance for our God to comfort all who mourn, to grant those who mourn in Zion, to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness, instead of mourning, a garment of praise instead of a faint spirit that they might be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord that he may be glorified. Jones would remind us that it is a deep doctrine of sin and a high doctrine of joy that it is those two things put together which produces a blessed, happy man who mourns but at the same time is comforted. Calvin would remind us that we are blessed not when we see ourselves, but when we see God.

It is only after we mourn the fact of our sin, and even that our sin put Christ on the cross can we be comforted. That glorious truth that our sin is now forgiven, paid for, blooded out, put away, finished. This is the message the world needs, where he or she now in Christ is pleasing and acceptable before their Father in heaven. Weep now and receive the comfort of Christ. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Let us pray. Father, no one likes thinking about things that bring distress. And as a world, we’re very good at putting them far away and always distracting ourselves with things that flash, bells and whistles that distract, that turn our hearts that long for something real and fulfilling and tease them with that which is superficial. Lord, we are all guilty of that. And there’s a danger to think that that’s what we have to confront, to try to show that Jesus is perhaps flashier, shinier, better than the things we try to satisfy. Father, remind us again that what we need is a savior. What we need is relief from the burden and the weight and the depth and the hopelessness and the emptiness that gnaws in our life.

Remind us that that’s where you met us, that that’s what you called us from, and give us bold and gracious words as we live and speak to a hurting world around us of the goodness of Your grace, of Your provision for our eternal life. Father, we give you all praise now and forever. Amen.

Disclaimer: Automated Sermon Transcription