“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4
I have heard the above text preached at funerals, used to comfort people who have gone through hard times and offered as support for people facing illness. Though God does hear our prayers and answer us when we call out to Him, I don’t believe this is the major concept behind this verse.
In order to understand what it is saying we need to go back to verse 3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Though Jesus had great sympathy for the poor and ministered tirelessly on their behalf, it is the “poor in spirit” that is being mentioned in this first of the eight Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount.
To be poor in Spirit is to understand that we are in need of a savior and cannot save ourselves through our good works, community standing, or church membership. The poor in Spirit are neither people who beat him or herself up all the time, thinking that they will never please God, nor be good enough. It is true we will never be good enough to earn God’s grace but that is what makes the Gospel, the Gospel. Since I can’t save myself I turn to the free grace of salvation found in Jesus for all of us who believe and accept the gift of redemption.
Only those who understand that they are in need of God’s grace for salvation are poor in spirit. They long to be right with God but know they are incapable of bridging that gap to reunite with Jesus on their own. It is the poor in spirit or those who understand their need that throw their trust upon the shoulders of Christ.
Only the poor in spirit will mourn their sins because only the poor in spirit understand their need of Christ. The Pharisees would pray standing in the streets proclaiming their merits and good deeds for all to hear. But it is the exact opposite of that self-praising that Jesus is talking about in verse 4. The blessing is for those who mourn for their sinfulness, know the true condition of their heart, and long to be right with God.
Studying in Acts this year with friends we are discovering the call to be committed to the Gospel and to each other. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit is not a sideshow that Jesus bestows upon people for their own glory and use. The gift of the Spirit in power is for those people who are poor in spirit and mourn the poverty of their own soul. Only when we, as Christians, become followers of Jesus and accept Him into our lives will we be recipients of the Spirit in power.
To mourn also means we will be comforted. If you pick up your Bible and turn to Matthew 5 you will notice something very interesting. The first beatitude of course is verse 3, “blessed are the poor in spirit, “ now notice the reward, “for theirs is the kingdom of God.” Go to the last of the beatitudes in verse 10, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
In verse 3 it is the poor in spirit that receive the kingdom of Heaven and in verse 10 it is the persecuted for righteousness’ sake who receive the kingdom of heaven. When we understand our need of Christ and put our trust in Him much more happens besides receiving the power of the Holy Spirit that convicts us of our sinfulness. We will face persecution for Jesus’ sake.
This is all-important because the blessing to the persecuted is not because they are persecuted, but because they are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. We can face persecution in life simply because of the situation we find ourselves in or we can bring persecution upon ourselves by our silly and thoughtless actions. But it is persecution because we are living for Jesus that receives the blessing of verse 10.
Here is the point I wish to make. Only people who take their faith seriously and live it will mourn their sins. The majority of Christians here in North America do not want to have a deep relationship with Jesus because it gets in the way of doing what they want. Does that sound unfair? Maybe it is to an extent, but just look around at the state of Christianity in our nations. We are not the movers and shakers of our communities any longer. We have surrendered the well being of our society to politicians, social services, government agencies, and professional interests like community organizers.
Let me be blunt; the church, and we are all the church, has a lot to mourn over besides our own sinful nature. We have surrendered to the non-Christian invasive rise of pop culture and its varied offspring without much resistance. While radicals evangelize our streets and cult figures draw in scores of searching people to their insane and ridiculous belief systems, Christians huddle around the television watching reality shows.
Some of you don’t like that I just said that and yet you call yourself a Christian. Do you mourn for the pain you’ve caused Jesus or are you angry with me for stepping on your toes? Do you see what I’m getting at? I’m not trying to be judgmental; I am just trying to make a point. We have become much more infected with the value system of this world than we think. And we have become much less interested in mourning our spiritual condition than we realize.
The Sermon on the Mount is a call to discipleship. It is a call about getting serious about our relationship with Jesus and what it means to put our trust fully upon Jesus.