“Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.”
Closely related to the previous beatitude (“Blessed are the poor in spirit”), to mourn is to grieve over the cause of separation between the most holy God and His creation: sin. Genesis 3:8-9 suggests that God would spend time walking with Adam and Eve in the garden “in the cool of the day.” The tragic chain of events is described in Genesis 3 which concludes with a series of curses that include banishment from the garden of Eden and the Tree of Life.
The rest of Scripture is about God’s initiatives to restore that original relationship with mankind. Kingdom people begin with acknowledging the insurmountable gap between the holiness of God and man’s yearning to live by his own rules and chart his own course. This gap applies to every person who has ever lived from the beginning of time.
Mourning acknowledges the cause of that insurmountable gap which is our brokenness and propensity to offend God by our self-centered thoughts and actions. Even when we make godly choices we are vulnerable to pride in what we believe to be our own accomplishments. This circular reasoning measures one’s own righteousness within the limited sphere of one’s own experience rather than within the infinite sphere of God’s holiness. A way of illustrating this is found in the danger of prosperity.
MOURN OVER PROSPERITY
It is tempting for us to mistakenly equate God’s blessing with prosperity. James 1:10 warns that “…the rich should take pride in their humiliation….” Jesus warns the church in Laodicea that they precariously believe they are rich, wealthy and in need of nothing when, indeed they are “…wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17).
In Matthew 19:16-30 a rich man comes to Jesus to inquire about the key to eternal life. Having kept the commandments all of his life he is confident in his own righteous behavior. Nonetheless, he feels that something is still lacking. At this point Jesus instructs him to sell all he has, give it to the poor and to follow Him (vs. 21). Matthew tells us that the rich man went away sad because of his great wealth (vs. 22).
Jesus takes this opportunity to tell His disciples about how difficult it is for the prosperous to enter the kingdom of heaven. The disciples are astonished and exclaim: “Who then can be saved?” (vs. 25). Jesus states clearly: “With man this is impossible…” and I am reminded of the first two beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” and “Blessed are those who mourn…” (Matthew 5:3-4a).
MOURN FOR COMFORT
If poverty of spirit before a most holy God brings us into the kingdom, then mourning about our sin–from which it is impossible to save ourselves–brings comfort. This oxymoron can only have one answer, which Jesus provides to the disciples’ question “Who then can be saved?”
Matthew tells us that “Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”” This is truly an astonishing statement for it is the One Whom we offend Who, Himself, extends us comfort.
How does God do this? Paul answers this beautifully in Colossians 2:9-15.
9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh[b] was put off when you were circumcised by[c] Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you[d] alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
This is most certainly Good News to the poor in spirit kingdom people who mourn over their sin and find comfort in Christ.