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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC Combined Worship Service, 2012-04-22

Text: Matthew 5:4

A few days ago we heard the sad news of an airplane that crashed in Pakistan taking the lives of all its 127 passengers and crew, and plunging the nation into mourning. My very first encounter with mourning took place when my maternal grandmother passed away in 1975. I was only 12 years old then, and I still remember how fearful it was to be woken up by the ringing phone in the middle of the night and to hear my dear mother breaking down in tears when she heard the dreadful news. I remember how frightening it was to see my 73 year old grandma lying motionless in an open casket surrounded by all her loved ones who were weeping uncontrollably. I was so overwhelmed by all the sadness and mourning that went on, that for many years after that I stayed away from funeral wakes.

The sadness we feel when we lose someone who is very dear to us is often very hard to bear. In fact the grief and sorrow of bereavement is one of the most devastating of all human emotions. In some funeral wakes, I have witnessed grief so intense that I could not hold back my own tears. I am sure all of us know to some degree the heart-wrenching pain of mourning the loss of a close friend or loved one. This is something we naturally dread to go to through. The truth is that we would rather to be in a house of celebration than in a house of mourning. 

How extraordinary it is then, that in the second beatitude our Lord Jesus should tell us how blessed it is to mourn. There are nine different Greek verbs used in the NT to express grief and sorrow. But the verb that is translated as 'mourn' here in Matthew 5:4 (pentheo) is the strongest of them all - it is an intense grief which grips a person so hard that it cannot be concealed. This mourning not only brings an ache to one's heart, it brings unrestrainable tears to one's eyes. And anyone who has gone through that would ask, 'What blessedness can there possibly be in such mourning?' How can anyone ever say, 'Blessed are they that mourn...'? 

Well, our Lord Jesus was certainly qualified to say such a thing, because no one understands sorrow and mourning better than He does. He was after all, the 'man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.' (Isaiah 53:3) In His human frailty, He was touched with the feeling of our infirmities (Hebrews 4:15). Hebrews 5:7 tells us that Jesus 'offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears.' And there are two important instances of our Lord's weeping recorded in the Scriptures.

The first was when he was at the tomb of Lazarus. This is found in the shortest verse of the Bible, John 11:35. All that it says is, 'Jesus wept.' What we would like to know is why Jesus wept. What was it that made Him so sorrowful? Was it the thought of losing Lazarus? Did that make Jesus so sad that He wept? Well, that cannot be the case, because the preceding verses (vv.11,23) show us that Jesus had already planned to bring Lazarus back to life. There was something far deeper than the death of Lazarus that had caused our Lord to weep. What was it?

I. The Ultimate Cause of All Mourning

It can be traced back to man's Sin. Sin is the ultimate cause of all the mourning and weeping that goes on in the world. Death and all the misery it has brought to man would never have existed if sin had never entered this world. As Jesus saw the intense mourning of Mary and Martha over their brother's death, and as He heard the loud wailing and crying by all the mourners around Him, He was moved with great feeling against all the misery and pain that man's sin had caused. His feelings were so strong that He wept. 

Death and mourning have become so much a part of human life only because Sin entered into the world through Adam. Romans 5:12 says, 'Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.' If there had been no sin, there would be no death and no sorrow in our experience at all. So every time somebody dies and a loved one is lost, let it be a grim reminder to us of how terrible Sin is. Sin is the ultimate cause of all the grief we feel in death and of all the heart-break of being separated from those we love. And sin was the ultimate reason why our Lord Jesus wept in this instance just before He raised Lazarus from the dead.

But this was not the only instance where sin was the reason why Jesus wept. In Luke 19:41-44 we see Him weeping again, and this time it was just before His triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem. Let us turn to this passage and read it: 'And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.'

Here, Jesus expressed His great sorrow for Jerusalem because it had rejected Him and therefore it had missed its opportunity for peace. Due to its many sins, Jerusalem was not the city of peace it was meant to be. It was a city of bloodshed, war and conflict. Time and time again Jerusalem had come under God's judgment because of all the sins of its inhabitants. And now Jesus mourned because judgment was coming again - this time because of their sins of unbelief. Being the Omniscient God who knows all things, Jesus could foresee the awful destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 by the Romans. 

When Jesus and His disciples beheld the city of Jerusalem again from the Mount of Olives two days later, He provided more details about this destruction in His Olivet discourse. It was to be a terrible destruction, with great loss of life. As it turned out, the destruction was so complete that all that remained of the glorious Temple was just a wall. And today it is known as the Wailing Wall because Jews would go there to mourn and weep over the destruction of their beloved city. That destruction in AD 70 eliminated the Jewish nation for almost 2,000 years, and scattered the Jews throughout the whole world. 

Why was the judgement of this nation so severe? It was all because of Sin: Their sin of refusing to accept Jesus as their Messiah despite all the ample signs and evidences they had seen from Him. How tragic it is that just five days after Jesus entered Jerusalem in His triumphal entry they were shouting, 'Crucify Him! Crucify Him!' with terrifying rage and hatred toward Him. It is no wonder that Jesus wept and mourned so deeply for the city of Jerusalem. 

However the time will come when it will be that city's turn to weep and mourn for Him. This will happen when Jesus returns from heaven in His glorious Second Coming to save Jerusalem from being destroyed by the armies of the world. Let us read this prophecy as given in Zechariah 12:8-11 'In that day shall the LORD defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the LORD before them. And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon.'

Why will the Jews of Jerusalem be mourning so intensely? It is because they will realise for the very first time that the One their ancestors had crucified, the One they had been rejecting for centuries while we Gentiles had accepted Him, was truly their beloved Messiah. They had actually disowned and killed their own Messiah! And this revelation will be so devastating to the Jews when Jesus returns, that they will mourn with deep regret over all their sins against Him. 

And as they weep profuse tears of repentance, the Lord Jesus Himself will speak words of comfort to them, just like Joseph did in Genesis chapter 45 when he revealed his identity to his brothers who had sold him into slavery in Egypt. What a blessed reunion that will be when the Jesus the Messiah will comfort His own kinsmen according to the flesh, who mourn for all the sins which they and their fathers had committed against Him. 

This momentous event has in fact already been foretold in Isaiah 61:1-3 'The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.' 

II. The Kind of Mourning that Brings Blessing

From looking at all these passages of Scripture, we now fully understand why Jesus had said, 'Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.' We now understand that this beatitude does not apply to anyone who mourns for whatever reason. For instance, the Israelites who mourned that they had nothing but manna to eat in the wilderness were not blessed (Numbers 21:4,5). Neither were those blessed who wept in unbelief and refused to enter the Promised Land when they heard that the Canaanites were giants. Instead of bringing blessing, such mourning only brings judgment.

So, if you just happen to feel down or depressed for no good reason or out of pure self-pity, please do not think that you can have the blessing of this beatitude. There can be no blessing at all if your weeping and mourning is a sinful response to a situation that demands your faith and obedience to God. Such mourning must be stopped.

We have already seen that the only kind of mourning that brings blessing is mourning over sin, or over the misery that sin has caused. Jesus wept when He saw all the misery that sin had brought to the family of Lazarus and to the city of Jerusalem. Therefore the blessing of this beatitude belongs to all who mourn over the misery that sin has brought into this world. We have also seen that this blessing belongs to those who mourn in repentance over their own sins, just as the Jews will mourn one day that they had crucified their Messiah. 

This is confirmed by many other biblical examples of mourning. One of them is found in Ezra 10:1,6 'Now when Ezra had prayed, and when he had confessed, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, there assembled unto him out of Israel a very great congregation of men and women and children: for the people wept very sore. Then Ezra rose up from before the house of God, and went into the chamber of Johanan the son of Eliashib: and when he came thither, he did eat no bread, nor drink water: for he mourned because of the transgression of them that had been carried away.' The occasion for this mourning is when the Jews realised that they had sinned against God by marrying with non-believers. What we want to know now, is why such mourning can bring blessing. There are two reasons. Firstly,

A. It Awakens Us to the Consequences of Sin

When we truly understand how horrid and gruesome the consequences of our sins are, we would mourn and weep with great sorrow. Let us consider some of sin's greater consequences. The first is:

1. Sin Caused Our Spiritual Death

Earlier on, when I mentioned how Jesus wept before raising Lazarus from the dead, we saw how sin has brought physical death. Physical death consists of the permanent separation of the soul from the body. But there is another kind of death which only the soul may experience - spiritual death. This consists of permanent separation from God, which is much, much worse than physical death.

This is mentioned in Genesis 2:17 'But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.' When our first parents disobeyed this command they as well as the entire human race entered into a state of spiritual death. Romans 5:12 tells us, 'Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.' When we consider the countless number of blighted souls that suffer eternal death because of sin, how can we not be moved to weep and mourn? And that is not all that sin has caused. It has also

2. Sin Poisons Our Relationships

Let us look at 1 Corinthians 1:10-11 'Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.'

Sin is the ultimate cause of all selfish hatred, strife, division and all the conflicts and fighting that have been going on since history began. We have gone through this in Life Church as well. Many of us may still remember the difficult and unpleasant Annual Congregational Meeting that took place right here in 2004 when the VPP crisis broke out and divided our church. Consider all the relationships between close friends and between family members that sin has damaged. Look at the increasing numbers of divorce, broken homes, battered wives and battered children today - all of these are tragic reminders to us of how devastating sin is. 

And when it is our sins that have caused such problems, surely we need to mourn and weep in repentance for what we have done. But we also need to mourn with sorrow even if our sins do not cause great damage to others. Because there is Someone who is always very hurt when no one else is hurt by our sins, and that Someone is God:

3. Sin Grieves God

Let us look at Genesis 6:5-6 'And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.' Can you imagine how grieved God must have been when men sinned? It was so great that God had to cleanse the whole world as it were, with a Flood. Perhaps one may liken the flood waters to tears that God shed as He mourned deeply over the sins of the world.

Do you know that God is just as grieved every time you commit sin? This is revealed in Ephesians 4:30 'And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.' If we agree with God concerning our sin, then grieving and mourning for our sins is certainly the natural thing for us to do. Besides that it should also grieve us that-

4. Sin Made Christ Suffer on the Cross

We are told in 1 Peter 3:18 'For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:' Whenever we think of all the agony that our Lord Jesus endured on the cross to atone for our sins, doesn't it make us grieved to think that we have caused Him such great pain?

Now that we have seen how mourning for sins awakens us to the awful consequences of our sins we must ensure that:

B. It Arouses us to Repent of Our Sins

It would be a terrible thing for a person to mourn over his sin, and then after that commit it again and again. Sorrow in itself is not of any use, until it causes a person to repent and forsake the sin he has committed. 

Listen to what the apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth in 2 Corinthians 7:9,10 'I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance; For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation' There are times when a person is confronted with his sin, and he feels very sorry about it, but his sorrow is not a godly sorrow at all. He feels sorry that he was caught and publicly exposed and so he has to endure the embarassment of being punished for it. This kind of sorrow leads to resentment and bitterness rather than repentance. Godly sorrow is not so much mourning about the shame one has to bear for sin, but about the damage and hurt that one has caused to God and to others. And if we mourn for our own sins with godly sorrow, then and only then will we have the assurance that our sins are forgiven. This brings us now to the final part of our sermon where we see

III. The Blessing that Comes from Mourning

This blessing is mentioned at the end of the second beatitude which says, 'for they shall be comforted.' This is a comfort that comes from knowing that God has really forgiven us our sins, since we have God's promise in 1 John 1:9 'If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.' To get a full understanding of what it is to have this kind of comfort, let us read Psalm 32:1-5 which was written by King David after he had confessed his sin of adultery: 

'Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile. When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.'

Here we can see a sharp contrast between the time before the sin was confessed and the time after it was confessed. When David did not confess his sin, what happened? vv.3 & 4 - Using figurative speech he tells how he felt very restless, weak and depressed because of the guilt of his sin. Then in v.5 he finally confessed his transgressions to the Lord, and what happened? God forgave him. 

Then look at vv.1 and 2 and here you see a total change. Now he says, 'Blessed is the man whose transgression is forgiven!' The drought of summer of v.4 was dispelled from his soul as cool refreshing streams of God's love began to flow freely again. The heavy hand of God was lifted up from David, as that same hand now lifted David up to give offerings of praise and thanks to God! His youthfulness was restored, as the guilt of his sin (mentioned in v.3) was removed. What a great and wonderful change David experienced here. Isn't this an apt description of the beatitude, 'Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted.'?

The key to experiencing this blessedness then, is to keep confessing all your sins to God. Examine your life under the searchlight of God's Word and seek the help of the Holy Spirit to reveal your sins to you. Perhaps you have sinned with your tongue, e.g. by indulging in gossip and rumour-mongering. Perhaps there may be sins of self-righteousness, pride or unforgiveness in your heart. Have you been angry with someone who hurt you and done nothing to make peace with him? Perhaps yours may be the sin of lukewarmness toward God. Have you left your first love? 

Whatever they are, please don't keep any unconfessed sins in your life. Keep short accounts with God. In v.5 David said, 'I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid.' The basic element in confession of sin is agreement. There must be full agreement with God about your sin. As long as the slightest disagreement exists, and you keep trying to justify what you have done, you are not viewing your sin the way that God views it. 

You know, when people sin, they try to deal with it in various ways: Some try to ignore it and pretend that it never happened, hoping that it will just go away. Others try to excuse themselves, and say, 'I just couldn't help it. Anyone would have done the same thing I did.' There are some who try to reduce the sinfulness of the sin, saying, 'Well, what I did is not as bad as what others have done. In fact, some good may come out of it.' Others try to shift the blame to someone else, and say, 'That person made me do it' or 'the Devil made me do it.'

But all of these ways of dealing with sin will never work. There is only one right way to deal with sin that will bring all the relief, comfort and peace that your heart and mind really needs. Do you know what it is? Confess your sin to God immediately, and say, 'I did it and what I did was wrong. I am the one to be blamed for it and no one else. I am so sorry that I have sinned against Thee and caused Thee so much pain. Please have mercy and forgive me.'

When you confess your sin to God like that, you can rest assured that He will comfort you and restore to you all the peace and joy that you lack. God says in Jeremiah 31:13 'for I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow.' May the Lord help us to find this blessedness as we confess our sins to Him.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25