Summary: Third in the my Be-Attitudes series, taking on "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted".

Matthew 5:4; John 11:32-37 - Facing Hardship

By James Galbraith

First Baptist Church, Port Alberni

January 21st, 2007


Matt 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

John 11:32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

35 Jesus wept.

36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”


Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

A couple weeks ago, after referring to this verse, I shared the mind boggling statistic that people worldwide consume over one billion servings of Coca-Cola products every day. You can add to that over 200 million servings of Pepsi products per day.

You may wonder what the connection is, and I invite you to keep wondering as I share with you a few more statistics.

A picture of priorities in Canada and British Columbia.

Let’s talk a bit about TV.

(2004) Canadians spend over 20 hours a week watching TV. The average citizen spends 21.4 hours, while British Columbians weigh in at 20.7.

Men and women over 18 actually exceed this average,

with BC men at 21.5 and women consuming 23.4 hours a week.

That’s a full day out of the week in front of the tube.

In this viewing, variety shows, comedy, drama and sports programming account for over two thirds of the shows we’re watching. News and documentaries add up to one quarter of that time.

And religious programming? 0.3 %.

To put that in perspective, there’s three and half times as many people that are watching Much Music and CMT.

Let’s also talk about where we spend our money

The average household in BC spent $68,231 dollars in 2005.

Of that amount

4246 (6.2 %) was spent on recreation,

288 (0.4%) on reading materials,

1308 (2.5%) on either tobacco or alcohol,

274 (0.4%) on games of chance or gambling.

Charitable giving to all sources, non-profits and churches,

added up to $1816, (2.7 %) or 54 dollars less per household

than alcohol, tobacco and gambling,

and barely over a third of what we spent on recreation as a whole.

What is my point in sharing these numbers?

We are a pleasure seeking people. It is part of our nature to seek what feels good. And that is not a bad thing. We’re made this way.

Chocolate tastes good because we’ve been given the senses to appreciate it. Intimacy with our spouse feels good because God made it that way, to bring a man and woman closer together physically and spiritually.

In fact, sexual procreation is one of the best arguments for a Creator,

since in and of itself it is by far the least efficient,

but also by far most enjoyable method of reproduction on Earth.

If evolution were the guiding pattern for nature,

we’d hatch out of eggs like insects or simply reproduce ourselves, like earthworms. Very efficient, but also very boring.

When this impulse for seeking pleasure is moderated by God’s law and principles working in our hearts, it is a good and enjoyable part of who we are. God made us to enjoy pleasure.

However, it is all to easy to be consumed by this drive for pleasure. And not just for pleasure’s sake. Sometimes, in fact all too often, people seek comfort from their hurts within an excess of pleasure.

In other words, we turn to indulgence to cover pain.

Alcohol seems to be the most prevalent alternative,

but anything that we consume can fill this role.

Tobacco, food in general, sex – there is a myriad of methods by which we try to medicate ourselves from our pain or insulate ourselves from our problems.

And our temptation to cover pain with pleasure can start in small ways.

Remember the song “Don’t Worry, be happy”? It’s a whimsical little tune about not letting things you can’t control bring you down. It encourages the listener to be happy no matter what might be wrong in his or her life.

I can agree that we shouldn’t worry about things, great or small. But simple happiness is not always the best antidote to the things that worry us.

If we can’t pay the rent, a grin isn’t going to keep us in our home.

If a loved one dies, whistling a tune won’t help us face their passing.

Have you heard about the books titled after the phrase, ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff”? One of the renditions of this phrase is “Don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff.”

I disagree. There are things that make us should make us sweat.

There are issues to be worked through that are not small.

When we are confronted with the painful realities of life,

simply changing the labels won’t make them any easier to cope with.

The bottom line is that we live through events which can and will trouble us, hurt us and cause us pain. Our human reaction is to mask, ignore or cover our pain with alternatives not so threatening.

Jesus send us in another direction. Toward the pain.

Facing our hurts

In this be-attitude, Jesus is telling us that we find comfort from our hurts by facing them and mourning - expressing the hurt within us.

Jesus came to help us face the harsh world we live in,

and not cover it with pleasure or ignore it through denial.

And he doesn’t just make this statement and then leave us to our own devices; he actually role models this for us. Allow me to repeat the short passage I read at the beginning of the message.

John 11:32-37

32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

35 Jesus wept.

36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

This passage comes out of the narrative of Jesus raising his friend Lazarus from the dead. Jesus had learned that his friend was near death days earlier, when the sisters of Lazarus send word to him to come and help.

By the time that he arrives, Lazarus has been dead for four days. His sister Mary finds Jesus, and in tears she wishes that he had arrived sooner, so that Lazarus would not have died.

This is the same Mary that honoured Jesus by pouring perfume on his feet and wiping his feet with her hair. She’s not angry with Jesus, she loves him with all her heart. Her words here mean nothing more than that she wishes that he would have come sooner.

Her emotions, and the weeping of the crowd nearby, begin to have an effect on Jesus. He is deeply moved and troubled, the same way we might be when we’re faced with tragedy.

Now, some people read this and think that Jesus’ agitated spirit is actually anger, which is directed against the crowd around him.

In this line of thinking,

Jesus is angry that the crowd has already written Lazarus off,

and that they are unwilling to believe that he can raise him from the dead.

But this interpretation simply ignores the fact that Jesus was human just like you and me. Death is tragic, and the human reaction to the loss of a friend is to mourn his passing. It is very difficult to not get choked up in this situation, especially when we are with others who are weeping or crying.

Jesus would have said something to them about their faith, if it is their faith that upsets him. He does in other instances, like when the disciples are fearful of the storm, or unable to drive a demon out of someone possessed.

No, I believe that he is “deeply moved and troubled” because he’s facing the loss of a loved one. He feels this loss just like any human facing the death of a dear friend would.

However, he doesn’t wallow in his grief or hide from it; he moves quickly to confront this grief, by asking Mary to take him to the tomb.

Mary and the crowd take Jesus to the burial site. When he sees the stone rolled in front of the tomb, he knows in his heart that Lazarus is dead. Confronted with this, he weeps for the loss of his friend.

And his weeping is not a single tear running down his cheek.

The word “wept” means an emotional outburst of sorrow; it would be perfectly acceptable to read this verse as, “Jesus burst into tears”.

The tears provoke two reactions from the crowd.

1. Some believes that his weeping is simply an sign of the love he must have had for Lazarus.

2.Others think that his tears mean that he is unable to do anything about it.

We know the end of the story; Jesus calls out Lazarus, and he comes out of the tomb in perfect health, despite having been dead and buried for four days.

It is a happy ending, and that begs the question - why did Jesus weep?

He knew he could help Lazarus, so why cry?

Again, some want to over-spiritualize the tears, and say that’s he’s weeping because of the lack of faith of those gathered around.

But that, to me, is nonsense. He weeps because no matter what happens at the end of the story, his friend has died.

He didn’t approach his friend’s death as an mere speed bump on the road; he confronted death for what it is, and mourned for the loss of someone special to him.

He wept because he was fully human, and it is fully human to mourn when we face tragedy.

Mourning is the reaction that settles in our heart, once and for all, that what we’re crying over is indeed something worth crying for.

Mourning helps us confront the depth of our loss, instead of pretending nothing’s happened or minimizing the impact of tragic events. It brings us into reality. It helps us face the truth.

The tears of Jesus show us that he truly understands what we feel when life gets hard. He’s been there, and is able to help us through the times we need to spend there.

Facing the impact of our sin

There’s another element to the beatitude that Jesus shares with us here.

In the previous verse,

Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven,

he has told us to face the fact that we need him, and that we are unable to face life without him.

The reason for that is that we sin, and when we do,

we place our self in a position where we need Jesus to forgive us our sin, and purify us through and through.

We must not only face the wrong that is outside of us; we must also be ready to face the wrong within us. Not just the hurts, but the actual sin that resides in us, and be willing to mourn over them.

To be poor in spirit is to admit our need for Christ. In this context, mourning is not only facing the hard times in our lives, it is also confronting the depth of our sin, and feeling sorrow for it.

If being poor in spirit is confessing our need for him because of our sin,

mourning over our sin shows him that we care, and that we know his forgiveness doesn’t come cheap.

To wrap up today,

Sin and tragedy are two very different things, but our reaction to them should be the same.

Confronting them for what they are, mourning over them,

and then allowing Christ to do his work in our lives.

With sin, he forgives us, and tosses our sin as far as the east is from the west. But just because his forgiveness is complete doesn’t jot mean that we should completely ignore the depth of it.

We won’t fully understand our salvation unless we can grasp the depth from which we are saved.

With tragedy he will walk us through it, and help us get to the other side. He walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death, and we do not have to fear, because we know that he is with us.

He may even, in his wisdom, turn the tragedy around and bring healing and restoration. But far more often than not, our path through tragedy is to face it, knowing that Jesus will not leave us on our own.

My favourite verse concerning this comes is one that is quite well known, but remains unbeaten for affirming this point.

"I saw a story unfolding in my mind’s eye. My pen took over as I began writing it out. I saw myself walking along a beach with the Lord, and scenes from my life flashed before us. But during the most painful scenes, I noticed only one set of footprints was left in the sand. I asked the Lord where He had been when I needed him most. Then I wrote down His reply:

"My precious child, I love you and will never leave you. When you saw only one set of footprints, It was then that I carried you."

You may not recognize the name Margaret Rose Powers. She’s the author of this poem, "Footprints.", and there is an interesting story behind her poem.

In the summer of 1964, Margaret was 20 years old and was recovering from meningitis on the family farm in Ontario. With meningitis she was confined to bed for most of the summer. It was a difficult time for her; she had never felt so empty and afraid. One August evening she wrote in her diary, "Lord, have You left me too?"

On the road to recovery, the man who was to marry her took her for a walk along the shore of Lake Erie. "The waves hissed into bubbles at our feet," she recalled. "Paul stopped suddenly and pointed back at our tracks in the sand. `See our footprints, Margie? On the day we marry, they will become like one set, not two.’"

That night, the image of footprints stayed with Margaret. She could not sleep, so she began writing in her diary those words have inspired millions. They affirm to us that Jesus will bring us through the hardest times in our lives, if we let him.

I add to that this morning that our part is to admit our that life can hurt,

and that we need someone to comfort us, walk with us and see us through.

Jesus is that person, and he has made us a promise

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.