The Second Sunday in Lent February 28, 2010
157, 318, 457, 42(6)
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Dear fellow mourners and comforted in Christ Jesus:
These days it seems that people will try nearly anything to be happy. They turn to self-help books, therapies, and medicines. They spend millions of dollars each year seeking to rid themselves of depression and sorrow over this or that. They want comfort and peace instead of sadness and misery. They want to be glad to wake up in the morning and face the day; and none of us want sadness to be an overwhelming part of our lives either.
So it might sound a little strange to us at first when Jesus tells His disciples “Blessed are those who mourn.” Sometimes sorrow, sadness, or weeping is not a bad thing. It just depends on what you are sad about.
There are types of sorrow that are not healthy or God-pleasing. For example, feeling sad and depressed because you don’t have everything that you want in life or because things haven’t worked out the way you wanted them to work out. Sometimes people get down because they don’t have as much money as they want or they don’t have the house or the car or the job that they want. Or they are upset that their health is not as good as it could be. If we get depressed about things like this, we might not be taking the comfort we should be taking from Jesus’ promises to care of our earthly needs. Or it might be a sign that we are having some trouble being content with what God has given us. This kind of sorrow can often lead to anger and doubt toward God. When we are deeply grieved because of what we don’t have or because of how things have gone for us in life, it becomes very easy to question or doubt God’s wisdom and that’s not good.
The life of Judas Iscariot gives us another example of a type of sorrow that was not God-pleasing. Judas was the apostle who made a deal Jewish leaders to betray Jesus into their hands for 30 pieces of silver. After he had done this terrible thing, Judas was filled with remorse. He gave the money back and then went out and committed suicide. The sorrow of Judas was a sadness of despair—anger and fear over what would become of him now. What would the other disciples think if he returned to them? All of his thieving and trickery and greed would be exposed and he would be disgraced! How could he live like that? His sadness was a sadness of self-pity and worry over his own situation in life. This sadness did not lead him to see the forgiveness that he had in the Savior.
While we pray that we will never be driven to do what Judas did, there may be times when we are sad with a similar type of self-pity. “Woe is me! There is no hope or help for me anymore! My life isn’t worth anything! Everything is ruined forever!” This is not a good kind of sorrow because it is a sorrow that forgets about the blessings Christ has given us.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said to His disciples: “Blessed are those who mourn.” He wants us to realize that although certain types of sadness are sinful, there is a place for a proper kind of sorrow. There is a time for crying and weeping, a time when such behavior is not necessarily bad.
We find an example of proper sorrow in Psalm 6 where David said, “O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath...I am worn out from my groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow” (Psalm 6:1,6 NIV).
David was deeply sorry about his sins. He was mourning, in fact. But David’s sadness was not the sadness of self-pity like Judas. He was truly upset that He had disappointed the Lord His God because He knew that God was not really His enemy, but His friend. He was cut to the heart because He had hurt the One whom He knew had meant no harm to Him. This was a proper kind of sadness because it was a sadness brought on by an understanding of God’s love for him. Furthermore, David went to the right place for help. He did not adopt an attitude of “I am lost. There is no hope,” but He asked His Heavenly Father to have mercy on him, to forgive him, and to accept his prayer. In faith David placed himself entirely into God’s gracious hands.
It is good to be sad like David was—to be sad over the fact that we have sinned against the very One who has worked to save us and give us eternal life. It is good that you do not jump for joy when you realize you have committed crimes against God’s holy will. When you are confronted with the law of the Lord and your sin is revealed to you, it is good if you do not brush it off carelessly thinking, “Well, it’s no big deal.” Because sin is a big deal. It is the biggest deal! It caused our dear Savior to give up His life in agony and grief. The Lenten hymn warns us of a careless attitude toward sin when it says:
Ye who think of sin but lightly
nor suppose the evil great
here may view its nature rightly,
here its guilt may estimate. [TLH 153:3]
One glance at the cross of Jesus moves us to tears as we see what He went through on account of our guilt. Then we see how greatly we have offended the Righteous One with our mouths which have not spoken as they should and our ears which have not heard His Word as they should—and there’s nothing wrong with crying about that!
Countless thousands walk through life in unbelief, acting just the opposite, doing what God hates and not caring a lick about the fact that they are disgracing the One who did everything that could be done to help them.
Imagine two little girls—sisters. The younger one is playing with a toy that doesn’t seem to work. The older one asks if she can take it for a minute. The younger one refuses and gets angry. She starts to hit and kick her older sister for “trying to take away the toy.” The older sister begins to cry and says, “I was just going to put a new battery in it for you.” Soon, the younger sister begins to cry too, realizing that she has just hurt the one who tried to help her.
Jesus, our dear Savior, has come down from heaven to give up His life for us and we have managed to kick Him, spit on Him, and abuse Him in every which way on account of our disobedience. When we realize that we have hurt the One who came to help us we will certainly be sad—sometimes we might cry, and that’s OK because this kind of sorrow can lead to blessing.
On the Day of Pentecost Peter preached a sermon to the Jewish people. In his sermon he told them how they had crucified the Lord of glory, how they had destroyed the One who had come from Heaven to save them and bring them life, how they had disgraced the Messiah, the chosen One of God. When the people saw that they had hurt the One who was to save them they were sorry and three thousand of them were baptized! Notice that the godly sorrow of the people was followed by comfort and blessing from God. Instead of these thousands despairing after hearing Peter’s words they were baptized and through their baptisms were washed clean of their sins and assured of their place in God’s family of those who trust in the Lord Jesus.
Jesus told His disciples on the hillside “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” There is hope for those who mourn over their sins. They do not have to feel as though they are lost or abandoned.
Think about David’s sixth Psalm which we looked at a few minutes ago. In the opening verses he was drenching his couch with tears, but after the sorrow came joy and the peace of forgiveness. He said at the end of the psalm, “The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer” (Psalm 6:9 NIV)
In his letter to the Romans, Paul wrote “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more” (Romans 5:20 NIV). The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from our all our sins. For as much evil as we do, Jesus offered a payment worthy enough and acceptable enough to cover it. There is enough grace so that wherever there is godly sorrow, there is always forgiveness—no matter how large or great the transgression.
In this life we will mourn over our sins. We will also weep over the effects of sin in this world. We will see days of illness and disease—either experiencing it ourselves or seeing others experience it. We will have emotional pain, uncertainty about what the future will bring for our families or friends. Or maybe we will see relatives of ours who cannot get along with one another, or we ourselves will struggle in our relationships with others on account of our own sinful nature and poor choices. It saddens us to see the world becoming worse and worse day after day and year after year—to see more and more people, it seems, forsake the way of the Lord and follow their own ways. We can see that man’s wickedness is slowly bringing this world to a grinding halt and we mourn on account of it just like Jesus Himself wept when He looked out over the city of Jerusalem which had rejected Him.
But we do not weep and mourn as those who have no hope. Even when we face the worst of sin’s effects, death itself, we are comforted by the knowledge that Christ will come again in the clouds and breathe new life into us again, raising us from the dead so that we can live forever free from sin and every evil.
You know that all things are working together for the good of God’s people so you can always find comfort and peace in your sadness. “Happy are those who mourn,” Jesus said, and He meant it! When you cry as a Christian, you do not cry without comfort. The Savior stands there with you to help you and befriend you. So hear His voice. Listen to His comfort. Take His promises to heart. Here is just one of them: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV). Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.