Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted. [Matthew 5:4]
Mourning; the image that immediately comes to mind is one of old women dressed all in black wailing over the death of their husbands. Then as an outward sign of loss they continue to be dressed in black clothing for the rest of their lives. Webster defines mourning as the expression of grief or sorrow it implies a loss of something held dear. Mourning is clearly not a lot of fun.
But what is it that Jesus audience has lost that they should be in mourning?
As I mentioned last week, Jesus is setting up his audience to a radically counter cultural way of life here by parodying one of David’s famous Psalms. In psalm one, David tells us that blessing comes from following the law and that in so doing you will prosper. He goes on to say that the wicked are like chaff that will be blown away and will not stand in judgment or be admitted into the assembly of the righteous. There is no comfort for the wicked or sinners in David’s psalm, they are forever separated from the community of the righteous. More subtly there is also no indication that the wicked in David’s psalm even know or care that they are sinners, they are simply chaff, blown away on the wind.
What Jesus is saying is that in order to become righteous you must recognize your failings, release your hold on that part of you that is holding you back, release your hold on your “self” and mourn the loss of a part of your identity. In other words, you must mourn your sin. In so doing you will be comforted and given access to the community of followers in His Kingdom.
This is a theme that comes out over and over again in Jesus teaching. My pastor has often said that Jesus was a terrible salesman when it came to getting people to follow him. What makes him say that? Because time and time again when people are ready to follow Him and declaring their undying loyalty Jesus reminds them that when they become his followers they must be prepared to lose everything and die.
Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. [Luke 9:23]
Great! Sign me up!
But here at the beginning of Jesus greatest sermon He tells us that even in our sorrow, even in our grief over what we will lose and in recognizing the tremendous cost to our comforts, the cultural acceptance we enjoy by not being too committed, by not being too radical in our belief, even in our grief over losing all of that; We will be comforted.
Elsewhere he tells us;
Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. [John 12:25-26]
Blessed are those who recognize their failings and release their hold on the pleasures of this life, for they will be comforted in the next.
So What’s Your Attitude Toward Pleasure-Seeking?