Matthew Bible Study (The Gospel of the King and the Kingdom of Heaven) The Sermon on the Mount

Matthew 5:4, Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

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The Declaration of Independence declares that we have unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The pursuit of happiness is the intriguing part of this statement because it truly reflects the human mindset. We want to be happy. We want to do what will make us happy. We do not want to think about difficulties and pain. We do not want to be troubled by cares in life. We want to be happy. We want happiness and we will continue to pursue happiness. But this way of thinking is what causes Jesus’ next declaration about the blessed life to be so jarring and so countercultural. "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." Think about what Jesus just said for a moment. Those who belong to the kingdom of heaven and enjoy the rich blessings of God by being in relationship with him are those that mourn.

Blessed Are The Mourners

What is the type of mourning that Jesus is looking for as characteristics of people who enter into the kingdom of heaven? Is God telling that we just need to be sad all the time to be citizens of his kingdom? Sadness is not the concept that we see in the scriptures. There is a mourning that is needed but it is not being sad for sadness’ sake. The scriptures give us a picture of the mourning that Jesus desires.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. (James 4:8–9 ESV)

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. (1 Corinthians 5:1–2 ESV)

My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law. (Psalm 119:136 ESV)

God wants a mourning over sin. The first statement of blessing in the Sermon on the Mount was the blessed were those who were poor in spirit. These are people who recognize their sinfulness. These are people who see their sin and know that there is nothing they can do before God to redeem themselves. They are the people like the tax collector who simply say, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" Those who are in the kingdom of heaven are those who are stripped of all self-righteousness, self-sufficiency, and self-security. Now let us consider for a moment: if we are doomed because of our sins with nothing that we can offer to God to save ourselves or redeem ourselves, then what does God desires but those who mourn over their sinfulness. When my children come to me and they have done something wrong, it matters greatly if they are sorrowful for what they have done. If they do not care about their violation, then that will receive a very different response from me as a parent than if the children does care about their violation and is remorseful.

This is the kind of mourning that God desires of his people. Notice again that the Beatitudes follow Isaiah 61, a prophecy about the coming Messiah and what he would do.

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; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion— 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. (Isaiah 61:1–3 ESV)

Notice that Christ has come to "bind up the brokenhearted" and "to comfort all who mourn." The grace of God is to melt our hearts in the face of our sins, causing us to be sorrowful and full of shame. True mourning focuses on what we have done to our God, how we have violated his very nature and character. We mourn because we grasp the profound loss in our lives because we have separated ourselves from God because of our sins. Think about the faithful people of God that we read about in the scriptures. Think about some of the powerful confessions of sin in the Psalms. These people do not excuse their sins. They do not belittle their sins or ignore their sins. They cry over their sins. They do not make excuses but mourn over what they have done. This is what God has always wanted.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Psalm 51:17 ESV)

All that God has wanted was for people to recognize their sinfulness (poor in spirit) and then mourn over those sins. Listen how God declared this truth through the prophecy of Jeremiah.

Also on your skirts is found the lifeblood of the guiltless poor; you did not find them breaking in. Yet in spite of all these things you say, ‘I am innocent; surely his anger has turned from me.’ Behold, I will bring you to judgment for saying, ‘I have not sinned.’ (Jeremiah 2:34–35 ESV)

Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, "’Return, faithless Israel, declares the Lord. I will not look on you in anger, for I am merciful, declares the Lord; I will not be angry forever. Only acknowledge your guilt, that you rebelled against the Lord your God and scattered your favors among foreigners under every green tree, and that you have not obeyed my voice, declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 3:12–13 ESV)

Notice what Jeremiah says the problem was. In Jeremiah 2 God says he will bring them into judgment, not because they have sinned, but because they refuse to acknowledge that they have sinned. The same plea is made in Jeremiah 3. They just needed to acknowledge their guilt and rebellion and God would be merciful toward them. But they refused to mourn over their sins. You will notice that the mourning over sins is tied very closely with confession of sins and repentance. Listen to Ezekiel’s prophecy and then Joel’s prophecy.

And the Lord said to him, "Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it." (Ezekiel 9:4 ESV)

"Yet even now," declares the Lord, "return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments." Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. (Joel 2:12–13 ESV)

God gave the same message in Ezekiel and Joel. In Ezekiel, the people who are mourning over the sins of the city are marked for spiritual protection but the rest are doomed. In Joel, God tells the people to tear their hearts! Come to God in mourning, weeping, and fasting and God will receive you. Jesus is teaching the same principle of the kingdom in Matthew 5:4. In Luke’s account, Jesus taught what happens to those who do not mourn over their sins now. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. (Luke 6:25 ESV) If you will not be broken by your sins and weep for them now but take pleasure in your sins now, you will be made to mourn and weep in the coming judgment.

They Shall Be Comforted

Rather than ignoring our sins or excusing our sins, God wants mourning for our sins. God does not want fake contrition, but heart wrenching pain over our sins. But notice the blessing that comes to those who truly mourn over their sins. They shall be comforted. If we return to Isaiah’s prophecy we see this imagery.

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; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion— 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. (Isaiah 61:1–3 ESV)

The brokenhearted are healed. The mourners are comforted. The mourners are granted a beautiful headdress or crown and the oil of gladness. They are given the garment of praise and called oaks of righteousness that are planted by the Lord. Jesus’ purpose is to come with comfort for those who are crushed by their sins. Notice that this point was made when Jesus as a baby was brought to the temple.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. (Luke 2:25 ESV)

Jesus came to bring comfort and consolation to sinners. There is no comfort to those who deny their sins. There is no consolation to those who act like their sins are no big deal. Comfort is to those who are broken by sins. Think about Luke 7:36-50 where we see the sinful woman weeping over the feet of Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." To the woman caught in adultery in John 8 Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn you. Go and from now on sin no more." Do you see that Jesus is the comfort to the sinners?

Christian maturity is a growing sorrow over our sins. We do not deny our weakness or our sinfulness. Rather, we accept our guilt, confess our sins, and mourn over our actions. The mourners are comforted because only they will have their sins forgiven. Understanding the grace of God will only lead us to a greater sorrow over our sins. It is our sins that caused Jesus to go to the cross and die for us. We mourn our sinfulness and then stand amazed at the grace of God to comfort us with forgiveness because we love him so much. Forgiveness is given to the brokenhearted. Forgiveness is offered to the contrite. Forgiveness is extended to those who are crushed by their sins. Bring Christ your broken life today and submit to his rule and ways.

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