Jeremy Stopford, Semi-Retired Pastor
“SERMON ON THE MOUNT – AND BEYOND !!!”—Beatitude #2
(Otherwise known as “Oh Happy Mourning!”)
Ok! We are well into our series on the “Sermon on the Mount” (remember our abbreviation? That’s right – SOTM). Our Savior is up on a…MOUNT, training His disciples, yet also being heard by the surrounding multitudes. He is giving instruction with a two-fold purpose. First, He is giving a vision for the end of times, the way life WILL be! And second, He is giving a challenge for the present day, the way life SHOULD be!
He begins His sermon with a series of nine teachings, each one beginning with the word “Blessed”. Remember what it is translated from in Latin? You bet! “Beatitude”. Last week we looked at “blessed are the poor in spirit”. ME, POOR? Almost makes you want to leave now, doesn’t it? But what is Jesus’ teaching? First, the poor in spirit is one who is completely dependent upon the One Who alone is worthy of his dependence! And second, the Lord Himself has his everlasting care upon the one who, although may be bankrupt from the world, is a treasure in God’s sight! Hey, now that is special to be considered a treasure – NOW!
Ok, so what’s next?
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)
At first glance, this is a most morbid verse. All of us have experienced mourning in some fashion, haven’t we? The WORLD is experiencing tremendous mourning NOW, aren’t we?
We have all become way too familiar with the scientific term, COVID-19. We’ve learned about masks – place them over your mouth AND nose! We have learned the generic term about the sacrifice of a multitude of occupations, a term we may have never known before: FRONT LINE WORKERS.
And, yes so sadly, funeral homes have been most busy. In our area of central New York alone, one area funeral home set a record for most families it served in one month – in the entire history of that funeral home. And mind you, our area counties are not major population zones.
So when you hear that that mortician served the families of 24 people from ONE area nursing home during that month – well, that certainly is sorrow multiplied. Worldwide, well over 2 MILLION DEATHS since COVID-19 was first begun. With that became a familiarity with a new term – PANDEMIC – a term perhaps last used during the plague of…1918!
In the United States alone, over a period of just over 12 months, over 463 THOUSAND lives have entered eternity. Can we get a grasp on that total? And again sadly, some of those 463 thousand may be people you knew, even from your own families.
“THOSE THAT MOURN”. We understand that phrase all too well today don’t we?
BUT WAIT! How can the Savior possibly state that we are “BLESSED”?
Let’s analyze a few words. “Mourn”. What does it mean to “mourn”? It means “to lament, to be sorrowful, to show grief or to have sorrow – especially in referring to the dead.” Do people mourn in different ways? The Bible indicates that those who love Jesus as Savior can mourn in a way which is far different than those who don’t know Jesus. How can that be? There is a key two word phrase which makes the distinction! Both the Christian and the non-Christian alike sorrow, mourn for those who have passed away.
But the key phrase is “NO HOPE”. Listen to the pointed words from 1 Thessalonians 4:13: “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have NO HOPE.”
The Apostle Paul was confronting a very real problem in the new church at Thessalonica. In this young church, already a number of believers had died – perhaps some of them died as a result of being persecuted for their faith! So those still living believers were wondering, “where did they go? Is that all there is to life – when I die, I go into the grave, and that’s it? Even if I believe in Jesus?”
Paul wisely said, “well, it is true that when we die we usually have some kind of service for our loved one. But our hope doesn’t die in the grave! Our hope is in the risen Lord Jesus! Those that are “without Jesus” are “without hope”. But those that loved Jesus as Savior? Well, well! They are HOME WITH THE LORD! Can’t be better than that! And if we loved Jesus, too, one day we will be re-connected with them in glory!
But those that have not placed their eternal faith and trust in the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus as their eternal hope – well, they are without God and without hope (see Ephesians 2:12). WITHOUT God. WITHOUT hope. An eternity with no God and no hope. Perhaps the only “hope” that an unbeliever has this side of eternity, when THEY are in the midst of mourning, is in their “circumstances”, in their “feelings”, in their baseless “hope”. So sad. Is there anything more sad than that?
BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!!! “Blessed are those who mourn…FOR THEY SHALL BE COMFORTED”!!!
OK class – what does it mean to be “comforted”? One Biblical professor wisely noted, true “COMFORT” means “God calling us, and literally holding us near to Him, turning desolation into consolation”. HOW does that happen?
It happens in at least one of two ways. The first way is that God Himself is our comfort! What is the ONE passage of Scripture that appears at most funerals. Of course! Psalm 23. Let’s look at a couple of its treasures. Verse 1: “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” That’s the New Kin James Version. Have you read the New Living Translation lately. Verse 1 says, “The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.”
Do you remember Christmas time? I sure do. TODAY – almost 50 days AFTER Christmas 2020 – my wife and I put in tubs for storage downstairs the last of the Christmas 2020 decorations! (Only to put them back up in 9 months? Hmm.). But Christmas brings back one vivid memory which re-occurs every year! In our country, most of us are fortunate enough to receive MORE than one present. And when that LAST present is open, what ALWAYS happens? ALWAYS! There is that tug on the heart. There is that looking around. There is that non-verbal question: IS THERE ANY MORE? But when the Lord is my Shepherd, “I have all that I need”. Jesus is the “Good Shepherd” – and He wonderfully states in John 10:11, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” He comforts us because He is. He is my personal, comforting, ever present Good Shepherd.
And what does verse 4 say? “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they COMFORT me.” I remember when we once were the ones needing comfort. We were in line in front of our loved one’s beautiful casket. A dear friend from our first pastorate came through the door. She came up to me. She didn’t say a word. She wrapped her arms around me. And. She. Squeezed. We both cried. Only when both of us stopped crying, did she utter words of comfort. THAT’S what Psalm 23:4 is talking about. It is as if the Lord takes the shepherd’s tools – His rod and His staff which He wisely uses to lovingly care for His sheep – and wraps them around the hurting sheep and just holds them. He. Gives. A. Squeeze. He doesn’t need to say a word. His presence is our comfort.
And don’t forget verse 5a. The entire psalm, of course, is a comfort and blessing. But the beginning of verse 5 is often overlooked. It says, “You anoint my head with oil…”. That’s GREAT – but what does it MEAN? Throughout the day, the wise and caring shepherd is always looking over his sheep. And sometime during the day he inspects each sheep: for matted hair and for those ever present wounds. And then what does he do? Does he simply pat the sheep on the head, kiss the hurting sheep on the nose (like Momma did!), and say “poor baby – you’ll be ok soon.”??? No, NO! He anoints the hurting sheep’s wounds with an oily balm that is specifically designed to heal. And the Wise Shepherd of the sheep anoints His sheep with the healing balm of His Holy oil – the Holy Spirit – Whose daily anointing is the healing, not only of the wounds of the heart, but also the wounds of the soul.
The second way that “comfort” occurs? Those who are mourning get involved with the work that our deceased loved one left behind! Perhaps that one was a missionary. Maybe you can’t go to their field, but perhaps you can GIVE your financial “mites” to their work so that others can go! Perhaps there was an area in the local church in which your deceased loved one or friend served regularly. Perhaps you could take their place! Paul calls that being “baptized for the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:29). Or perhaps you could PRAY for those who are working in those ministries on the field or in the local church.
WHAT’S THE POINT? Those that MOURN will be COMFORTED! The church needs to understand that true comfort, true joy, comes not in circumstances or in wishful thinking, hoping that things get better. Rather, true comfort comes in an intimate relationship with Jesus, the Good Shepherd of our souls.
IS HE YOUR COMFORT TODAY?