The Sermon on the Mount begins with these words:
“‘Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and
thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blesses are the merciful
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called the sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted
because of righteousness
for there is the kingdom of heaven.’”
These words are like the doorway to being a disciple. In each verse, the Lord did not give a specific action, like “serving” or “sharing the Gospel.” He gave qualities of the heart, and then He tells what the blessing will be for those who have them. Let’s start with the first one.
The first quality is to be poor in spirit. At first glance, it might seem like this is about not having any cash or lacking courage or confidence. Neither of these ideas fit what Jesus meant. The Old Testament describes what it is to be poor in spirit in Isaiah 57:15. The Lord said, “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.” The Most High God loves it when His children come to Him with humble hearts. He loves to revive them with joy and peace! He gives them the Kingdom of Heaven! In Isaiah 66:2, the Lord says “This is the one I esteem, he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.’”
Do you remember what happened when Peter realized that Jesus was Lord? He had been out fishing all night and had caught nothing, but then Jesus gave him a wonderful miracle. He told Peter to cast his nets into the water one more time. Peter obeyed, and suddenly, his nets were bulging with fish.
This amazing miracle opened Peter’s eyes to the glory of the Lord. He fell to his knees in reverent fear and said, “‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.’” When Peter realized the majesty of Christ, he also saw how poor and weak he truly was. He immediately got down on his knees and bowed to Jesus.
It wasn’t that Peter had no worth as a human being. He was made in the image of God! But when he compared it to the bright, blazing purity of Christ’s holiness and power, his own goodness was like nothing. It highlighted the deeply wicked sin and unbelief of his heart and his own distorted motives, and he was deeply repentant. He hated his sin, so he fell to his knees. And Peter was surely given the Kingdom of Heaven!
Some people can do really well and brag about it so much that they make everyone around them feel like they are something less. But have you ever been around someone who was so genuinely good that they made you want to be more in the best ways? What a beautiful image of how God longs for His people to come to Him!
Jesus started the Sermon on the Mount by declaring that no human can come to God unless they are poor in spirit. Only those who come with humility will be accepted into the Kingdom of Heaven. When we try to earn righteousness out of our own strength and in our own power, we are in terrible danger. Our own desire for pleasure or personal glory or comfort, our pride and our conceited competition against others, will take over and destroy anything that was good in our efforts. Nobody can get into the Kingdom through their own righteousness. We must come in repentance and humility before Jesus, aware of our need for His grace and confident that we have it.
In the next verse, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn.” Jesus did not mean that believers have to walk around sobbing in tears. We are not supposed to feel sorry for ourselves all day long. But we are meant to mourn our sin and the terrible consequences of the curse.
The closer we get to Jesus and the more we learn about Him, the more we understand His goodness, and the more it shines a light on the stain of sin in our own hearts. It is a great gift to see our own stains. It gives us a chance to grieve over them and take them to God. He will wash us clean! He will comfort us in our mourning and give us new life! And so we will spend our lives being purified by the Holy Spirit.
There is another kind of mourning that is beautiful in the heart of the redeemed. When we mourn the sins of the world, we stand with God. It shows we are on His side of the great battle. It is as though we are looking at what is going on around us from his eyes. If we take an honest look at many of the things happening on this planet and the suffering that goes on, this world is truly awful, and Satan is a terrible, evil ruler. When we grieve over injustice, hatred, malice, and murder, we agree with God’s desire for righteousness. When we are sorrowful over the suffering of the innocent and the hunger of the poor, our hearts are like the heart of Jesus. As we live in a fallen world full of the horrific curse, the realistic, honest response is to mourn.
The promise that Jesus gives us is that when we mourn the terrible state of this world, we will find comfort. We get to be part of setting captives free from the power of the Enemy and the terrible curse! We can be a part of Jesus’ work in bringing the Spirit of God to men in bondage to sin. As we pray and serve, we can watch the Lord bring new life and liberty. And some day, when God’s Kingdom comes, there will be no more pain or suffering or tears. Mourning will be over forever.