06/04/2017 – Matthew 5:1-4 – Happy to be Blessed: “Mourning–>Comfort”

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Mark Wheeler

Matthew 5:4

06/04/2017

Happy to Be Blessed: “Mourning–>Comfort”

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

As we worship You, O Lord, please take away our sorrows and strengthen our faith in the face of our struggles that we might experience the joy of Your presence, in Christ’s name. We seek Your true blessing, and we hope to be that blessing for those around us in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

At the funeral service for a woman who just passed away, the pallbearers carry the casket out, and they accidentally bump into a wall. They hear a faint moan. They open the casket and find that the woman is actually alive.

She lives for 10 more years and then dies. They have another funeral for her. At the end of this service, the pallbearers carry out the casket.

As they are walking, the husband cries out, “Please watch out for the wall this time!”

I know that’s not actually funny, but it tickled me…. There’s probably not anybody in this room who has not gone through a mourning process, an experience of grief. And sometimes it never completely disappears.

In our series of teachings on the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount. Today we come to the second one: Blessed are those who mourn. I was driven to this passage by the varieties and ferocities of struggles I have witnessed, shared, and talked about over the last few months. These Beatitudes see these struggles as opportunities for blessing.

Listen with me to these words of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon of the Mount. Matthew 5:1-2 and 3-4 ….—-

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.  He said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,    for they will be comforted.   (NIV)

 

These blessings state a TRUTH that demands a RESPONSE. They present the beautiful structure of the character of Christ. I have introduced you to the idea of the “indicative-imperative” clause. The Beatitudes exemplify this kind of clause. Jesus indicates a truth and then commands a compliant response. First, they describe something of Jesus Himself; and then as His disciples, His followers, His Church (the Body of Christ), they describe something, in perhaps a more longed-for dream than an actual reality yet, of us. That’s the Truth.

Then they demand a Response to that stated Truth.

 

So, let’s decode this phrase so we might claim a better understanding of what it describes, and what it demands.

In Luke’s Gospel these Beatitudes are spoken against the backdrop of Isaiah 61, where the prophet anticipates a time when God’s Suffering Servant would bring COMFORT to God’s exiled people: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to … COMFORT those who MOURN.”

And then nearly 700 years later, Isaiah’s prophecy crystallizes into reality as Jesus unrolls a scroll in Nazareth, reads this passage, and claims to be its fulfillment.

The FIRST Beatitude is about being “POOR in SPIRIT”, acknowledging our spiritual bankruptcy. Jesus then elaborates further with today’s beatitude – because it is IMPOSSIBLE to acknowledge our spiritual debt without MOURNING it! The truth is that when we understand that we ARE poor in spirit; we are commanded to MOURN that poverty!

Yes, I started this message with a story about mourning/grieving the loss of a loved one – and I use this Beatitude in lots of funeral services – and I do believe it applies there – but the context is clearly about our attitude about our sin nature.

When we confess our sin, we are not really confessing particular/specific sin activity (I mean, we might be, but it’s bigger than that). The Bible teaches that it is our sinful nature that we must confess and repent from. So, in this Beatitude, Jesus promises to comfort those who mourn sin! And, it seems, in 21st Century America, that could scarcely be more counterintuitive or countercultural!

Sin, in the world in which we live, is not grieved; it’s not disapproved of; it’s not even frowned upon! Sin is not merely tolerated; it’s expected, and celebrated! Our society does not mourn sin; it mourns those who mourn sin!

And that’s not just “out there”. It’s right here, too. That is part of our sinful nature! That’s why Jesus said this to good, religious people, nearly 2,000 years ago!

But, friends, sin is not trivial! Sin is treason! It is insurrection against the Throne of Heaven. A Bumper-Sticker theology says, “We have never committed a ‘small sin’, because we have never offended a ‘small God’.

And imagine what this means if we actually believe Matthew 5:4 is true: if Jesus really meets repentance with comfort (not with condemnation), then we no longer need to fear being exposed! We no longer need to fear what others think of us, or how others judge our character.

When we recognize that we are poor in spirit, and mourn our spiritual bankruptcy, our “total depravity” (as John Calvin called it), our tendency toward sin, we find ourselves belonging to the Kingdom of Heaven and in the Comfort of our Heavenly Father!

So, ultimately, our comfort is anchored in the reality that Jesus does not simply mourn our sin alongst usJesus conquers sin!

This Beatitude invites you and me into this moral vision where Jesus, the Son of God, dies in our place (blessed are those who mourn that death) so that we can enter the Kingdom of Heaven that is already ours through faith in Jesus Christ!

In a few minutes we gather around the Lord’s Table. As we do so, may God make our hearts tender to mourn our spirit-bankruptcy so that we can better marvel at His comforting grace.

On this Pentecost Sunday, the day we commemorate God’s outpouring of His Holy Spirit on all who know they are poor in spirit and mourn their sinful nature, let’s invite Him in, to rule and to reign, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Living and gracious God,
through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
You have brought us out to a spacious place
where we are called to live as those redeemed.
Empower us by Your Holy Spirit to keep Your commandments,
that we may show forth Your love
with gentle word and reverent deed
always, everywhere. Amen.

Resources:

Makarios: Blessed; the state of one who has become a partaker of God; to experience the fullness of God”; StudyLight.org.

Smethurst, Matt; “Blessed Are Those Who Mourn”; TableTalk; June 2017; Pp 15-16.

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