Summary: Concentrates on the second beatitude with brief comment on teh first.
Blessed are those who mourn.
What are the beatitudes there for? What was Jesus doing when he gave these words to these people? For a long time, I saw these as a list of instructions somewhat similar to the Ten Commandments. I believed that Jesus was saying this was what he wanted his followers to be like, and it was up to them to become like it. It was only as I came to know my Bible a little better that this view began to change. For 2,000 years, the Jewish people had had a list of instructions to follow on how they were to become a holy people. The Old Testament books of Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy give all of those instructions. And they had failed to do this, Jesus was the proof of that failure for if it was possible for us to have fellowship with God by following a set of rules, he would not have needed to die on the cross.
The last thing he was going to do was arrive on earth and set up a new set of rules that we have to follow for he knew that we would fail to do this just as we failed before. So why did he give them? To find that out we need to first look at the person who was the perfect example of all of these beatitudes. He told us, “Blessed are the poor in spirit”, he showed this in his own life by the words John gives us in Chapter 5:19: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does, the Son also does.” If you need further evidence of this, look in Philippians 2:5-11 at Paul’s words: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
While we are touring the Bible, we may as well look at how the second of these beatitudes – “Blessed are those who mourn” was illustrated perfectly in Jesus’ life as well. Jesus knew exactly what it was to mourn. The shortest verse in our Bibles shows this. Two words in John 11:35 – ‘Jesus wept’. I am sure that not all of his mourning at that time was for Lazarus though, but rather for the unbelief being shown by those closest to him. Luke records a lesser known instance of Jesus’ mourning in chapter 19:41: As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had 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 one 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 recognise the time of God’s coming amongst you.” That was Jesus mourning for the sin of those around him, a sin that would lead to such pain and anguish as had seldom been heard.
When Jesus gave those beatitudes, he was giving a description of his own life. We find out more about why he gave them by looking at the people he gave the beatitudes too. The Sermon on the Mount begins with Matthew’s introduction: “Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and began to teach them, saying:” Jesus was not giving this sermon to crowds of people who did not know who he was. He was talking to twelve people who were called and chosen by God. Then look at what he says after the beatitudes: “You are the salt of the earth, you are the light of the world.” In those two sentences Jesus is not telling his disciples what they will be at some point in the future, he is not saying they have to strive to become the light of the world or the salt of the earth, he says you are these things. Because they are called and chosen by God, they are these things. I believe that Jesus was saying the same thing about the beatitudes. He was not saying you must be like this, he was saying I am like this, and because I have called and chosen you, you are like this.