Jesus taught that those who mourn are blessed. This occurs as the people of God know how things should be and set God’s beauty in contrast to the ugliness of the world. And thus, we mourn for God to come and bring his deliverance.
This sermon is broken into two parts. With the first, Greg provides additional preliminary background to the beatitudes. The word “beatitude” means blessing or gift, which is associated with the covenant. In Jesus’ teachings, the blessings are future oriented, in contrast with the Old Testament where the blessings are immediate. In addition, Jesus takes the blessings found in the Old Testament and reverses them. Thus the teachings of Jesus are totally unexpected.
This raises the question regarding how the Old Testament can be inspired when Jesus contradicted it. This contradiction indicates that God was stooping in the Old Testament to meet people where they were at when God gave them the law. Since God will not coerce people into believing truth or behaving rightly, God must accept them and deal with them as they are. This is why much in the Old Testament doesn’t reflect God’s ideal will—it reflects God’s accommodating will—the best his people could handle at the time.
The final preliminary point is that the Sermon on the Mount is not a set of rules to follow, but a description of what the Kingdom of God looks like. This is not a way to get right with God or preconditions to get into the Kingdom. It is a picture of what the community who belongs to God looks like.
Stanley Hauerwas writes: “The message of the Sermon cannot be separated, abstracted out, from the messenger. If Jesus is the eschatological Messiah, then he has made it possible, through his death and resurrection, for us to live in accordance with the life envisioned in the Sermon. The Sermon is but the form of his life, and his life is the prism through which the Sermon is refracted. In short, the Sermon does not appear impossible to a people who have been called to a life of discipleship that requires them to contemplate their death in the light of the cross.”
In the second part of the sermon, Greg explores the meaning of the focus scripture, “Blessed are those who mourn.” The background to this beatitude is Isaiah 61, where we read that God will comfort all who mourn their oppressive circumstances. This is not referring to personal grief or depression in general, but the specific experience of exile, being on the outside. It’s the mourning of one who sees that our world is profoundly broken, and yearns to see it fixed and healed. As we read in Philippians 3:20, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” We are aliens and exiles in this present world because we are called and empowered to live out the Kingdom of the future in the present.
Exiles know the way the world is supposed to be and how people are supposed to live. This knowledge opens our eyes to see just how much our present world is broken and estranged from God, which causes us to mourn. The beauty that is coming stands in contrast to the ugliness that is present and thus we practice good mourning.
As exiles, we are not to block the brokenness of the world from our mind so that we can live our best life now. However, we can’t let the brokenness of the world overwhelm us. This is mourning without hope, and thus is it bad mourning. You’ll be no good to the Kingdom and no good to anyone else if you’re walking around chronically depressed over the state of the world. Good mourning leads to hope and to action. We are seeing the problem and doing what we can do now in order to live into the hope of the future.
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