Sermon: The New Humanity
Scripture: Matthew 5:1-16
In this week’s lessons, we see in the Beatitudes the standard of morality that Jesus sets forth for all who claim to belong to him.
Theme: A Blessing to the Mourners and to the Meek
The second beatitude is “Blessed are those who mourn.” Mourn for what? Well, if the first beatitude has to do with spiritual poverty and the hopeless state of a human being before God, then this has to be mourning for sin. If that is right, then the comfort that is offered, the second half of the beatitude, must be the comfort of the gospel. A little further on in the sermon, Jesus is going to say that he has not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; rather, he’s come to fulfill them. He’s expanding the full meaning of what the Prophets said, and we have an example here. In Isaiah 40, Isaiah writes about comfort. “Comfort, comfort my people,” says the prophet. Why does he say that? Because “her sin has been paid for.” You see, that’s the only true, effective, and lasting comfort for anyone, and that’s exactly what’s promised in Christ’s sermon.
We all go through bad times. Terrible things come into our lives. If we speak merely from a human point of view, we can offer sympathy and perhaps empathy, but we have no real comfort. If somebody’s lost a child, what do you say? Or if you come across somebody who’s been abused, what words can you say to them? Perhaps another person you meet has been taken advantage of by somebody who is wealthy or who has power. We can say, “I am really sorry you have gone through such terrible experiences.” Or we might be able to say to them, “Oh, I really feel for you. I have experienced something like that myself.”
However, as sincere as we are, it is not very comforting. The only real comfort comes from the gospel, because God, who sees our sin, which in one way or another is the cause of all the misery in the world, forgives us in Jesus Christ. Then, in his grace he begins to work in us to give us an entirely new attitude and to make us vehicles of blessing to those around us.
We often weep in this life. We weep for our own sin, and we weep for the sin that we see around us. But there is comfort in the gospel, and we look forward to that day, as it says in Revelation, when God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. Let me mention here that the first two of these beatitudes echo the language of the opening two verses of Isaiah 61: “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor…to comfort all who mourn.” You may recall that this is the text Jesus used for his first sermon at the synagogue in Nazareth. He opened the scroll and read from this portion of Scripture, and then proclaimed that it is fulfilled in him.
Third, Jesus says, “Blessed are the meek.” To most people today “meek” means “weak,” “lacking spirit,” maybe even “cowardly.” But of course, that’s not what it means in the Bible. Moses, we’re told in the Old Testament, was the meekest man who ever lived, but he was anything but cowardly. He stood up before the greatest monarch of his day and demanded that he let the people go. A better word for “meek” would be “gentle,” but even that has to be explained. It is the gentleness of love, good manners, self-discipline, and, above all, trusting and submitting oneself to God. It’s what Jesus himself did. He was meek above all.
Many of these beatitudes are based on Old Testament texts. This one is taken from Psalm 37:11, which says, “The meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.” What’s important about that Psalm is that it explains what these meek people are like. In a series of powerful statements, it says that they do not fret because of evil men because they’re trusting God. And because they do that, they do good. They delight in the Lord. They’re still before him, and refrain from anger. People like this are genuinely blessed by God. There’s a very true sense in which they possess the earth because whatever God gives, they receive it and are thankful for it. They are not like the world, which is never satisfied with what it has and is always striving for more.
Explain the kind of mourning Jesus is talking about.
Compare the world’s view of meekness with how Jesus defines it. How does the Old Testament help us in our understanding?
Reflection: Make a list of God’s gifts to you, and praise him for his goodness, mercy, and faithfulness.
Prayer: Pray for any Christians you know who are struggling with something that makes it hard to be spiritually happy, settled, and content.