“Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4
In the introductory verse of the Sermon on the Mount, the first beatitude, extolled the blessing of spiritual poverty; the recognition that we must own our spiritual destitution prior to coming into the kingdom. We cannot carry with us into the kingdom all of those “atta-boys” and “well-dones”. The only merits upon which we can enter God’s kingdom are the merits earned by Jesus Christ.
With that in mind we are told now in this second beatitude that this spiritual poverty should lead us to mourn our lack. It is because we have nothing to commend ourselves to God that we should mourn. It is a direct result of our depravity and our sin that will drive us to this type of mourning. This type of mourning is indicative of a true repentance for our own sin. This is not a self-righteous, finger pointing, brother indicting kind of mourning. This is not the Christian radio program where the pious fatherly figure bemoans the sins of the nation and lectures all on how to fix the problem.
No, this is the kind of mourning that we see in the prayer of Daniel, who while being very holy and upright in his own personal life ascribed the nation’s sins to himself. This is the young man who would not be defiled by the king’s meat, who would not accept privilege for himself in the land of his nation’s captivity, and yet he included himself in the confession of his nation’s sin.
“And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplication, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes: And I prayed unto the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments; We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments: Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.” Daniel 9:3-6
Another servant of God who was waiting on a foreign king in a foreign land of captivity was Nehemiah, you can read a similar prayer in Nehemiah chapter one where he as well identified and mourned over the nations sins.
Having seen two positive examples, perhaps a negative example would help.
“Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.” Hebrews 12:16-17
Here we see Esau who is called a “profane person”. This is the man who despised the birthright, who was ultimately rejected by God, and rather than mourn over his sin, he mourned over his material loss. Go back to Genesis and read where he begged his father for just one material blessing. The writer of Hebrews tells us that he sought repentance with tears and could not find it. What a fearful thing, to actually seek after repentance and have that repentance denied by God. This is the lot of those who merely repent for having been caught or due to personal loss or embarrassment. The true biblical repentance only flows from the heart of the one who has seen his spiritual poverty before a holy God and can mourn over his own sin.
Paul had similar words to teach to the young pastor Timothy.
“In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;” 2 Timothy 2:25
Here Paul informs Timothy that it is God who grants repentance. Repentance is not a foregone conclusion. We sadly, too often preach an arrogant gospel that would tell the sinner that they can come to God at any time, and whenever they are ready. No, that is not the case. We must find ourselves in a place where we either have or are currently mourning over our sins. Then and only then are we fit to cry out to God for mercy. A half hearted repentance is not a God ordained repentance. Esau’s repentance fell short and he was judged.
Are we like Esau, who merely confess our sin in a surface way because we are embarrassed at being caught?
“At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.” Matthew 11:25-27
Here Jesus is clearly teaching that it is only to those whom the Father has revealed these truths to that can come unto him. There is no way open that is not opened by the divine choice of God himself. But it is after this restrictive statement that Jesus finally does say —
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
Has God given you a sense of your own sin? Then COME!!! Have you felt deep in your soul, your spiritual lack and your poverty? Then COME, labor no longer. But do not come if you have not felt that lack in yourself. This is not a membership in a club that you are coming to, this is the creator, Jehovah the almighty and to his Son that you come.
Jesus also said in the gospel of John:
“All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” John 6:37
“And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” John 6:39
“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:44
“And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.“ John 6:65
Here we see that Jesus’ teaching is very clear; the only way to Christ is by divine permission and enablement of the Father.
Likewise, the only way to the Father is by way of Christ.
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.“ John 14:6
This is no light thing. There is no easy road to the kingdom. Jesus is teaching here in the beatitudes that those who will be comforted must first find themselves in a place of mourning. Have you felt this angst in your soul as you sought to approach Christ for release from your sin? If you came simply and with no manner of mourning over your own sin at all, I beg you, take a look at Christ again, see his perfections, see his taking of your sin upon himself, see his innocence placed on the cross for your sins and see if you still feel apathetic about your sin.
There is no room for apathy over sin. But in mourning there is comfort. Come and mourn, mourn over your sin, over what your sin did to the sinless one. Then come, come and drink of the water freely, come and eat bread with no cost, come and partake of the blessings of son ship — but first, come and mourn. As the Psalmist says, God will turn our mourning into dancing.
“Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; to the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee forever.” Psalm 30:11-12