Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

Matthew 5:4

If you brought a copy of Scripture with you this morning, you can find Matthew chapter 5, as we continue in our series we just started, “Blessed.”

Do you feel blessed this morning? That song we just sang [It is Well With My Soul] was written by Horatio Spafford. Paul alluded to some hard times in his life. Actually, he had just sent his wife and four daughters to go across the Atlantic ocean for a vacation. He, in the last minute, stayed behind. He was a successful businessman and an unsuccessful businessman. He had hard times and good times. But he was a fervent follower of Christ. He sent them on their way to Europe and on the way their ship collided with another ship, and in 12 minutes the ship went down. Over 220 people died. His wife sent him a telegraph saying, “Saved,”— that is, she got saved, but all four daughters drowned. So Spafford got in another boat when he got back with his wife. They took off. They went to that very spot where the other ship went down. They stopped. They paused. They reflected in the moment, then he went down into his cabin and he wrote the song that we just sang. You think he knew something about mourning? Jesus said,

[Matthew 5:4], ”Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

So as we get going and discovering what he meant by those words, let’s ask God to help us. Shall we?

Our Father, we thank you this morning as we come before you, in these Beatitudes going through these paradoxes, these hard to grasp truths, truths we read and we say they are so counterintuitive and yet they’re true because you gave them to us through your Son, help us. Help us today to understand what it means to be blessed by mourning, and what kind of mourning that is, and the comfort that comes from it. There are those in here, Lord, who are mourning for various reasons. There are lots of reasons to be grieved, to be sorrowful, to be hurting, and we ask your special connection to their souls, their hearts today. And help us all to understand why it’s so incumbent upon us to mourn as Jesus told us to, so that we might really know you. We ask all this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Matthew chapter 5, blessed is the one who mourns, for they shall be comforted. Now, remember we said this last time. The Jews understood what it meant to be blessed. In fact, they love that word “blessing.” We quoted a couple of Psalms last week. To a Jew, to be “blessed” meant to have the good life and hopefully a long life… and lots of money… and your barns full and your enemies on the run. That was the idea to be blessed by a Jew. Now, Jesus turns all of that on its head and he says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Have you ever mourned? I’m thinking a number of you have mourned. I know some of you have, and I know that some of you are mourning. So if you live long enough, you’ll know what it means to mourn, and if you mourn, well, you’ll be thankful you did. We mourn over lots of stuff, and legitimately so, — divorce, romance (or lack thereof) or lost romance, or lost health, or job change. We can even mourn over a jurisdictional move from one place to another and all the friends and people that we used to hang with. But would we agree that death tops them all (or bottoms it all, — however, a perspective you wanna give) when someone near and dear to you dies.

There is great power in mourning, and power that you should not stiff arm. When you mourn, as God would have you mourn, great things can happen. I know what it means to mourn. As many of you know, my wife of 16 years who gave me seven kids literally died in my arms, and I was instantly bereaved and went into mourning. And God in His kindness revealed to me during that time a number of character weaknesses in my life I flat out didn’t see in myself… until I mourned. Now, in one of them, by the way, one of those weaknesses was my lack of sympathy towards those who are mourning, those who are hurting, who have suffered loss, even of their own choosing, and divorce particularly. I nearly ball and chained people who had been divorced. “It’s your fault in one way, shape or form!” And yet all marriages have conflicts. All marriages have sin. We’re all sinners. Amen? — but some of those sinners don’t aid and abet the breaking of the covenant. And God revealed to me, I had very little sympathy for divorced people, those left in the lurch. And it showed me that it’s one thing to lose your wife into the arms of God as I did. It’s another thing to lose your wife into the arms of another man. How much more do those individuals need our comfort? (Please say ‘Amen!’)

Now Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn,” and he’s actually using it as an illustration as he did with “Blessed are those who are poor and spirit,” [Matthew 5:3] the beggarly. They’ll know, they’ll experience the kingdom of heaven. So he used the “poor” to illustrate our need to see ourselves as spiritually bankrupt. Remember that nod to the message last week? Now, he uses mourning to describe the grief (now watch this) that should accompany those who have that sense of bankruptcy. Now it’s assuming the one so that you can have the other. “Mourn.” That’s a key word, and “comfort.” The Greek is very explicit, very defined. Our language is not as defined. We say, ‘I love my wife and I love hamburgers.’ I think we’re talking about a couple different “loves” here. Well, the Greek would show you what those loves are. Okay? “Mourn.” There are nine different words to describe mourning, lamenting, grieving, sorrowing… nine of them! — but this one here in Matthew 5:4, this word “mourn,” this is the deepest, most heart felt. This is the strongest expression of mourning found anywhere in the Bible. It literally means “to mourn over a death.” It describes a grief that is so intense, it doesn’t matter what your personality is, you can’t hide it. To lament on behalf of one that’s dead, and it’s a present active participle, which just means it’s ongoing. This isn’t a ‘Mourn today, happy tomorrow’ thing. This is real, deep mournfulness with all of its expressions attached to it. And here’s the catch. The mourning Jesus is referring to is even deeper then mourning over someone’s death! He’s simply using it as an illustration.

Furthermore, this pulls all of you in. Every one of us. It’s the kind of mourning all of us must experience if we want to know God. How’s that? It’s not a coincidence that it follows “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” [Matthew 5:3] Listen to one of my favorite theologians, now with the Lord, John Stott said about this. He said,

“One might almost translate the second beatitude ‘Happy are the unhappy’ in order to draw attention to the startling paradox it contains… It’s plain… those here promised comfort (watch this) are not primarily those who mourn the loss of a loved one…. It is not the sorrow of bereavement to which Christ refers, but the sorrow of repentance. This is the second stage (he goes on to say) …of spiritual blessing. It is one thing to be spiritually poor and acknowledge it. It is another to grieve and to mourn over it…” (And he concludes) “I fear we evangelical Christians, by making much of grace, sometimes make light of sin.”

John Stott

But let’s listen to the great Baptist preacher of the past, Charles Spurgeon, who said,

“Let a man once feel sin for half an hour, really feel its tortures, and I warrant you, he would prefer to dwell in a pit of snakes than live with his sins. If you can look on sin without sorrow then you have never looked on Christ.” Charles Spurgeon

Strong words! — And don’t miss the point. Please, do not miss the point here! The point is that the depth of mourning that one has over the death of a loved one is meant to illustrate the heaviness one experiences at the point of salvation. This is why I have been on a mission for 30 plus years to tackle the cult of “pray the prayer Christianity” that says ‘You want to be saved? Pray this prayer.’ I’m telling you, that never saved one soul on this planet! Not one! It’s repentance and faith in the crucified and risen Jesus. Amen? That’s what saves us!

And so Jesus is illustrating the depth of our repentance. I don’t care if you’re a three year old, or a 10 year old or a 50 year old. Raise your hand if you’ve ever met someone who’s on fire for God. Just raise your hand. Okay! All right! Lots of you have. What’s the deal with those who are on fire for God? What is it that makes them tick? What is it about them? Well, let’s let Jesus tell us. Okay? Luke chapter seven. We’ll just put it up here for you ’cause these are really cool graphics, aren’t they? I guess I’ve already said that. So…

[Luke 7:36-50], 36 “One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table.

37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment,

(This is not the same woman as we saw at Easter time. This is not Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. Different situation here.)

38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.

39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”

40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”

41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.

42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.”

44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, (by the way, I love this! He turns to the woman and speaks to Simon. Very powerful!) “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.

45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet.

46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.

47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she (what?) loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?”

50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

I love that passage of scripture! Look around you church! Look around you! Those who really sense their depth of their need for forgiveness are the ones that are on fire for God! They get it! And here’s the point! We ALL have this need! We ALL need this sense of forgiveness and this realization! This is why the Puritans would pray for what they called, quote, “the gift of tears” accompanying this kind of realization. Dwight Pentecost… (I love the way he put it!) He said,

“Jesus didn’t say, “Blessed are they that moan…”

(because that’s what we do. We get in bad times, something happens. All the reasons that we legitimately mourn… you know… divorce, loss of romance, somebody does this to you, somebody does that to you, the job… whatever. And then we don’t mourn. We moan! And Pentecost said Jesus didn’t say ‘Blessed are they that moan,’but “Blessed are they that mourn” — “for theirs, they shall be comforted.”

Mark Vroegop in his book, “Dark Clouds Deep Mercy” says,

“To cry is human, but to lament is Christian.”

When God put Marilyn and I together, we were in a place of mourning, both of us having lost our spouses. When we came together, it was very difficult for us to contain our joy, the joy of being comforted… both of us! We were just giddy like kids! And so we claimed Isaiah 61:3, which is a prophecy of the Messiah. Here’s how it puts it in Isaiah 61. [Quoted in NKJV]

Isaiah 61:1-3 (ESV), 1 “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 brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’S favor, and the day of vengeance of our God;” (watch this)to comfort all who” (what?) “mourn.”

(And then the rest of it)

3to grant to those who mourn in Zion” (and then this) “to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.”

Listen, those who have experienced the ashes appreciate beauty more! Those who have experienced mourning, experience deeper, lasting, joyful comfort, the promise of the verse. And those who have experienced heaviness express greater praise to God. Listen to how Isaiah put it. He said in Isaiah 57:15. He says,

Isaiah 57:15 (ESV), “For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.

If you think about it, God has two dwelling places, the highest heaven and the lowliest heart. Where is yours right now? Is it up in the cloud somewhere? — or are you lowly? Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn.” ‘They’re going to be comforted.’

So what kind of mourning brings the kind of comfort that he’s talking about? I’m going to give you two things here and I’m hoping they’ll explode on your heart! First, the kind that takes a deeper look at yourself through God’s lens. The mourning that brings the comfort Jesus talked about is the mourning that takes a deeper look at yourself through this lens, the word of God. This is God’s lens that doesn’t change, right? So, for instance, Isaiah, the prophet said in 64:6,

Isaiah 64:6 (NKJV), “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”

‘All of our righteousnesses are as like polluted garments, or filthy rags‘ as the old King James puts it up there. The words “polluted garments” or “filthy rags…” that Hebrew expression was used to describe a woman’s used menstrual cloth. I know you’re going, “Ugh.” But that’s the word the Spirit of God used for Isaiah to record. All of our righteousnesses are like a used woman’s menstrual cloth. And if that doesn’t strike your senses, imagine this. Who do you suppose would have been in Bible times considered the holiest man in Israel? It would be the high priest, wouldn’t it? There’s only one of them! So consider Joshua. Don’t think Joshua of old, the guy who followed Moses, but Joshua the high priest. Zechariah talks about him and envisions a situation. Look at it for yourself in Zechariah.

[Zechariah 3:1-5 (ESV),

1 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest (the holiest guy in Israel) standing before the angel of the LORD, (probably the pre-incarnate Jesus) and Satan standing at his right hand (the place of accusation) to accuse him.

2 And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” (He’s talking about Joshua, the high priest)

3 Now Joshua (now get this…!) was standing before the angel, clothed with (What? Say it everyone!) filthy garments. (NOT the same word as Isaiah used which meant “a used woman’s menstrual cloth.” Do you know what this word means? Filthy. “Filthy” means human excrement! So, this vision is of the highest, holiest man on terra firma covered in human excrement! Now why would God use such disgusting descriptions to illustrate sin? — in order to express his revulsion of sin and to get us … to get you and to get me… to see our sin in God’s light! That’s shocking, isn’t it?)

[4 And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.”

5 And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.”]

By the way, if you’ve been following us and reading the Bible (and we wish you would do that, read the Bible with Saylorville) we’re coming toward the end of Job right now. If you know the story of Job, he’s the most righteous man around. He’s a godly man. He loves God! He fears God! God lets Satan have at it! — and you know the story after Satan’s done with Job. The only thing he’s got left is his life and his wife, and he’s not really excited about either one of them! And it’s just going from bad to worse! His buddies show up, and they’re NO help to him! They give terrible counsel! — And every once in a while Job speaks truth that we could go to. But sometimes you find Job complaining! He starts to complain. He starts to demand an audience… with God! ‘This is not right what’s happening to me… covered from head to toe with boils and suffering so!’ And then suddenly God shows up in a whirlwind. Right? And He gives him this dazzling display of His power! — And so much so that in the last chapter, Job is literally brought to his knees and says, ‘I’ve heard about you. But now… I see Your face! I’m seeing YOU! — And I repent in sackcloth and ashes!’ What changed? What changed was when Job saw God, Job saw… himself! And the kind of mourning that brings comfort that you and I so desperately need, is the kind that takes a deeper look at yourself through God’s lens. And if you stay in this lens, you’ll keep coming back to God, because you’ll keep seeing yourself and your great need for Him.

Secondly, the kind of where they bring comfort is the kind that takes a personal look at the role you had in Jesus’ death.

R.W. Glenn in his book, Crucifying Morality writes that “…we should see our own sin as (watch this) our own personal murder weapon in the unjust execution of Jesus.”

Wow! You and I should see our own sin as our own personal murder weapon in the unjust execution of Jesus! Is that the way you look at it?

One of the greatest artists of all time, some think the greatest… he was certainly one of the greatest visual artists of all time, was Rembrandt. And Rembrandt gave us the famous depiction of Jesus dying. It’s called The Raising of the Cross. Here it is. If you look really closely at this picture that Rembrandt drew, at his feet he puts a picture of himself. That’s Rembrandt, you’re looking at! He put himself in the picture, because he saw himself as culpable for killing Jesus!

If we’re gonna mourn with the kind of mourning that will bring us ultimate divine comfort, we have to see ourselves as culpable. We have to see ourselves and the role we played in the crucifixion of Jesus. What brings about godly grief is what brings about greater comfort. I’ll say that again. What brings about godly grief is what brings about greater comfort! And that’s the other key word here.

[Matthew 5:4], “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be… (what?) comforted.”

And that’s a familiar word. You don’t even have to know Greek! You’ve heard the word, “parakaleo.” “Para” is the prefix means “beside,” and “kaleo” is the word “to call out.” It literally means “One called alongside to help out,” “to comfort,” “to be there for them.” Now here’s the deal. Some of you have been grieved, but it’s not been a godly grief, and you’ve not suffered godly. Some of you have been convicted, but it’s not been a godly conviction, and you haven’t suffered in a godly way. Some of you have been convicted, but you haven’t been converted. And the best way to look at that is the difference between Judas and Peter. If you look at those two, they both were under trial at the time of crucifixion. Were they not? Think about Judas just for a moment. After he had betrayed Jesus, I mean, Judas felt terrible about betraying Jesus! Matthew 27 says,

[Matthew 27:3-5, ESV

3 “Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders,

4 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.”

5 And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself.”]

…he was filled with regret! He gave back the 30 pieces of silver. and, I quote, “I have betrayed innocent blood.” Those are Judas’ words! That sounds almost like the thief on the cross who confronted the other thief and said, ‘This man is innocent. We’re guilty. We deserve it!’

[Luke 23:39-41

39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!”

40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?

41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”]

Remember that? What’s the difference between that guy… and Judas? Glenn, back to his book on Crucifying Morality, says,

  • “Judas took his sin seriously and had all the earmarks of proper remorse, (but then he adds)
  • Judas saw his sin for what it was, the condemnation of Jesus.
  • Judas admitted his sin specifically and with no excuses.
  • Judas made restitution for his sin by returning the 30 pieces of silver.
  • Judas acquitted Jesus of any guilt, calling him innocent.”

All of this prompted somebody just the other day to ask me, “Do you think we’ll see Judas in heaven?” And I had to say to them, “No, I don’t, because of the words of Jesus Himself. John 13 excluded him from those who would be in. He said,

[John 13:10-11

10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.”

11 For he knew who was to betray Him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.

Jesus also said, ‘It would be better for Judas if he had never been born.’

[Matthew 26:24 (ESV),

24 “The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”]

Glenn concludes with these words.

“Judas saw what his love of money did to Jesus. He saw that Jesus had to die for his materialism and greed… but there was one thing missing.” (he writes) “What Judas did NOT see was Jesus dying, for sinners… like him.”

You see, Judas grieved, but he did NOT mourn, — And because he did not mourn over his sin, a mourning of repentance, he would not be comforted. And so he went out and killed himself!

You contrast that with Peter. Here’s Peter… cocky Peter. (no pun intended) ‘I’ll never deny you!’ Right? ‘I’ll never deny you!’ he boasted… then denied him three times! He cried, wept bitterly! Utterly ashamed, he goes into hiding. He didn’t murder himself, though, and when Jesus showed up along the shore days later, he would be restored and comforted! In the end, he mourned in a godly way, and was comforted… in a godly way.

Vroegop in his book says,

“Lament stands in the gap between pain and promise.”

So when you’re in mourning, you’re in pain. But if you’re a godly person, you look to the promise, whether or not it comes in this world or in the next. Right? I was thinking on that quote from Vroegop and I wrote,

“Mourning stands in the gap between conviction and conversion.” Pastor Pat Nemmers

…And herein lies the difference. The difference between godly mourning and godless mourning… The one runs to Jesus. The other runs away from Him. That’s it. So which way are you running? That’s the question. Which way are you running right now?

Some of you here have never really mourned over your sin. You prayed a prayer, but it never did anything, and it never will, because you’ve never suffered the conviction of being lost… separated from God… and recognizing at the same time what your sin did, why Jesus died for you. Let today be the day you repent and believe the gospel. And for the rest of you, who know Jesus, but you’re running from Him for whatever reason, and you’re miserable! Listen, God is still a good God! He still loves you! Run back to him like the prodigal son did. The father took him! Right? — just like your Heavenly Father will take you back. You come back to him again and again and again. Why? Well, here’s why — because there’s a blessing to those who mourn. They shall be comforted. Will you pray with me?

Our Father in heaven, we thank you for this beatitude and for this illustration Jesus used of mourning, like the mourning over someone who has died. So many of us understand that suffering that takes place when someone dies, that we love dearly, but that’s the kind of mourning we need over our sin, to see what Jesus did, dying for our sins, and our culpability to that! And it weighs on us… as it should. And then we come to you, Father. We come to you as those who desperately need your forgiveness. I pray for those right here, right now. If that’s you, dear friend, and you would say, ‘I have never mourned over my sin,’ would you just admit that? — Because God put you here today. You’re hearing this, and maybe it’s time for you to really be sorry for your sin. You’re realizing through the Word of God, through what Jesus did for you, that you’re lost and you are in need of the ultimate comfort of forgiveness. Would you just right now say, ‘Lord, I am a wretched sinner. I mourn over my sin. I ask Jesus to save me now and forever. Come into my life, Lord Jesus!’ And for those of you who know Jesus, but you’re not running to Him when you sin for whatever reason, or you run to something else that you’re doing that doesn’t please Him. Would you mourn right now? Would you mourn? Because when we do, we can come to the Father again and again and again. We pray all these things in the One who died for us… Jesus. We pray in His name. Amen.

Stay seated. Listen… think deeply upon this for the next few moments.


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