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SERMON ON THE MOUNT: PART TWO

PRESENTED ON 02-09-08

 

       Last week I began a series of sermons in which we will systematically review Christ’s Sermon on the Mount.  We began last week with an overview of this famous sermon and looked at the first of the beatitudes which says "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."   We saw that to be poor in spirit is to be of a contrite and humble heart before God, recognizing it is only by the grace of God that we can be in the kingdom.  To be poor in spirit is to admit to our spiritual poverty and destitution outside of the life giving power of the spirit of God.  Once we come to that point, change will automatically follow as repentance flows from becoming poor in spirit.

       Today we will continue and look at the second beatitude, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” Matthew 5:4. Why would Jesus count those who mourn to be blessed?  He gives the answer in the very next statement.  “For they will be comforted.”  While the act of mourning itself can be a blessing as we will see, the blessing is also in the comfort that will come to them that mourn. 

       The Greek word translated mourn in this passage means exactly that.  To mourn, grieve and be sad.  Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 3:4 that there is time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.  It should be obvious by simply looking at life that there are times that lend themselves to laughter, merriment and rejoicing and there are times that lend themselves to sadness, weeping and mourning. 

        We all understand that mourning is an appropriate response to tragedy. It is an appropriate response to loss.  We mourned as a nation at the assignation of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King.  We mourn individually at the death of a loved one.  Morning at the death of a loved one is clearly exemplified in the scriptures.  In Genesis 23 we see Abraham mourning for Sarah.  In 1 Samuel chapter one, we see David mourning for King Saul and his son Jonathan after learning they had been killed in battle.  And in John chapter eleven we see Jesus weeping at the death of Lazarus.  I think we all understand the value of sharing in the grief and morning of others and the comfort a sharing of grief can bring.

        Jesus knew He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead.  Yet He shared in the grief that was being experienced by the friends and family of Lazarus.  He showed the love He had for Lazarus and His family by participating in there grief.  There grief, of course was quickly turned into joy and they were all intently comforted when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.

        The New York Giants football team is currently experiencing a time of merriment and rejoicing while the New England Patriot football team is experiencing a time of sadness, mourning and maybe some weeping.   The Green Bay Packers were in morning after loosing to the Giants in the NFC championship game.  We can use the Patriots and Packers  as an example of the value of morning.

        Both these teams will take a long look at why they lost and hopefully learn from their experience and make the necessary corrections to have a better shot at not reliving the same experience in the future.  A valuable blessing of mourning can be the drawing of attention to past mistakes and then making the necessary corrections to avoid repeating those mistakes.  It is in the areas of using morning to facilitate repentance that I want to focus on in the sermon today.

        1 Corinthians 5:1-2:  It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father's wife. And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this?

        The Greek word translated grief is the same word translated mourn in Matthew 5:4 and in the KJV and other translations is translated mourn.  Here Paul is saying you should have mourned over the sin you were witnessing which would have led you to reject this sin. So one blessing that morning can bring is to awaken us to the need to change our way of behaving.  We should be grieved at our sins and for that matter over the sins of others. 

        2 Corinthians 12:20-21:  For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.  I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged.

        James 4:8-10:   Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. 

        In both these passages of scripture we see mourning being associated with recognizing and doing something about sin.  We should be grieved at our own sin and the sin we see so prevalent in the world. Psalm 119:136:  Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed.  David was a man who mediated continually on the law of God.  David understood the efficacy of Gods law.  He understood how obedience to that law produced happiness and a quality life.  He knew that obedience to God’s law, above all, honored God and facilitated the kind of reverence that all of mankind should have for the creator.  So David grieved when he saw Gods law being ignored and saw people reaping the consequences of disobedience.

        Do we grieve at the lawlessness we see all about us.  More importantly, do we grieve at our own failure to live the law of love and do all we can to facilitate the way of righteousness in our own lives and help others facilitate righteousness in their lives.  Do we mourn with the parents of a child shot and killed in a drive by shooting?  Do we participate in the grief of an  elderly man or women ripped off of their life savings by some internet get rich quick scheme.  Do we empathize with those whose lives are ripped apart by domestic violence or the violence of war?   Jesus Christ greatly grieved over the suffering that was to shortly come upon Jerusalem in the first century.    

        Jesus Christ was greatly grieved at the fact that, by in large, the inhabitants of Jerusalem failed to recognize who He was and respond to His message of repentance in order to enter into the Kingdom.  He knew what the consequences of their failure would be and He was overwhelmed with grief at visualizing the great judgement that was prophesied to befall them. He wept over knowing that by rejecting Him, the people He loved would bring damnation upon themselves.

        Luke 19:41-44:  As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 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. 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. 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."

        God gave Israel an additional forty years to repent and accept the gospel message through the preaching and teaching of the Apostles.  When they failed to do so, judgement was brought upon them and their temple and city was destroyed with a million Jews being killed and 100,000 taken into captivity by the Romans. 

       As humans, we generally don’t like to mourn.  Our human motto is sad is bad, happy is good.  Many try to escape mourning through drugs and alcohol.  Humans prefer to anesthetize pain whether it is physical or spiritual.  Yet mourning can become a blessing when it prompts and catalyzes one into change and helping others change.  Mourning should be a response to sin.  Morning can turn into comfort when it leads to a changed life spiritually or physically. 

        I from time to time watch the TV show called “The Biggest Loser.”  This show is all about people having come to mourn and be grieved at their overweight condition and have that mourning lead them to do whatever it takes to lose the necessary weight.  It is interesting to see their morning turned into joy when they accomplish their goals of losing weight.    

        Luke 4:6-21:  He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."  Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."

        Isaiah 61: 1-3:  The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion-- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.

        I can’t help but believe that when Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” that He didn’t have Isaiah in mind.  We see him at one point in His ministry teaching that this passage from Isaiah was referring to Him.  While He didn’t quote the entire passage at the time, it is obvious the rest of the passage referred to Him as well.  He stopped quoting at “to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor.”  But He could have continued quoting, “to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion”

       When Christ was giving the Sermon on the Mount, he was addressing His contemporaries.  While what He told them has obvious application to Christians for all time, it also had immediate application to the Jewish community of the first century.  The first century Jewish community was living under difficult times.  They were seething under the thumb of Roman rule and they had to deal with the overbearing, hypocritical rule of their religious leaders.  There was a great deal of grieving going on.  That grieving became more intense as heavy persecution set in against the followers of Christ both during His ministry and during the forty years before the destruction of Jerusalem.

        In His comments as recorded in Luke 19 about the coming destruction of Jerusalem as well as His prophesied destruction of the temple in the Olivet Discourse, Christ was also proclaiming the "day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion” With the destruction of the temple the sacrificial system came to an end as the means to facilitate that system was destroyed.  Most of the priests were killed and the Jewish religious system with its overt persecution of the Christians came to a grinding halt.  The Christian community was vindicated and they were comforted.

       Mourning and being comforted in the sense that Christ was expressing appears to be very much tied to the recognition of sin and the comfort that comes when repentance takes place and sin is forgiven.  We can only experience real comfort when we acknowledge our sin, repent of such sin and know that such sin comes under the blood of Christ. 

        To mourn is something that follows of necessity from being poor in spirit. Remember we showed last week that to be poor in spirit is to be of a contrite and humble heart before God, recognizing it is only by the grace of God that we can be in the kingdom.  To be poor in spirit is to admit to our spiritual poverty and destitution outside of the life giving power of the Spirit of God.  Once we come to that point, change will automatically follow as repentance flows from becoming poor in spirit.   Mourning, therefore, flows from being poor in spirit. It is the natural outcome of recognizing our total reliance on God and our need to respond to that condition by ordering our lives in accordance with God’s will.  To discover our spiritual poverty is to automatically be grieved at anything that would interfere with having reconciliation with God.  

       Just as no one can enter the kingdom unless they become poor in spirit as we saw in the first beatitude, no one can really come to experience the comfort that comes through Christ until and unless they have learned to mourn.  The apostle Paul grieved what he was and realized that only through Christ could he attain.

       Romans 7:18-25:  I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!   

        If we truly mourn we will be comforted.  We will be made happy in the knowledge that our sin is covered by the blood of Christ.  Coming to grips with our humanity is to be poor in spirit and to truly mourn.  It is at that point when we become comforted. We become comforted because we know there is a way our of our wretchedness.  And that way, as Apostle Paul realized, is through Jesus Christ.

 SERMON THREE