Summary: A look at this backwards statement about the blessed mourners. Part 3 of 9
October 12, 2008
The Blessed Mourners
Have you ever read something that as you were reading it, just didn’t make a whole lot of sense? Sometimes when we read the Bible, we may find ourselves struggling to make sense out of the words of Jesus. He tells us things which either don’t make sense, or which we just don’t like - -
he tells us to love our enemies;
to turn the other cheek;
to walk an the mile for our enemy;
If you don’t use it, you will lose it . . . and on and on He goes on. But when we read the Beatitudes, we get more confused, like with today’s scripture. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
Blessed are the mourners. Have you ever seen a really happy and excited mourner? I don’t think so. And if someone is excited about the prospects of mourning and grieving, we would question their sanity. So, as we continue talking about the Beatitudes, these counter-intuitive, backwards ways of looking at life, let’s look at what Jesus means when He talks about the blessed mourners.
When we think about people who are grieving, we pity them. We try to not look them in the eye, we send off a quick note, send flowers; but we are not sure what to say, so we often avoid the blessed mourners.
Yet, when we look at Jesus’ day, mourning wasn’t so hushed and contained; and it wasn’t rushed. Mourners would literally tear their clothes, put on sackcloth and put ashes and dirt on top of their heads. They would do this right out in the open, where everyone could see them. Nobody tried to go to work, or to stay busy. Friends gathered, and lingered over their grief. Those grieving didn’t hide their sorrow, they lamented and cried and wailed.
Ever notice how controlled we try to be when we are mourning and grieving? We tend to weep in quiet. We don’t want anyone to see us at our blessed best . . . or I mean worst . . . or well, what is it when we mourn? Is it good, bad, or is it plain too ugly that we scare others away. And why do we apologize when a few tears come to our eyes. Why can’t we let it out? Actually, it’s healthier when we let it out, then keep it all bottled in and act real stoic like.
So, what is Jesus’ point in calling mourners blessed? When we think about mourning, we can talk about three basic types of mourning, and I’m sure we could come up with more. The three main types are ~
1. Mourning our losses;
2. Mourning for the losses of others; and
3. Mourning our sinfulness.
This morning we are going to focus on that last one, mourning our sinfulness.
But what does it mean to MOURN? Jesus is using a very strong word in the Greek to describe those who mourn. It is a word which is literally used to describe those who are mourning and grieving for the dead, or the passionate lament for someone who was deeply loved.
Then the word for comfort is also a strong one. It is the same word Jesus used when He told the disciples that He was leaving and He would send another one in His place. The one who would be sent is the Holy Spirit, who was called, the comforter, by Jesus, and it means “one who will walk alongside, or one who is called to the side of another.”
The image is of a person who has been called to come to our side, to be with us in our time of need. Even the word comfort is a strong word, since the root is fortis, which means strong or strength. So, when someone comes to us in our time of need to walk alongside us, they come to give us strength. Too often, we think of comfort as a cuddly blanket we wrap ourselves in, however, that is not how comfort is portrayed in the Bible. It is an image of someone coming to us with a transfusion of strength.
I have been hurt by people, whether as a pastor or as a friend. There have been times when people have told me what they did to me, yet, they didn’t and couldn’t apologize. You know what I mean? They can admit it, but they don’t even see it in themselves. More often than not, pride that gets in the way of someone who is incapable of saying, “please forgive me; I was wrong,” or the six most important words according to my dad, “I admit I made a mistake.” There are some who keep themselves in prison because they cannot release themselves from their guilt. People like that end up pretty unhappy, because there are so many guilts that weigh them down that they build their own prisons.