Sermon: Life on Wings
Scripture: Matthew 5:4
In this week’s lessons, we learn what it means to mourn for our sin, and the comfort that Jesus promises.
Theme: From Mourning to Comfort
In one of the great Old Testament psalms, after a passionate description of the disappointments and bitterness of this life, David cries out, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest. Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest” (Psalm 55:6-8). In these words David voices a wish that is as ancient as fallen humanity, and which will endure as long as men live on this planet. It is a cry for freedom, for life on wings. And it is uttered by those who yearn for comfort in a life of bitterness, frustration, disappointment, and trials.
All men know a longing for freedom, sometimes intensely, but not all find the solution. Fortunately, David found it. He says, “As for me, I will call upon God; and the LORD shall save me” (vs. 16). God was David’s solution. He gave him joy. And in his joy he recommended a life of trusting to others: “Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved” (v. 22). David had found that the way of escape in life’s sorrows does not lie to the north or the south—or to any other points of the compass—but upward, and that God himself provides it. He would have said with Isaiah, “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).
I believe that the second of the Lord’s Beatitudes in the New Testament is an expression of this identical lesson, for it speaks of the happiness of the man whom God comforts. Jesus said, “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” There is no comfort to compare with the comfort given to a man by God.
The unusual thing about Christ’s statement, however, is that he links the comfort of God to mourning, or to what we would call intense sorrow. He seems to say that the way to a jubilant heart is through tears. Everything in the world opposes this principle. The world says, “Let us eat, drink, and be merry; for tomorrow we die.” The English poet Edward Young wrote, “‘Tis impious in a good man to be sad.” We sing, even as Christians:
What’s the use of worrying?It never was worthwhile.So pack up your troubles in your old kit bagAnd smile, smile, smile.
But Jesus says that happiness comes through sorrow. The parallel passage in Luke 6 makes his words even sharper: “Blessed are you that weep now; for ye shall laugh” (Luke 6:21). Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones writes, “This saying condemns the apparent laughter, joviality and happiness of the world by pronouncing a woe upon it. But it promises blessing and happiness, joy and peace to those who mourn.”1
How does David define freedom? How does that differ from the world’s view?
What is perhaps surprising about Jesus’ statement in our text?
Key Point: Jesus said, “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” And there is no comfort to compare with the comfort given to a man by God.
1D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1967), vol. 1, 53.