Those who mourn are blessed, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4 (HSCB)
In the last post, we talked about how the first thing that we must realize about ourselves is that we are spiritually bankrupt. We do not have the currency with which to buy our salvation. It is only when we come to God broken and, on our knees, can we find the gift that He provides. I ended the devotion acknowledging that this realization can bring deep sorrow to our soul. Today, we are going to see the good news.
The second thing that Jesus presents us with is the idea that those “who mourn will be comforted.” As I was meditating on this verse in preparation for this study, I was struck by the fact that Jesus is saying that those who mourn will be happy. He does explain why that is, but we will address that in a moment. First, we must talk about mourning.
As I was studying this verse, I found that there are several different ideas as to what Jesus meant by “those who mourn.” The obvious question is: “why are they mourning?”
The Greek used here might give us a clue. The word is often used of the grief that one feels over the death of a loved one. While it is not the strongest Greek word for sorrow, it does convey something that is deeply felt. It doesn’t just describe the emotion, but also the physical response to that emotion; namely weeping. So, maybe Jesus is talking about people who are mourning the loss of someone. While I do believe that God will comfort us in this situation, I don’t think it is the best understanding for what Jesus is trying to say.
Another common thought that I came across was that this is the sorrow we as Christians feel for the lost in the world. We know the great gift we have received and are broken hearted over the thought that there are those who do not have it. Again, I think we should feel this way as Christians, but I don’t think this fits either.
The third idea I came across was in reference to the sorrow that the Jews felt over the state of their nation in Jesus’ time. In this line of reasoning, Jesus is echoing Isaiah Chapter 61. According to this view, this idea is eschatological in nature and points to the time when God will fully redeem and deliver His people.
While I can see how one would come to this thought, again I don’t think it fits the context of the passage. I think to really understand what Jesus is getting at, first, we should look at how the Stoics viewed this emotion.
The stoics saw this emotion, like most emotions, as something that must be suppressed. The reason for this was they saw this emotion as the result of divine punishment. When you experience sorrow on this level, it is most likely the result of one of the gods punishing you for something you did. In other words, ultimately this was sorrow over your guilt. I think this brings us closer to what Jesus is saying here, but not all the way.
I believe that the key to understanding what Jesus is saying here, and in the reset of the Beatitudes is to see that there is a logical progression here. One leads to the next. They build on each other.
With that in mind, let’s see the progression so far. We start by acknowledging our brokenness. We admit that we have nothing and are nothing without God. The logical reaction to acknowledging our sin is to feel sorrow. We grieve for how we have failed to meet God’s standard. We feel shame for how we have squandered the life that He gave us. We mourn because we are poor and sinners.
So how does God respond to this? He gives us comfort. The Greek word used here is the same root for how the Holy Spirit is described. It literally means “to call to one’s side.” We find ourselves filled with gut wrenching sadness over just how bad we messed up, and what does God do? He calls out to us and wraps His arms around us and pulls us close. He dries our tears and reminds us that His grace is sufficient. He reminds us of the hope we have because of what Christ did on the cross. He does not excuse our sins, but He does remind us that they are all forgiven. See why Jesus says that we are happy in our mourning? Tears of sorrow become tears of joy at this amazing display of God’s love for us.
As you continue in your day, remember that God loves you and will dry your tears. Feeling sorrow over your sins is natural, but while your guilt might want to cause you to hide from God, you should run to Him instead and find comfort in his warm embrace.
Originally published at http://garyoswald.wordpress.com on June 24, 2020.