Summary: The Pilgrim’s path is the way of the Beattitudes. Penitence is a matter of the heart’s attitude toward receiving forgiveness.
The Pilgrim’s Path Part-2, Mathew 5:1-12
The Congregational preacher of old, D.L. Moody, told the story of a rebellious and angry boy who had run away from home. He had given his father no end of trouble. He had refused all the invitations his father had sent him to come home and be forgiven, and help to comfort his old heart. He had even gone so far as to scoff at his father and mother. But one day a letter came, telling him his father was dead, and they wanted him to come home and attend the funeral. At first he determined he would not go, but then he thought it would be a shame not to pay some little respect to the memory of so good a man; and so, just as a matter of form, he took the train and went to the old home, sat through all the funeral services, saw his father buried, and came back with the rest of the friends to the house, with his heart as cold and stony as ever.
But when the old man’s will was brought out to be read the ungrateful son found that his father had remembered him along with all the rest of the family, and had left him an inheritance with the others, who had not gone astray. This broke his heart in penitence. It was too much for him, that his old father, during all those years in which he had been so wicked and rebellious had never ceased to love him.
Penitence is the right response to the unending love of our Heavenly Father. It is a pathway to forgiveness. It is the Pilgrim’s pathway to freedom!
Today we begin the second part of our journey through the Sermon on the Mount, discovering the Pilgrim’s Path through this life; uncovering the way of following after Christ on His mission of redemption, the walking stick of God’s protection and provision in our calloused hands, dusty feet shoed in the sandals of peace, as we walk along the Pilgrim’s Pathway of repentance, redemption, and grace.
Concerning today’s text, Mathew 5:4, the Jamison, Fausset, and Brown Commentary says, “This “mourning” must not be taken loosely for that feeling which is wrung from men under pressure of the ills of life, nor yet strictly for sorrow on account of committed sins. Evidently it is that entire feeling which the sense of our spiritual poverty begets; and so the second beatitude is but the complement of the first.
The one is the intellectual, the other the emotional aspect of the same thing. It is poverty of spirit that says, “I am undone”; and it is the mourning which this causes that makes it break forth in the form of a lamentation - “Woe is me! for I am undone.”
Penitence is, most clearly, as with all 8 principals found in the beatitudes, a matter of the hearts attitude. Being penitent is having a sense of one’s own need for the forgiveness of God because of one’s own sin and shortcomings.
Penitence, as with humility which we examined last week, is about poverty of the spirit; an attitude of repentance, and a lifestyle consistent with an honest appraisal of who we are in relation to who He is. He is creator, we are the creation. He is redeemer; we are those in desperate need of redemption. He stands alone – God – while we kneel in humble adoration of divinity.
One of my absolute favorite films is the Indiana Jones saga staring Harrison Ford. If you have not seen the films, they are the story of Indiana Jones, a famed archeologist who goes on wild adventures in search of ancient lost artifacts, including the Ark of the Covenant in the first film and the Sankara Stones in India in the second film. There is a part in the third film, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” that I especially enjoy. The setting is WWII era and after a long journey of fighting Nazi soldiers who are looking for the Holy Grail, the cup with which Jesus instituted the sacrament of communion, Indiana Jones and his father finally arrive at what is actually the ancient city of Petra, where they are to discover the Holy Grail. Through a series of events, Indiana Jones character is faced with several challenges which must be overcome in order to discover the Holy Grail.
All that he has is his knowledge of ancient history and a few clues as to how to make it through these challenges and indeed, survive them. In the first challenge the clue is that “only the penitent man shall pass.” As Indiana Jones slowly walks up a flight of steps leading into an ancient stone hallway, he sees the setting littered with the decapitated skeletons of those who had tried before him to make it through this first challenge and failed, losing their life in the process. As Indiana Jones makes his way toward the place of the challenge he and his father, who has remained behind, repeat the clue over and over, trying to figure it out. “Only the penitent man shall pass… only the penitent man shall pass.” Just before Indiana Jones is about the make it to the point where all of those who came before him failed and lost their life, his father realizes that the penitent man lives in an attitude of prayer, the penitent man is on his knees.