Dear radio friends,
Listen to the words of Jesus Christ (Matt. 5:4): “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.”
This is the second Beatitude or blessing that our Lord Jesus Christ pronounces in His Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew 5-7. Do you mourn over your sin? The Lord says to you, “Blessed [happy] are you.” And He promises you a heavenly and a perfect comfort that flows from His cross today.
The Beatitudes of our Lord Jesus Christ, which we began to study last week, are not to be viewed merely as wishes that Jesus is making for His children. The Beatitudes are not to be compared to greeting cards that Jesus sends in which He would say, “I wish you a happy birthday; I wish you a joyful anniversary.” The Beatitudes are not wishes but they are pronouncements, declarations of the King of the church. In the words of Scripture, they are part of the Word that proceeds from His mouth, the mouth of the Son of God. They are blessings that He pronounces upon His people, blessings that are rooted and earned for them in what He did on the cross. And when the Lord speaks, He proclaims them as the King and Lord of salvation. He says that all those who have the burden of sin in their heart, made by the Holy Spirit in them, they shall be comforted. Listen to Him speak. “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.”
I remind you again that the Beatitudes are blessings that the King, Jesus Christ, is pronouncing upon the citizens of His kingdom. The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 to which I refer is really the sermon on the kingdom of heaven that Jesus Christ came to establish in His Father’s name. Jesus begins this sermon on the kingdom of heaven by describing the citizens of this kingdom, those who are made to belong to this kingdom. He describes them from a spiritual point of view, not from an outward, physical point of view, but from an inward, spiritual point of view — from the point of view of the heart that they are given. And then He goes on to say that these have great blessings.
So Jesus is describing in the Beatitudes everyone whom He has taken by grace into His kingdom. And He is going to tell us the characteristics of such.
The very first and the fundamental, the dominant characteristic of every citizen who has been brought into the kingdom of heaven is that he is poor in spirit. That is the first Beatitude that we considered a week ago (Matt. 5:3), “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” These were the first words that Jesus spoke in His sermon. The citizens of His kingdom are predominantly poor in spirit. That is, the first realization that Christ works in the heart of a believer is to give that believer to know and to say “I am nothing; I can do nothing; I deserve nothing; I am a bankrupt sinner before God. God, have mercy upon me.”
Jesus is teaching that the very first work of saving grace is to produce within us a deep and personal understanding that I stand with nothing to recommend me to God. And I possess everything that deserves the eternal darkness of His displeasure. But although, says Jesus, grace makes you poor in spirit, to know your undone state before God, I promise you everything. “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” His promise is not a blessing in the kingdom of heaven but His promise is the whole kingdom of heaven.
But the poor in spirit, citizens of His kingdom, are not yet in that final perfect kingdom. They are now on the earth. Jesus is speaking to us as we are on this earth and as we struggle now with sin and sorrow. We, therefore, mourn. That would obviously be the next thing that you would expect of these citizens. They are poor in spirit and, therefore, they mourn. They mourn because Christ has worked in them a deep and present burden of sin and sorrow. That burden is so necessary, for it causes them to lay hold of the comfort, the exclusive comfort that belongs to them; the comfort of belonging to a faithful Savior, Jesus Christ, who has fully paid for all that makes them mourn, for all their sins. Blessed, then, said Jesus, are they that mourn.
And yet, how strange. How paradoxical. How contradictory His words at first sound. Blessed, which means happy, happy are they that mourn? Happy are they that weep? Immediately we see that Jesus Christ is speaking here of something spiritual, something that He must work in us. He is pointing out the difference between the citizen of the kingdom of heaven and the person who belongs only to this fallen world. Only a child of God can understand this.
Weeping and mourning is so hateful and so irksome to our human nature. We see that in the world around us. The philosophy of the world is: Forget your troubles. Don’t face them. Drown them in a bottle, medicate them with drugs or with lust, escape them on a cruise ship in the Caribbean, run from them into the arms of pleasure, don’t dwell on your problems. We live in the age called “pleasure-mania.” All the energy, all the money, is spent to entertain. The world says, “We must laugh now. We must refuse to consider sin within the breast of the human.” Jesus says in Luke 6, “Woe unto you that laugh now, for ye shall weep.” The laughter of the world, apart from faith in Jesus Christ, is the laughter of a cover-up. It is fake. It is hollow. It is the folly of attempting to escape where there is no escape. Jesus means a spiritual weeping, which is, at bottom, over personal sin.
There are, of course, many reasons for tears. There are many things that would cause a person to cry. For you, too. Sickness and pain, pain so intense that we cry. Cancer. Mental depression and breakdown. Death. Bereavement. There are sinful reasons as well for tears. There can be the reason of a wounded pride. We say, “I’m hurt. I take offense.” Or we cry because we do not get our way. You see that in a little child. And we really are never any different from that little child. When we do not get our way, we mourn. It may be over financial loss. It may be over a multitude of things. But our Lord is not referring to a mere earthly reason for tears or a mere sinful reason. He has a different mourning in view. I do not need to prove that right now. As a child of God, you know that. Yes, our Lord is our light and our comfort, our salvation and our joy, in the midst of every trial of death and sickness and knowledge of sin. But, at the same time, the Lord is referring to a weeping here that everyone who is poor in spirit knows about, recognizes. It is the mourning that is the consequence of the knowledge of sin. You say, the knowledge of the consequences of my sins? Those consequences I find to be very severe. They ruin my life. I sometimes say, “How can I go on?” You mean those kinds of tears? Yes. But deeper. It is a mourning over sin itself, over the fact that I have sinned. No, even more. Over the fact that I am a sinner.
Listen to one of the weepers, one of the mourners that Jesus is referring to. His name is Paul (yes, the apostle). He weeps. In Romans 7 is the lament, the weeping of the apostle Paul, a child of God. He cries out at last, “Oh, wretched man that I am.” It was a deep, personal realization of who he was in himself — a wretched sinner. The agonizing realization of my own sin. Then besides, there is for the child of God the agonizing realization that it was for my sins that Christ was nailed to the cross of Calvary. The mourners that Jesus is describing are those who have been brought to see their sins in the light of the cross. Is that you? Do you know this type of weeping?
Notice, Jesus said, “Blessed are they that mourn.” Not, “blessed are they who once mourned,” in the past. But the Lord is referring to this as a present and, indeed, a continual thing. We have much to mourn over — not in false piety, not in a pious, outward display, not something that we are acting out, but something that is from within. Sin, after all, is not first of all, an act. It is an attitude. It is the disposition of the heart. It is, according to Scripture, the sinful nature. Solomon prayed his prayer at the dedication of the temple in this way, asking that the Lord bless all those who knew the plague of their own heart. We are confronted, then, by the grace of God, by His holiness. And we begin to contemplate the life that we were created to live in the light of God and we see the misery of our own sins. I discover that within me there is that which causes me to grieve and to mourn. I am a sinner.
Do you pause at the end of the day and reflect on that day and ask yourself the question: “What have I done? What have I said? What have I believed about others? What have I done toward others?” You find, do you not, if Jesus Christ is testifying within you, that you must confess that you have done, that you have said, that you have thought things unworthy, evil, sinful. Why? What makes you like that? What makes you behave like that? Why are you irritable, resentful, revengeful, spiteful? Why do you harbor jealousy and envious thoughts? Your sin. The Lord is showing you your sin.
Yes, I know, sin is all around us in the world, and all around us in other people, too. But we had better be careful of pride. You see, we are to mourn. To mourn means that one knows his own sin and knows what that sin means to God and how it has dishonored God. Oh the pain of heart that that will bring.
There are many results, as I said before, of our sins in marriage, in the family, and in the church, and even upon our children. We mourn over those results and cry out, “Oh, Lord, how long?” But, once again, the child of God has been led to see the fountain, the cause, the deep-down recesses of the heart, the ugliness of sin within.
Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. No, we do not stop with mourning over sin. The Lord says that there is found in this mourning a blessedness, a happiness. There is the paradox. Christ says that the mourners are happy and will be comforted in their weeping. Not an artificial happiness. Not one that is glamorized in the church world, one that is a superficial “Hallelujah! We got the victory.” Not when, in an emotional frenzy, we put our hand in a fist and pump it over our head. No! A deep, deep joy in the midst of sorrow; a happiness in the midst of mourning; a blessedness tasted only in the way of tears.
Maybe you felt this joy, this blessedness, this comfort especially as you stood before the grave. Tears run down our face. We feel the loss, the grief, the mourning. Yet, we also feel the hope, the power, and the victory of the risen Lord Jesus Christ. We taste and see the word that He said when He said, “I will give you a joy that no man can take from you.” So here there is a great grief. There is a reckoning with my sin. No soft-peddling of my sin. No glossing over my sin. But at the same time, as that grief is felt, there is also a profound, there is a glorious, peace. My sin — not the part but the whole — is forgiven in His cross. Oh, the blessedness.
That blessing is, first of all, because it is the sure evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit within us. He is the only one who can show us our utter hopelessness and wretchedness. We do not mourn over our sin and pride of ourselves. Of ourselves we would defend that sin and ignore our pride. But it is God who convicts. It is God who sends the sword, the sword of His Word and the light of His truth to convict us. If you have the grief of sin it is because the Holy Spirit has worked it.
And, secondly, we are blessed not only because it is the evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit but because the Holy Spirit does not just stop with the knowledge of sin. He goes on to lead us in the gospel to the truth of the perfect satisfaction of Jesus Christ. What a glorious thought, so glorious that it will fill our thinking to all eternity. Christ has died in my place, for my sin. Great sorrow, great joy. The Christian life is one of great sorrow and great joy; of mourning and of blessedness.
Christ promises not only the happiness of the satisfaction of Jesus Christ, but He says “they shall be comforted.” Comfort in the Bible is the possession of a great good in the midst of sorrow. It is a good that outweighs the sorrow. And it is more. It is a good that tells me that even the sorrow and the evil that I experience are serving my good. And what is that comfort, that great good that we have that is greater than all of our sin and that tells us that everything that we experience in this life is working for our eternal good through the hands of our wise and loving Father? What is that great good? It is belonging to Jesus Christ. We confess that this is our comfort. One of the church’s great creeds, the Heidelberg Catechism, begins with the question: “What is your only comfort?” Very personal. What is your comfort? And we respond from the Scriptures: “That I am not my own, but I belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.” That is my comfort: to belong to Jesus. That is what we read in Isaiah 40:1, 2: “Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned!” That is comfort.
We look at ourselves and see nothing but sin. It is in everything I do. And it is not pretty. But I see the Lord. I see that the God of grace gave Christ to take my sin upon Him, to die the accursed death, to wash me clean within, and that now I belong to Him in life and in death. I belong to Him by the power of the faithful hand of God so that I cannot be taken from Him. That is my comfort. Why? Why would God give me to belong to Jesus? Was it something that I did? Was it something that I earned? Was it that I was a bit better than someone else? No! The Bible says that it is all of God because God sovereignly, graciously loved me eternally. We read in the Scriptures (Jer. 31:3), “I have loved thee with an everlasting love; and in lovingkindness I have drawn thee.” They shall be comforted.
This comfort is something that we experience over and over. As we experience the knowledge of our sin over and over, so also we experience the comfort that is in Jesus Christ over and over. Still more, our Lord means to say to us that this comfort and happiness are not yet perfected until glory. They shall be comforted. Now? Yes, in the knowledge of belonging to Jesus Christ. But the Lord has in mind here the perfect state of that comfort. The burden of sin is with us now in this world, and it remains there. We are forgiven, but we sin and we need comfort. The consequences and the pains of our sins remain with us so long as we walk on this earth. Perhaps today you are a child of God who is very weary. Perhaps you are despairing whether it is even worth it to go on because of the consequences of your sin. You say, “My whole life is ruined.” Jesus says, “I will comfort you. You have sinned greatly, but I have not let go of you. I have brought you to repentance. And, further, I comfort you in this knowledge, that there comes a day when all the scars and all the effects of your sins, too, shall be removed, and there shall be only glory, only praise for God, with your sins perfectly washed away.”
There is a perfect comfort that awaits the children of God. The world says, concerning our sorrows and over our sins, “Get over it. Put your trust in education. Bank on the United Nations to solve these economic and world problems. Bank on psychology to give us an understanding of what makes us tick. Or bank on the evolutionary development — we’re on the ladder and going up the ladder.” All of these will fail you. There is no hope apart from Jesus Christ.
For the child of God, there is comfort now, but there is comfort that shall be perfected. Right now the comfort that we have in Jesus Christ, as I said, at times burns very low and we spend days asking, “Has the Lord forgotten to be gracious? In His anger has He hopelessly removed His love and grace from me?” Jesus says, “They shall be comforted.” There is a glorious hope, a hope that shall never put them to shame. We shall see it for ourselves. I tell you about it today. But you shall see it yourself. There shall be a glory that shall be revealed in us, says the Bible. Sin will be no more. Sorrow and sighing will flee away and we shall be comforted in the eternal arms of God. He shall wipe away all tears from our eyes. In glory we shall be perfect in Christ, we shall be happy. And there shall be nothing of sin to destroy it, to spoil it, to mar it. But we shall rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. And the burden of sin shall be perfectly lifted.
Do you hear the pronouncement of the King? “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.”
What kind of a person are you? There is sin in your life, that is for sure. Not because I know you. You know not me and I know not you. But God knows us and His Word tells me everything about you and about me. You are a sinner. Do you know that? Are you morose, sullen, resentful, cold towards others, hopeless, angry, fearful? Or, by the grace of God, having been brought to see yourself as a sinner, do you mourn? And in that mourning do you experience the comfort of Jesus Christ? And are you, therefore, sober and warm of heart and serious and possessing heavenly joy? Are you fundamentally happy? Do you have a happiness in Christ arising out of the knowledge that the burden of your sin has been forgiven? Do you have a deep knowledge of sin within you and an abiding confidence that Jesus Christ has been nailed to the cross to take away your sin. And then a peace, a peace of belonging to Jesus Christ, and a joy in the prospect that soon we shall be with Him in glory and our souls shall rest forever in Him.
Hear His word: “Blessed are you that mourn. Your joy shall have no end. You shall be comforted.” Believe that! He swears, He makes the pronouncement as the King. Those of His citizens who mourn shall be comforted.
Father in heaven, we do thank Thee for Thy holy word. Now we ask the Holy Spirit to seal it to our hearts. In Jesus’ name, Amen.