Under the broad heading of “Living Like Jesus”, last week we started looking at the Sermon on the Mount, and specifically, the first of the Beatitudes: blessed are the poor in spirit.
How might we summarise what that was about?
- Blessed are those who recognise their own spiritual bankruptcy and their need of God
- Blessed are those who know that without God they can do nothing
- Blessed are those who know that when they say “I can’t”, God says, “I can.”
How do we put it into practice? How do we live like Jesus in this respect?
We talked about the evidence that Jesus Himself was poor in spirit:
- His prayerfulness
- His knowledge of, and trust in, the truth and power of the scriptures
- His being led by the Holy Spirit
- His being empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Those are precisely the things we will also do if we are conscious that without God we can do nothing.
The second Beatitude seems especially paradoxical: “Happy are the sad.”
To us mourning is primarily associated with death and funerals. But is that what Jesus is referring to here? I don’t think so.
- Bereavement is a circumstance and we said last week that Jesus said happiness is dependent on our character, not our circumstances.
- Almost everybody experiences grief. Is this Beatitude simply saying that God comforts everybody?
- Jesus is describing the new life of the Kingdom of Heaven but death and mourning are specifically not part of the kingdom!
Our goal is to live like Jesus so what sort of mourning is Christ-like? When did Jesus cry?
- Jesus cried at Lazarus’ tomb (Read John 11:32-44)
Why did Jesus cry? At first glance this is about the death of a dear friend. People commented, “See how He loved Him!” Indeed, v.5 says that Jesus did love Mary and Martha and Lazarus.
There is no shame in feeling loss – feeling bereft. Even as Christians who believe that we are going to see our loved ones again, it is still painful being separated from them. We grieve simply because we love. Jesus loved and therefore Jesus grieved.
But I am not sure that is what is really happening here. I am sure that Jesus did feel the pain of the loss but I wonder if the onlookers were wrong in their conclusion about why Jesus was crying.
Look at v.33. Jesus was deeply moved when He saw people in pain. I suspect He wasn’t crying primarily because He felt pain but because other people were hurting.
Jesus knew that, in, a few minutes, He was going to raise Lazarus. He had told the disciples two days earlier that Lazarus had fallen asleep but He was going to wake him up. The disciples thought Jesus meant that Lazarus was simply asleep but Jesus spelled it out for them: “Lazarus is dead” (v.14). He knew that this was going to be for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it (v.4). he knew what was going to happen.
I think if it was me, I would be having a little chuckle to myself thinking, “Just wait! This will give them something to talk about! This is going to be the best day ever for Mary and Martha.” If Jesus was anything like me, He wouldn’t have been sad; He would have been happy! This was going to be good!
But Jesus saw people in pain. He saw what death does to people. Death is a terrible thing. Death is the result of sin. Death is not God’s plan. Death is the most terrible evidence of the fallenness of the world. Jesus saw Satan gloating and people He loved being hurt.
I don’t want to discount the reality of personal pain but I think the main thing here was the grief caused by seeing other people suffer because of the victory of sin. Jesus saw the effects of evil in this world.
Does the pain of the world cause you grief when you know that this is not the way God planned it?
2. Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44)
On Palm Sunday, as Jesus approached Jerusalem, He wept and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”
Jerusalem was blind to what God was doing. And resistant! The leaders were working against God. Jerusalem could have had peace but, instead, the city would be destroyed and the people slaughtered. And that brought Jesus to tears.
Does it grieve you to see people resisting God, when you know that they could know God’s peace but instead they face destruction? Do we cry because of unsaved people? Jesus did.
3. Jesus cried praying prayers of submission (Read Hebrews 5:7-10)
That perhaps make us think of Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane but it sounds as if this was a more regular part of Jesus’ life; as if Jesus often waged these battles in prayer with loud cries and tears.
Why was He praying like this? It says He prayed to the One who could save Him from death. God could have saved Jesus. Jesus could have prayed and His Father would have sent 12 legions of angels to rescue Him (Matt 26:53). But how then would God’s will be done? Maybe the indication here is that Jesus was grappling with issues of obedience. That would seem right because v.7 says He was heard because of His reverent submission, and v.8 says He learned obedience from what He suffered.
It would seem that these are the prayers of the person who wants to do God’s will but faces all sorts of temptation. This same passage says that Jesus was tempted in every way just as we are and so He understands our weaknesses. Yet He did not sin. His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane is a classic example of just this – the struggling with His own desires and yet, ultimately, doing God’s will.
There is grief in knowing that a large part of me doesn’t want to obey God and that that is a constant battle. Why am I the way I am? Why don’t I love God more?
Jesus didn’t sin but, for us, there is the additional grief of knowing that we have let God down, like Peter who, after denying Jesus, went outside and wept bitterly.
So, when Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn” He was saying, Blessed are those who
- Are grieved by evil and the pain it causes
- Are grieved by people’s hardness of heart and their eternal lostness
- Are grieved by their own inclination to disobey God and their actual disobedience.
Why are they blessed? Because those who are grieved by these things will be comforted.
- One day evil will be eliminated and God’s Kingdom will be established. And they will see it. At last! What relief! What comfort. No more pain caused by evil.
- It is hard to imagine any comfort knowing that some have remained resistant to God and will spend eternity apart from Him but maybe we will see the absolute justice of God’s judgement and, of course, we will be amongst all those who have been saved. We must just cling onto Jesus’ promise that we will be comforted.
- “Comfort” literally means to make strong. Those who are grieved by their own sin turn in desperation to God and find strength in Him. The Holy Spirit is the Comforter. What a blessing to discover God-given strength where previously there had been weakness. What a blessing to have victory over sin – to no longer fail. And one day there will be no more battle and no more grief!
It doesn’t make much sense to me to say “Happy are the sad.” Nor does it make much sense to say that Jesus is here talking about the bereaved. But it makes an awful lot of sense to say that God blesses those who are grieved by evil in the world, grieved by people’s hardness of heart and grieved by their own sinfulness. We might think of that as being upset by evil; upset by what Satan is doing; being upset by what people are doing and being upset by what we are doing.
Jesus was grieved by those thing (although He never sinned.) It is Christ-like to be upset by evil. God will comfort those who hate evil. True happiness comes, not to those who pursue godlessness, but to those who are grieved by godlessness.
Of course, for Jesus, there were also times of great joy. He wasn’t crying all the time. Much of the time He actively worked to do something about evil but He was motivated by the grief that evil caused.
How can we live like Jesus?
We cannot just manufacture grief. Remember last week: I can’t but God can.? We need to ask God to give us His compassion for the world. How might that happen?
- Spend time with God. Understand what God wants for the world He loves.
- Spend time with people. It is interesting that Jesus cried when He saw the pain of those at Lazarus’ tomb. Luke 19:41 says that it was when Jesus approached Jerusalem and saw the city that He wept over it. When He looked on the crowds and saw their hopelessness He had compassion.
When we are very close to God and we get alongside suffering people, we will see the contrast between what God wants and what people are experiencing and that will grieve us. That will be motivation to do something about it and the end result will be happiness when we see God’s Kingdom breaking in and evil being defeated. But we don’t have to wait until then. In all of the beatitudes the blessing is now: blessed are… present tense.
If we are motived by our grief and we act – we do something about it – we care for the suffering or we challenge things that are wrong or we submit our own actions to God’s will or we share the good news of Jesus with a lost person, we will see victories. We will see the Kingdom of God breaking into this world. What a blessing to see God at work and His Kingdom coming. Blessed are those who mourn.
If you want to be happy, be upset by evil and, in God’s strength, do something about it.
- Is it faithful to the Bible to conclude that the mourning Jesus mentions here is the grief that comes when we see evil prevail? If not, what do you believe Jesus is meaning?
- Does evil upset you like it upset Jesus?
- Do you cry for the unsaved?
- How much does it upset you when you sin?
- In what area do you need more of the compassion of God? How will you get that?
- What do you grieve about? What will you do about it?
- What will you do today to be more Christ-like after reflecting on this Beatitude?