Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones once wrote concerning the beatitudes, “These beatitudes crush me to the ground.” Do you find that a strange thing to say about Christ’s introduction to the Sermon on the Mount? Let me put a little more context to the quote from Lloyd-Jones. He wrote:
Nothing shows me the absolute need of the new birth, and of the Holy Spirit and His work within, so much as the Sermon on the Mount. These Beatitudes crush me to the ground. They show me my utter helplessness. Were it not for the new birth, I am undone. Read and study it, face yourself in the light of it. It will drive you to see your ultimate need of the rebirth and the gracious operation of the Holy Spirit. There is nothing that so leads to the gospel and its grace as the Sermon on the Mount.
James wrote, “You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” (James 4:2-3) The principle James is driving forward in these verses (please read James 4 to get the whole context) has to do with our need (refusal?) to consider our own hearts. You see, motives, just like words, originate and proceed out of the abundance of the heart. (Mt. 12:34) Having established the fact that divisions and bickering among people are the consequences of clashing motives and desires, James calls us to action using the very teaching of Christ in the Sermon on the Mount. James says:
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. (emphasis added)
James calls us to mourning. He calls us to mourning in the context of examining our own hearts. Why mourn? It is because even with the best of intentions and even though I know better, I still sin against my neighbor and against God. We all fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23, but don’t forget to read v. 24!)
Generally, people will acknowledge the shortcomings of mankind. How many times have you heard (or said), “Nobody’s perfect.” You know that is not true, right? Christ is, was, and always will be perfect. If you are a Christian, you are aware why Christ was perfect. He was perfect before he came to earth to walk perfectly. He came to walk perfectly before God for the sake of sinners who did/do not. He died because I do not walk before God as I ought. In his death and resurrection, he bought me and saved me. He loved me. When I do not walk as I ought, I am called to consider how my sins are “contrary to the holy nature and righteous law of God.” (Westminster Confession of Faith XV.2) How this should grieve my heart to the depths of misery!
This is what Lloyd-Jones meant. Think about it. Do you grieve over your sins? Do you grieve as you ought over your sins? It is one thing to hate sin because of its consequences. But, what if there were no immediate consequences? Do I hate that I was hating my neighbor in my heart, even though I never said anything? (And remember the biblical definition of hate!) The beatitudes bring us to the depths that we might look only to Christ.
Jesus has mourned. This is the power behind John 11:35. Christ was able to raise Lazarus. Christ mourns the power of sin over those he loves. The mourning of our Savior resulted in his doing what could not be done by those who sinned against him. He loved them. He loved us. He loves us. This is the other side of the beatitude. Blessed are they that mourn. How is it that we are blessed if we mourn? That sounds most contradictory. We are blessed because, for Christ and by Christ, we have been made to see our sins, to hate our sins, to confess our sins, and to turn from our sins. In addition, we know we are forgiven of our sins because Christ has mourned a deeper and more effective mourning than all our tears together. We are blessed because true gospel mourning gives way to the joy of forgiveness, holiness, reconciliation with God, and an eternity in fellowship with him and with one another.
Blessed are they who mourn. They have seen their sins and they recognize both the danger and the hideous nature of them. They have recognized that they have nothing in themselves to pay for those sins, to atone for transgression, or to remove the distance between them and God that their sins have created (Poor in Spirit). They shall be comforted. Our comfort is Christ. The Lord himself will wipe away every tear. (Compare Rev. 7:17 with 21:4). He will replace each and every tear with joy that never ends. And so he does, minute by minute, breath by breath, tear by tear.
Soli Deo Gloria.