by Tom Burns
(Editor’s note: This is the 2nd in an 8-part series on The Beatitudes & Evangelism [reference: Matthew 5:3-10].)
“Happy are those who mourn…”
There could not be a tougher verse for a child.
As I began to contemplate this blessing in the context of evangelism, it was a bit of a throwback. While I have come to grasp this blessing, it wasn’t immediately apparent how this truth would aid in my sharing the gospel with someone far from God. Happy are those who are most unhappy! Well, it would certainly get someone’s attention, but in an unfavorable way. As an opening line, it might severely damage my credibility.
And then I remembered how many times this truth—this promise—was exactly what had provided me the opportunity to share the gospel when it was needed most.
Jesus begins this famous teaching, the Sermon on the Mount, with “Blessed are the poor in Spirit…” Blessed are those who are spiritually bankrupt, who approach God with nothing of their own to bring to God with which to gain His favor. This describes one who feels their spiritual need and comes to God in complete dependence on God to satisfy that need.
And God’s promise is grace. The kingdom of heaven, the reign of God, will bring grace and blessing to those of us who acknowledge we are (1) empty of spiritual resources on our own, (2) unable to save ourselves, (3) wholly dependent on God, and (4) looking to Him alone for our salvation.
We receive the kingdom of heaven not by merit or achievement, but by faith alone, fully trusting our lives to King Jesus. No matter how poor in spirit you may become along the way, no matter how helpless or hopeless you may feel in your spirit, Jesus has opened the kingdom of heaven to you. Just believe!
No matter how poor in spirit, even to those who mourn, Jesus saves. When there is nowhere else to turn, Jesus brings blessing and grace.
Revelation 7:17 promises, “For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Never is one more open to a happy ending than in the midst of mourning. Our evangelistic agenda needs to place us in relationship with those far from God so that at the moment of life’s crisis (and it comes to everyone) we are there in friendship to point them to comfort and hope.
Years ago, my wife and I contemplated together Jesus’ Great Commandment: Love God and love your neighbor. We realized that we didn’t even know our neighbor’s names. So we became intentional, not about sharing our faith, but getting to know them.
Years have passed and our neighborhood has become family. We used to have monthly social gatherings, but those became irrelevant as we came to live life together weekly, even daily. And then it happened. Life happened—even to our affluent neighbors, who seemed to have no particular needs to serve. A mother needed brain surgery and we showed up at the hospital to pray with them. A sister was near death in childbirth and the doctors didn’t know if they would lose the mother or baby or both. And we gathered a handful of neighbors and prayed. A brother died. Three neighbors and both my wife and I lost parents in the same season and we mourned together.
And it is at these times that we have found our greatest opportunity to share the gospel of the kingdom of heaven. It is in these times that our friends are most open to the good news of grace that Jesus promises to those who are at the end of their rope, the end of their hope.
Jesus promises: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” And we are used by God to comfort those around us in their pain, even in our own pain. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus teaches, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” While the crowds are there listening in, verse 1 tells us that Jesus is teaching His disciples. This is early in their discipleship. In the previous chapter, Matthew 4:17, “Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” The kingdom of heaven is at hand, and it’s going to change your world!
And then Jesus calls His disciples, in Matthew 4:19: “And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’” Now, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus begins to teach the disciples how the kingdom of heaven is going to turn their world upside down, and how they will become fishers of men.
Love your neighbor.
Be there when life’s crisis happens.
Offer the promise, the hope that gets us through the hardest times of this life and comforts us with the hope of eternal blessing.
Bless your neighbor with the promise, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Be used by God to comfort those who mourn. The kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Tom Burns is a chaplain at the Chicago O’Hare Airport Chapel, ministering to travelers and the over 40,000 employees working at O’Hare Airport. He is an executive coach and consultant, working with Christian business executives and church/nonprofit leaders.