Summary: Lent Mid-Week 2: When death comes close, it is painful. The faithful mourn. Even in this, the Lord tells us, we are blessed because He will draw close to bring comfort.
‘Blessed are,’ says Jesus as He speaks each of the Beatitudes. ‘Blessed’ means more than ‘happy.’ Happiness is an emotion that is dependent on how well things are going. It is an emotional reaction based on outward circumstances. But ‘blessed’ in the Beatitudes refers to much more. It speaks to ultimate well-being. It speaks to the distinctive spiritual joy of for those who belong to Jesus. Blessed are you, beloved.
Today, our journey into the blessedness of Jesus brings us to a strange promise: Blessed are those who mourn. When the time of sorrow, grief, sadness and mourning come, there is help. Encouragement and cheering up come by the One Who is right by your side. He – Jesus - is the ultimate source of comfort. He came to sort out the reason that brings mourning into our lives – sin and its consequences.
The greatest cause of sorrow, beloved is the sin that separates us from a holy, just and loving God. God is the source of life. He is the One who can bring meaning and purpose to our lives. He – as designer and Creator – knows how we are knit. He made us in his image – an image meant to be free and holy and righteous. We are meant to be in full communion with the Creator. That is the genesis of humanity.
But then, sin entered through Adam. It brought with it a plague on all of the Creation. It ushered with it a huge chasm between humanity and God. It brought a falleness that keeps us from abiding in the holy righteousness in which we were created to live. Sin brought more sin. Murder and death came to humanity. Sorrow became a part of a Creation that was never meant to sustain sin and so the whole Creation groans under the weight of it’s falleness.
And sin also brought blindness. Many don’t even have a clue about their spiritual falleness. Sin takes away the ability to understand the difference between light and dark. But the consequences of that sin are clear. There is pain because we can’t love well – even those closest to us. Sin brings a hopelessness and fear when death comes close.
It’s been that way, even for those who followed Jesus. On the night our Lord was betrayed, we find the disciples with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. They have no clue about what is coming – they cannot even stay awake. Earlier Peter had made great claims about his capacity to stand by Jesus. But on that night we find that neither he, nor the others is able to even pray with Jesus as the burden of our sin and the agony of it begin to come upon our Lord.
And so, as the journey of sorrow begins, we find Jesus all alone in the Garden. The disciples are sleeping. Judas is betraying his Lord. Soon the rest of the disciples will run away. Jesus is arrested and bound. He is hauled away like a criminal. He goes willingly - knowing that by enduring what is coming, He will be able to bring to those He loves – us - comfort.
He so wanted to do this, beloved. You see, Jesus understood mourning. He wept at the death of Lazarus. He was grieved by the unrepentant hearts he found in Jerusalem. He so much desired to gather Jerusalem under his wings – but they were blinded – they would not. And so He suffered. In Gethsemane we hear Him say: “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” Words of mourning, beloved, coming from the heart and lips of The Blessed One. He was grieving over sin as He began the trip to the Cross in our place so that He could become the source of all comfort. He wanted to be a blessing to us when we mourned.
Blessed is He Who takes upon his shoulders the sorrow of the whole world. Blessed is He Who saw the Cross and did not shrink. Blessed is He who knew sorrow; Who knew grief; Who knew pain; Who understood the cost – and even so - chose to bear it all out of love. And from that Cross and empty grave flow blessedness to fill the empty space that is left when we face death.
Most of us have wept over the death of a loved one. Our grief and loss make our eyes burn with tears of sadness. The heaviness of heart seems more than we can bear. We question ourselves and God as the grief and the mourning make emotions surge.
And then we come to our Lord’s House. He meets us. His peace enters us as we hear Jesus say, “Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.” And we know that it is true – because Jesus this Jesus Who comes to us lived it. He took sting of death away. The graves will have to surrender their bounty because the Lord has already conquered them. We know that God loves us because He gave his only Son to die for us. We know that we have forgiveness because Jesus suffered. We have hope because Jesus has told us what awaits us.