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Matthew 5:4; Luke 6:21b; 23a; 25b.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

“Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.”

“Rejoice in that day, and jump for joy”

“Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.”

Last week we began this series on the sermon on the mount and the sermon on the plain by establishing the context — the historical background. We saw Jesus speaking to his newly appointed missionaries and a large crowd looking on. What Jesus is saying he is primarily saying to these twelve men. The blessings he pronounces on them. The command to rejoice is given to them.

Indirectly, Jesus is calling on the crowds to follow the example of these twelve men and to commit their lives to follow him as they have. But we have to keep in mind as we read this sermon that it is directed toward those who have already made their decision for Christ.

The first thing Jesus does is look at these twelve men and give an honest characterization of them. They are not naturally endowed with greatness, but they are poor. They are not naturally powerful, but they are mourners, they are meek. They are not even known for their righteousness, even though they hunger and thirst for it.

But Jesus sees in these twelve men qualities that they probably don’t even see in themselves. He says they are merciful, pure in heart, and peacemakers. It is these inner spiritual qualities that are not always evident at first glance that God values the most. Jesus blesses these men with a prophecy that they will not remain poor, but will inherit God’s coming kingdom. They will not mourn forever, but they will be comforted. They will not be subservient forever, they will one day rule. They will not always hunger and thirst for righteousness, but they will be satisfied with it. Their merciful nature is going to be rewarded with mercy. Their inner purity will be their ticket into God’s presence. Their peacemaking will make them children of God.

Today I want to zero in on one of these beatitudes. I want to talk about the fact that Jesus characterized these twelve men as mourners. Why did he call them that? Were these men cursed with an inordinate amount of death, sorrow, and despair?

When Jesus preached these words, the apostles were experiencing a time of great joy and accomplishment. They were not on the bottom, they were on top. They were following Jesus, and he was demonstrating God’s miraculous power daily. They were witnessing his power over the crowds as they thronged from all over the land to hear his words. They were his entourage and must have been respected and admired because of him.

Jesus was condemning the hypocrisy of the religious professionals of his day, humiliating them with the wisdom of his words. The apostles stood with Jesus on the winning side of those arguments.

Jesus encountered nature and proved his power over it. He turned some water into wine, and on some water, he just walked. He calmed raging storms. He cursed a fig tree and it died. He blessed five loaves of bread and two fishes, and the resulting miracle fed thousands, with baskets of scraps left over.

Jesus encountered the spirit world and delivered people from demonic possession. The demons feared him, not only for his power over them but also because they knew that he held their destiny in his hands. They knew that he was the one who would destroy the devil and all his works. The apostles were assistants to this master. So, why characterize them as mourners?

Part of the answer to that question has to do with the Bible’s wisdom literature.

Jesus shows wisdom by encouraging those who mourn, rather than those who laugh.

In Ecclesiastes 7:2-4 we read: “It is better to go to a funeral than a feast. Death is the destiny of every person,

and the living should take this to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter because sober reflection is good for the heart. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of merrymaking.”

Our lives as human beings are more about mourning than they are about laughing. We are more affected by the blues than we are by joyful songs. Eventually, most of us learn this. We learn it by watching our friends and family members die. We learn it by our memories of old times that we cherish because they are memories.

That is why Jesus could look at his young, healthy apostles and characterize them as mourners. He knew more about their lives than they did. He knew what was in store for them. Remember what he told Peter? He said “when you were young, you tied your clothes around you and went wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will tie you up and bring you where you do not want to go” (John 21:18). Jesus could see a life of persecution and a martyr’s death ahead of that young man. He saw the martyr’s death for the others as well. All of the apostles Jesus looked at when he preached the sermon that day would die a martyr’s death except Judas, who would kill himself. He died a traitor’s death. John was the only one who would die of old age. But even he would suffer persecution and banishment for his faith.

But then Jesus tells the mourners to rejoice.

Remember that is the main verb in this passage. It sounds out of place, and it is. It would be out of place for Jesus to tell Mary and Martha to rejoice at the death of their brother. But he comes close to doing just that. He tells Martha “Your brother will come back to life again.” Martha said “Yeah, I know, I went to Sunday School. I know about the coming resurrection.” Jesus said, “allow me to demonstrate.” He raised Lazarus from the dead because he wanted us all to know that our mourning is temporary. He has set a day on which all who are in their graves will come out, and believers will come out of their graves never to die again.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

“Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.”

“Rejoice in that day, and jump for joy”

He does not tell them that their sorrows will go away in this life.

Oh, people, please do not tell anyone that if they come to Christ, their problems will be over. That is not the gospel message. Jesus himself is our example, and he was ” despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3).

On the cross, our Lord could quote Psalm 22:6-8 because he was “a reproach of men, and despised of the people. All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head saying, He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.”

Isaiah would call him one who is “despised and rejected by nations” (49:7). John said that “He came to what was his own, but his own people did not receive him” (1:11). Luke records that “Jesus took the twelve aside and said to them, ‘Look, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished ” (18:31). Jesus endured the suffering he did as part of his sacrifice for sin. But he also endured it because he was setting a pattern for those of us who would follow him. Suffering first, then glory.

He encourages his apostles to keep a second-coming perspective.

“Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.”

“Rejoice in that day, and jump for joy”

Whatever they experience in this life is not the point. The point is what is going to happen after that. Remember, I am not talking about death here. The day of our deaths is not the day of our deliverance. The day of our deliverance is the day of Christ’s return. Jesus taught these apostles about his coming. He said “just like the days of Noah were, so the coming of the Son of Man will be. For in those days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark. And they knew nothing until the flood came and took them all away. It will be the same at the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:37-39).

When Noah’s flood came, a handful of people had a complete reversal. They had been despised by the rest of the world. They had been mourning the loss of the earth, but most of the world ignored them and ridiculed them. Then the rain came. Suddenly, a boat sounded like a good idea. But only eight were saved. Most of the world was lost — destroyed by the flood.

Jesus tells his apostles — his mourning few — that a day of vindication is coming. A day of wrath is coming but his mourners are going to be delivered from it.

Paul found some of these mourners in Thessalonica. He praised them because they had turned to God from idols and were now waiting for him to come back from heaven — “our deliverer from the coming wrath” (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

The author of Hebrews tells us “just a little longer and he who is coming will arrive and not delay” (10:37). We may have a lot of weeping and mourning to do before that day, but when that day comes, our weeping and mourning will be over. So, we should rejoice, because that’s how we are going to spend eternity.

But Jesus does not command everyone to rejoice.

“Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.”

Hell will not be a place of rejoicing. Those who stand before the Judge without the benefit of his redeeming blood will weep because their fate is sealed. They will have lost the most important thing. They will also be gnashing their teeth in anger, knowing that their fate is sealed and the day of mercy is passed. Oh, friends, don’t be part of that number. Come to Christ today, because today may be that day.

If you do choose to come to Christ today, I cannot promise that you will live a better life. You just might live a life of suffering and grief like those apostles did. But I can tell you that there will come a day when your suffering will end and your sorrow will cease. “Rejoice in that day, and jump for joy”


Author: Jefferson Vann

Jefferson Vann is pastor of Piney Grove Advent Christian Church in Delco, North Carolina. You can contact him at marmsky@gmail.com -- !

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