Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4 (NASB)
Pain of Death
There is nothing new about death. Jesus lost (temporarily) a loved one. His name was Lazarus. Scripture tells us that “Jesus wept” (John 11:35, KJV). The Jews who were present reacted and said, “Behold how He loved him” (John 11:36, KJV)! Jesus mourned. This is the sense of the word, mourn, that Jesus used in His beatitude. This Greek word for mourn, pentho, is the strongest word that Jesus could have used for deep emotional grief, sorrow and mourning. Jesus’ message must have been a surprise, “Happy are those who are utterly consumed with grief for they shall be comforted.” “Happy are the sad!”
Happy Are The Sad?
But what does Jesus mean by this? He is not referring to the future fulfillment promised in Isaiah 61:1-3. 2 Corinthians 7:10 is the key to understanding Jesus’ beatitude,
For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death. 2 Corinthians 7:10 (NASB)
The Holy Spirit tells us there is a sorrow that is of this world and then there is a godly sorrow. Throughout our life there have been or will be times that we mourn or sorrow over negative events that take place unless we are hard hearted – and there are some people who are like that.
Not This Mourning
We can mourn, grieve, or sorrow over a wide variety of negative circumstances. Some biblical examples are presented in the table.
Most of us have experienced mourning, grief, or sorrow in one of these forms at sometime in our life. These are sorrows associated with things in this life. If left unchecked, these sorrows will lead to anger, bitterness, hatred, and the worst – death. This is a picture of us. These are sorrows that lead to death.
But Jesus is not talking about mourning over negative events in our life. Jesus is talking about godly mourning over sin. Our mourning started when we realized that we were enemies against God (Romans 5:10) because of our sin. Then we believed in the only One who could forgive our sins (Acts 4:12) and we were at peace with God and there was comfort (Romans 5:1).
But the word Jesus uses for mourning implies much more. It is a verb which is a present active participle. This implies repeated action or an ongoing condition. What Jesus is saying is that the ones who always mourn when they sin are those who will be comforted (Greek word means “to encourage”). Jesus is talking about an ongoing pattern of life. He is speaking to His disciples. You see, our mourning brought us to Jesus, but our mourning should not stop after we find Him. Jesus is characterizing His true disciples. This is the heart of the beatitude. Jesus’ true disciples will when they sin always mourn or grieve that they have sinned.
Newsweek said it well in an article published some years ago, that American churches have stopped telling congregants they are sinners because it makes them feel worse about themselves. But that is Jesus’ point! Some Christians are like the Pharisees who did not see themselves as sinners. Many Christians have a defective view of their sin. They talk about love, doctrine, church, God, family and their children, but they do not talk about their sin. Have you ever noticed how we pray? We ask others to pray that we are healed from our illnesses because our physical health is very important to us. May I ask when was the last time you asked someone to pray for you for victory over some sin with which you struggle? Have you ever noticed that good health seems to be more important to us than holy living? Few of us ever ask others to pray that we find victory over our sin. We seem to have a congenial view of God – a view that says He completely “accepts me the way I am.” Christians have forgotten that God still hates our sin, even if we are Christians! Do you mourn over your unconfessed sin or just over your physical illnesses?
You see, Jesus’ true disciples constantly sense their unholiness – they constantly mourn over their sin like Paul the apostle (Romans 7:24-25). We need to see ourselves as Christians who still have a spiritual Lou Gehrig’s disease. We are terminally ill people who are going to heaven. But while we are visiting this earth, we need to see ourselves as we really are – forgiven sinners who should be seeking to be holy. Are you like the Pharisees – happy with your relationship with God and your sin? We need to put our personal holiness above our physical health. We need to be constantly coming to Jesus. Come and admit that you have a spiritual Lou Gehrig’s disease – sin.
The Holy Spirit says, If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 (NASB)
It is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.” 1 Peter 1:16 (NASB)
1. Some believe that Isaiah 61:1-3 refers to Jesus’ second beatitude since the l.later part of verse 2 refers to “comforting those who mourn.” It is clear the passage refers to Jesus first coming. You may ask, “How do you know that?” Well, look at the following passage,
Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region. And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.’ Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing (NJKV).’ Luke 4:14-21
Notice that Jesus stopped at “to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” The portion of the passage that refers to “comfort all who mourn” follows. Jesus indicated that the “day of vengeance of our God” and what followed was yet future. Isaiah 61:2b-3 cannot be used to interpret Matthew 5:4.