As we begin this series on mourning, I want to take you back to a time when Jesus actually wore flesh and blood, and felt and lived among us. Head back in your mind to a time when the crowds who followed Jesus were intensely human, all needy with foibles and tempers and aches and wounded hearts. Imagine with me.
It is a day in Galilee and Jesus has just escaped the suffocating press of people within the walls of a tiny town; he has headed to the top of a nearby hill. Reaching a resting place with his disciples, he turns to face the crowd.
Hundreds, thousands, of world-weary people are coming toward him. Accents are jostling. The people are from as far away as Jerusalem and Judea, with many from even further: many from the Roman Decapolis, and others from Syria. A full spectrum of earth toned faces peer toward Jesus with expectancy, hope and zeal. Will a king be crowned? Will a revolution be born? Will a call be sounded to stand up against oppression? Is this the Elijah? Will he stand on the mount and call forth fire from Heaven?
It is at this moment – when Jesus can say anything, do anything, demand anything, be anything and the crowd will be in his hand – that Jesus sits down.
Read it, it’s right there in Matthew 5: 1, 2.
“Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them.”
Do you see it? Instead of standing to be crowned or calling down fire, he sits down. He sits and looks out over this hod-podged crowd, at this smattering of the best and worst of humanity, and fully takes them in.
By ‘taking in’ I’m about talking the truest kind of seeing, the kind that peers through the outside and comprehends the heart. Jesus sees, and then says,
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
I really have to sit with that. I really have to let it slowly seep in. It’s as if I look at Jesus in this moment and see him defining the whole of humanity, offering an assessment of the crowd as though it is his assessment of the world. Jesus cuts to the chase of the human condition. We are naked, exposed, before him.
You are poor in spirit, he says.
And we are.
Apart from his Wholeness our spirits are poor, are sad, even at our happiest times. Our hearts are broken, fragmented, exhausted, grieving. We’ve been harmed, and have inflicted harm. We’ve fallen short. We’ve felt loss, confusion, separation, disease and death.
We have much to mourn.
And so when Jesus says, “blessed are you, blessed are you, blessed are you, my beloved, precious children; blessed are you who are poor in spirit, blessed are you who mourn,” there is something here worth our second look. He is speaking to our hearts. He is telling us what he sees. He is offering hope.
The point of this series is to dare us toward that second look. Can we look into our hearts to see what he sees? Can we look into the broken, and see blessed?