The Sermon on the
Mount in general, and the Beatitudes in particular, are truths spoken
to Christ's disciples (5:1). This is not an evangelistic sermon. This is all about the application of the gospel which. It is a discipleship lesson. It is the exposition of the Christian worldview. Francis Schaeffer called this the Christian Manifesto. This is the faith that we are called to live out before the world.
The Sermon on the
Mount (Matthew 5 – 7) begins with 8
characteristics of true Christian discipleship (Matt 5: 1-12). These are
unusual characteristics. They are out of character with the world in which we
live, but they carry God’s approval. The Lord calls these that bear these
characteristics as blessed or happy. To be blessed or happy is surely the
desire of every man and woman in this world.
Here is God’s way to ultimate happiness in this world!
Our world at large and
the Word of God have fundamentally a different set of values. The Beatitudes in particular make that very
clear. This is obvious as we now
consider the second beatitude - “Blessed
are they that mourn”. At face value this is an absurd statement. How can one that mourns be blessed? The
biblical logic here evades the mind which is governed by conventional thinking.
Conventionally our world doesn’t deal well with pain and suffering and
ultimately death, which produce this state of mourning. Entire industries have
been established to deal with this problem of sadness and mourning -
pharmaceutical and medical and psychological. A lot of money is spent on escaping pain, be
it physical, emotional or of a spiritual nature. And generally we avoid conversations
that cause us sadness and mourning. Have
you noticed that when we meet someone and ask, “How are you?”, they will generally answer, “Fine, thank you”, despite the fact that
they might be screaming inside – “I am not ok - would somebody help me please!”. We are so
conditioned by our world to look good, feel good and to speak positive
thoughts into life so that thoughts of sadness or mourning are
desperately excluded. We see this particularly in the Western attitudes to
death and mourning. Western funeral
services are generally short, they avoid coffins and burials and try to get
things over and done with in a hurry. Healthy grieving is a rarity. We want to get away from mourning over the harsh
realities that govern our world.
But Jesus says here that
those who mourn are the ones that are ultimately blessed or happy, and they
will be comforted. In the parallel account in Luke 6:21b there is an even more striking statement of this truth: “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall
laugh.” What does He mean? What is He
statement goes beyond thoughts of conventional
is not referring to those who mourn or
weep in the most common sense e.g. the loss of a loved one, the loss
of health or the loss of material possessions and the like. He goes far deeper. He is going to the root of
the problem- the ultimate cause of all mourning. The profoundest problem which
this world faces is the problem of sin, and the way in which this adversely affects
all people. Jesus is speaking about a sense of mourning which is induced by the
knowledge of what sin is and does.
Similarly, in the
previous verse we see that poverty of spirit does not refer to economic or intellectual
poverty. He goes deeper, to the root of
the problem. He speaks about our spiritual poverty – our inability to see the
world as God sees it – a world so disfigured and marred by sin.
And so when Jesus is
speaking to His disciples, He is speaking to them and to us about an understanding
of our own sin and the sin of our world. He speaks to us on the basis of having
been redeemed from the awful, eternal consequences of that sin. He speaks to us
about our new relationship to this world. That is why these beatitudes are
followed by the statements on being the
salt of the earth and the light of
the world (5:13-16).
And so Jesus is
calling those blessed who have an insight into their poverty of spirit. He is
calling those blessed that grieve and mourn – who see sin for what it is and what it does. Only when we see the world
as God sees it, and only when we see God’s solution
to the world’s problem will we be comforted.
THIS UP WITH THE TEACHING OF THE N.T. IN GENERAL
When we seek an example
of one who was grieved by the state of the world it was our Lord Jesus Himself.
Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones drew my attention to the fact that we never read in the
Scripture of the fact that Jesus laughed. We are told that He was angry, that
He hungered and thirsted - but there is no record of laughter. Recognizing that
an argument from silence is a dangerous one, we must nevertheless pay attention
to that fact. The prophecy of Isaiah 53:3
portrays Him essentially as a "man
of sorrows and familiar with suffering". Jesus wept over godless Jerusalem in Lk 19:41-44. He was grieved and angered when he saw the temple abused (Mk. 11:15-17)
In applying this Jesus
is calling His disciples to take a good look at themselves. Self- examination
in spiritual matters is important. We see
this in Romans7. Any
thorough, honest self- examination will prove the reality of Rom 7:18, "I know that nothing good lives in me....". The Christian says, "For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate I do...” (Rom.7:15). To mourn is thus something
which essentially follows from the first beatitude - being "poor in spirit". As I contemplate the life that I am meant to live, I see myself; I see my utter
helplessness and hopelessness, and I
must mourn about the fact that I am like that. If we never subject ourselves to
that self- examination we will never mourn, and therefore we will not
be the people that are ultimately
blessed (happy). I need to point out that Paul’s solution, having cried out in 7:24 , “Oh wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”,
was the gospel, “Thanks be to God
through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
So then, with respect
to this second beatitude it is really important that we develop an understanding
of the biblical view of sin. How does God
see our world? The Bible describes man as totally depraved and alienated from
God (see Romans 3:10-18). Man is in a sad state, and there is nothing
to suggest, that our condition is improving. Evolutionary theory has suggested that we are
evolving –that we are getting better. Based on this assumption modern
Psychology (the study of the psuchē- the soul) treats man as
basically good. Psychology ignores
the biblical doctrine of sin, and
says that the basic problem is ignorance and that this can be cured by education. Unfortunately the facts of history stand
against that sort of argument. Rulers and governments, with exceptions, have
not improved the common lot of mankind over time. They may start off well, but they
quickly deteriorate. From Scripture (mainly the OT) we learn that if the common
grace of God did not intervene from time
to time we would have no civilisation
left. Unaided, we do not get better. We get worse. It is the doctrine of
the common grace of God that keeps us and restrains us from destroying
ourselves and others.
And so Jesus says, "Blessed are those who mourn!" Blessed are you when you mourn and weep and
lament over what sin does in this world.
Blessed are you when you weep over the sad state of your souls, the state
of your families and homes, your cities,
your country, your continent and indeed – your world. Oh, dear people how we
must lament, mourn and weep, because of
these things the wrath of God is coming.
And we must ask – what hope is there for us? This is an important question, for this introduces us to the need for the gospel.
SHALL BE COMFORTED
An understanding of
the Sermon on the Mount is so important.
The Sermon on the
Mount starts with negatives. We have to confess our poverty of spirit before we
can be filled with the Holy Spirit. We must mourn before we are comforted. CONVICTION must
precede CONVERSION. A real sense of sin must come before there can be true joy
of salvation. Those that know that they
have been forgiven much will love much (Lk.
7:47). Once a person has grasped the awful nature and
consequences of sin, and have reached out to Jesus and said , “Lord save me” –
these can never be the same again: They will mourn, they will cry out, they will be
THE TRUE NATURE OF CHRISTIAN JOY.
In what sense is the
Christian blessed or happy? The Christian is happy because
they know that they have their sin forgiven!
The Christian knows that even now in
all things they are more than conquerors
(Rom. 8:37). They are not slaves of
A Christian is happy because
they know the
outcome - our ultimate joy will be the hope of glory (Rom 8:18). Paul writes, "we fix our eyes not on that which is seen but on that which is
unseen.” (2 Cor. 4:18) That is
the basis of Christian comfort and therefore our joy.
We see he inseparable
connection between godly sorrow and godly joy. And the outcome of that is that a Christian mourns but is not morbid. The
Christian mourns but is not miserable. The Christian can have ‘gravitas’ – a seriousness,
but they are not cold and prohibitive. There is warmth.
The Christian is a
person that looks at life seriously, groaning because they understand the fact
and nature of sin, but they are not in the hands of sin. They are in the hands
of the Saviour, and therefore they are happy and blessed. They are fundamentally
serious and fundamentally happy.
Here then, in this verse,is a
high doctrine of sin and a high doctrine of joy. This knowledge taken together, produces the blessed,
the happy person.
teaches us to look at the world and to weep; And we are called to look to our Saviour and we
are comforted, both now and forevermore. Amen.