************ Sermon on Matthew 5:4 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on July 4, 1999
"Blessed Are Those Who Mourn"
What a difference there is between the values of the Kingdom and the values of the world. The world says, "Blessed are the happy ones and the optimists." And if there is trouble, then the slogan of the world is, "Keep Smiling! Keep Laughing! Don't ever expose your hurt and pain. Because if you do, someone may take advantage of you." However, the Lord of the Kingdom says, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."
A To understand what Jesus is saying we need to remind ourselves to whom Jesus is speaking. A careful reading of verse 1 tells us that Jesus' teachings in the Sermon on the Mount were first meant for His disciples. True, there was a multitude of people, a great crowd. And it was in the midst of this crowd that Jesus sat down. However, "His disciples came to him," says Scripture, "and he began to teach them, saying: Blessed ..."
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is teaching citizens of the Kingdom. You can also say: the church. Jesus is speaking to those who belong to Him. He is speaking to those who believe, who have faith. It is these to whom Jesus says, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."
We may never forget this when we consider the Beatitudes. The blessed poor, the blessed mourning, the blessed meek, the blessed hungering and thirsting, the blessed merciful, the blessed pure, the blessed peacemakers, and the blessed persecuted are those who belong to Jesus.
B "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." Notice, Jesus doesn't say, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted after they get revenge."
Numerous mass graves filled with the bodies of ethnic Albanians have been found in Kosovo, Yugoslavia. Many people suspect the Serbs of being responsible.Is this correct? Do we need revenge before we can have peace and comfort after a loved one has been brutally hurt or murdered?
Western European foreign ministers urged ethnic Albanians, most of whom were forced into hiding or fled Serb forces during months of conflict, not to take justice into their own hands.
In spite of this warning three Kosovo Serbs were found murdered at the university in Pristina. Most Serbs have no doubt the killers were ethnic Albanians.
This same cycle of death and revenge happens in Northern Ireland, between Israel and her neighbors, and in the current struggle between India and Pakistan.
In our land, the families of victims get to watch the execution of those found guilty of murdering their loved one. Many family members say they have no peace and comfort until they see the murderer die.
I repeat: Jesus doesn't say, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted after they get revenge." Rather, the blessed who mourn will be comforted because they belong to Jesus. Belonging to Jesus. That's the only way to get comfort. That's the only way to get peace.
C There are two verbs in the Greek meaning "to bless." One is eulogetos and the other is makarios. Matthew uses makarios. What's the difference? Eulogetos is always used of God or by God; it is something God does or is; it is God Who pronounces man eulogetos or is Himself pronounced eulogetos by man; we know it is a benediction, an act of grace. On the other hand, makarios is always used of and for man; the man who is said to be makarios has done something to deserve the word being applied to him; it is a kind of congratulation for doing something wholesome or positive.
What is it that the "mourning" do to be pronounced blessed? They mourn about the frailty and sin of life. But because they belong to Jesus, theirs is comfort and hope.
A "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." Mourn. We need to ask two questions. First, what does Jesus mean by "mourn"? Second, those who belong to Jesus, why do they mourn?
"Mourn" is a sorrow which is outwardly expressed in some way, generally in lamentation and tears. There are many sorrows which cause or lead God's people to mourn.
B I think of the sorrows which all people experience sooner or later: days of sickness, disappointments, the death of loved ones, and other sad events. Moses has this sorrow in mind when he says,
(Ps 90:10) The length of our days is seventy years--or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
We see Job, God's servant, expressing this kind of sorrow. He hears about loss after loss: the Sabeans took his oxen and donkeys and killed his servants; lightning killed his sheep and servants; Chaldeans took his camels and killed his servants; a mighty wind killed his seven sons and 3 daughters. What does Job do? He mourns. Scripture says he tore his robe, shaved his head, sat in ashes, and cursed the day of his birth (Job 1:20; 2:8; 3:1).
I think of the sorrow the Kennedy family and Bissett families are going through right now upon the death of their loved ones.
Visitors to the Fiji Islands tell us how natives there express their sorrow.
Title: Calling the Dead
The Fiji Island natives have a strange custom of "calling the dead." The one who has suffered bereavement climbs to a high tree of a cliff, and after mentioning the name of the deceased he cries out pathetically, "Come back! Come back! Come back!" The heart-rending wail is filled with despair, with only the mocking echoes to underscore its sad frustration! Those who have recently lost a precious companion, a dear friend, or a beloved child, can well appreciate the forlorn figure. Just imagine the look upon his face as with tears streaming down his cheeks he pitifully continues to plead for the return of his loved one.
C For the child of God there are many more things that cause him or her to mourn. Those who belong to Jesus realize that we live in a crooked world which has abandoned God. When we listen to the news or read the newspaper it becomes more than obvious that human life lies under a curse. We mourn about the fallenness of the world. We mourn about school kids shooting each other with guns at Columbine. We mourn about the games of the politicians in response to the Columbine shootings. We mourn over the condition of our inner-cities, the injustices that exist in our land, the prejudices and racial hatreds and tensions that exist. We mourn about government greed, waste, and inaction on the real problems facing our land. We mourn about the destruction we cause in the environment. We mourn about every person who dies without repenting of their sin and knowing Christ. When we see sin in society we should mourn!
When Jonah confronted the city of Nineveh about her sin and corruption, her king and people went into mourning: they fasted, they covered themselves with sackcloth, they sat in ashes, they prayed urgently to God (Jonah 3:6f).
D You know something else I mourn about? The church. I mourn about hypocrisy, lack of love, departure from the truth, gossip. I mourn that those within the church know divorce, adultery, homosexuality, drug-abuse, and alcoholism. I mourn that in the church there are those who physically, emotionally, and sexually abuse others and that within the church there are those who have been abused. When we see sin in the church we should mourn!
A decade ago the Dutch Reformed Churches of South Africa finally admitted that their theological defense of apartheid was sin. That admission took courage. And having made that admission, they declared a day of prayer and fasting, a day of mourning.
E Lastly, when we open our eyes we have to mourn about ourselves. We see much in ourselves that is less than perfect: idolatries, lustful thoughts, an unholy anger, fits of rage, greed, covetous desires, hatred, a failure to love God above all and our neighbor as our self. When we see ourselves for what we really are, we say with Peter, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!" (Lk 5:8). When we see sin in ourselves we should mourn!
King David was a man who saw himself for what he really was: a peeping tom, an adulterer, a murderer. He fasted and went into his house and spent the nights lying on the ground and refused to eat (2 Sam 12:16f). David mourned about his sin and its consequences.
A "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." Comfort. What is this comfort?
Topic: ComfortIs this the comfort Jesus has in mind: the comfort of togetherness, the silent handshake, the strong arm around the shoulders in times when grief is too deep for words, the hug of someone who cries with us? There is real comfort in the presence of fellow believers. But even unbelievers know the healing presence of human sympathy.
One of the great wonders of California are the Sequoias and the Redwoods. These trees can tower as much as 300 feet above the ground. Strangely, these giants have unusually shallow root systems that reach out in all directions to capture the greatest amount of surface moisture. Seldom will you see a redwood standing alone, because high winds would quickly uproot it. That's why they grow in clusters. Their intertwining roots provide support for one another against the storms.
B In the Bible "comfort" is something good that takes care of all bad things. I am not saying that this comfort takes away what is bad. But what it does do is make us strong enough to endure the evil and to keep on going. Sometimes it dries up our tears. Sometimes it stiffens our resolve. It is comfort that allows us to keep on living in or during or after bad things have happened in us or to us.
The prophet Isaiah spoke about this comfort some 730 years before the time of Christ: "Comfort, comfort my people" he said (Is 40:1). And he spoke of a time when all who mourn will be comforted (Is 61:2). What is this comfort that gives us the strength to keep going in spite of all the bad things that can and do happen? For Isaiah, it is the presence of a Comforter, the Lord's Anointed Servant, the promised Messiah Who will bring comfort.
At the dawn of the New Testament there were those, like Simeon and Anna, who were still waiting for the comfort or "consolation of Israel" (Lk 2:25). Like Isaiah, they were waiting for a person, a "Comforter", the Anointed One, the Messiah.
At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus makes clear He is that Comforter. Remember the incident? He returned to His home town of Nazareth. On the Sabbath He went to the synagogue and stood up to read. He read from Isaiah 61:
(Is 61:1-2) The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, (2) to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn ...When He finished reading He sat down. With the eyes of everyone in the synagogue fastened on Him, He said, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing" (Lk 4:21).
We mourn about many things. But it is only the presence of Jesus that brings comfort. Consider the comfort He gave during His days here on earth: He healed those who were sick, raised those who were dead, forgave those who wanted forgiveness, restored those who had fallen, and condemned the religious leaders of His day for their legalism and hardness of heart. It is only in Him that we have comfort and hope for the future.
Many years ago a submarine was rammed by another ship and quickly sank off the Massachusetts coast. Although rescue was impossible at that depth, a diver was dispatched to determine if there was still life aboard the disabled vessel. The diver placed his helmeted ear against the sub's hull and heard a faint tapping sound. Carefully he made note of the dots and dashes and decoded the following question: "Is -- there -- any -- hope?" With great remorse he slowly signaled back: "Hope -- in -- God -- alone."
C "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." Already the Lord brings comfort. However, comfort does not become a full reality until the Lord is fully present with His people. It is only God's glorious presence among men which removes all pain and suffering. Only then does the good take care of all the bad that can and does happen. It is the Apostle John who best describes this comfort:
(Rev 21:3-4) And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. (4) He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
D "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." Jesus promises that those who mourn now about life's frailty, about sin and evil, will one day receive the comfort of God's glorious presence. But listen to what Jesus says in contrast to this:
(Lk 6:24-25) But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. (25) Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.
A perfect illustration of this is found in the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus. The Rich Man enjoyed a life of comfort and ease on this earth. He was cold and indifferent to the plight of Lazarus, a poor, hungry beggar covered with sores and laying at his gate. There came a time when both died. Lazarus was carried to the bosom of Abraham and the Rich Man was brought to the torments of hell. The Rich Man called out, "Father Abraham, have pity on me ..." Remember Abraham's reply?
(Lk 16:25) "But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.Those who mourn now shall be comforted. Those who never mourn now will have much to mourn about in the life to come.
Jesus says, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." If anything, this gives us a biblical perspective on the things we mourn about.
Topic: SufferingI would say that John G. Paton knew first-hand the truth of our text.
Title: Makes Us Look Upward
Shortly before Scottish missionary John G. Paton died, a friend said to him, "I am sorry to see you lying on your back." Smiling, Paton asked, "Do you know why God puts us on our backs?" After his friend answered no, the missionary replied, "in order that we may look upward."
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." All those who belong to Jesus will someday be comforted because He "took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows" (Is 53:4). Luke is right when he says to the mourning disciples of Jesus, "Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh" (Lk 6:21). There's a comfort in Christ which takes all sorrow away. Let's keep that in mind as we struggle through the frailties of life, the sin and the evil.
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