“Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.”
The Greek word here translated as ‘mourn’ is said to be the strongest word for mourning in the Greek language. It is used for the mourning of the dead – ‘the passionate lament for one who was loved.’
In this context the beatitude is primarily about the same heart-felt grief of the person who recognises their own sin and unworthiness before God. The ‘passionate lament’ is for the loss of the person who might have been, for the innocence, righteousness and self–respect that has gone together with the opportunities that have been wasted – and for the pain it has caused God. It is ongoing as we battle against sin and our weakness, conceding at times our own utter helplessness and hopelessness. Paul acknowledged and wrestled with this, ending up with the great cry,
“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24)
If the first beatitude is about confession – admitting our spiritual poverty before God – then this next one is about repentance. It is about a truth that has flooded into the darkness within and revealed for the first time the enormity and horror of sin.
Thomas Cranmer in his 1662 Prayer Book wrote the prayer that included the words ‘We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness.’ In today’s world both the ‘acknowledge’ and the ‘bewail’ seem to have disappeared, and the cross is taken for granted. However, God’s grace was not without an enormous cost to Him and to Jesus. We should recognise that it is our sin that brought Jesus to that suffering and death and feel within us the horror of our involvement even as we bow our heads in awe and wonder at God’s great love and gift to us. When the Psalmist wrote ‘a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise’ he was recognising a profound truth. In its terrible reality the horror and enormity of sin should break our hearts like nothing else, for no other bereavement is, in itself, able to separate us from God and His Love.
And then, like the sun breaking through from behind the storm clouds, comes the blessed and life-changing Truth – the truth of Jesus our Saviour, Redeemer and Comforter – holding out His hands to welcome, lift and embrace us. And not only the first time! Every time after that when we have fallen, and when all that we can manage is to crawl over to Him and either haul ourselves up by His robes or just lie with our head upon His feet, the same welcome, comfort and assurance is there. That is when we may experience the true joy of which He speaks, and to which Peter refers when he talks of our being filled with an ‘inexpressible and glorious joy.’
As we lift our heads again, we look out into the world with new eyes and see and weep also for the sin, pain and suffering that we find there – and turn to God on its behalf. Jesus wept over Jerusalem – the city whose people rejected Him and brought destruction and devastation upon themselves – and He cried out to God on behalf of those who nailed Him to the cross. Ezra wept, confessed and threw himself down before the house of the Lord, and the false teachers in the churches brought tears to Paul’s eyes. There is so much that should bring tears to our eyes, mourning to our hearts and prayers to our lips in a world that seems intent on racing into darkness.
There is only one way to turn. That is towards the loving, beautiful and gracious Lord who is already reaching out for us. Today and tomorrow, and the days that follow, our comfort is to be found in Him, and in Him alone. For us and for our sins we may find the immediate and close forgiveness and consolation of the Lord. For His Church in this world there is both the promise of His presence and the blessed hope of His coming again in all His glory. Thank You Jesus!
Sin is not just naughty – it is a heart-piercing slap in the face to God.
Lord Jesus, forgive me and forgive this world – save me and save this world – open my eyes to Your truth, and open the eyes of this world. Amen.