Blessed are Those Who Mourn

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

- Matthew 5:4

Understanding that Christ begins the Beatitudes with a promise that the kingdom of heaven belongs only to those who recognize their poverty of spirit and thus repent and believe the gospel (Matt. 5:3) helps us avoid a fundamental error often made regarding the teaching of Jesus. The Sermon on the Mount is wellknown outside the church, and the Beatitudes are often embraced as promises of God to all people, regardless of their religious convictions. But if the blessing of the kingdom of heaven belongs only to those who repent and trust Jesus, the Beatitudes are not promises for everyone. They are promises for Christians, for those who daily take up their crosses and follow Christ (Luke 9:23).

It is particularly important to remember this when we consider the second beatitude: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4). Reading this, we might immediately think it refers to God comforting us when we mourn a loved one’s death. Of course, as believers we do experience God’s consolation in times of loss, but this is just one way the promise of the second beatitude is fulfilled. There are other reasons that the Lord’s people mourn in Scripture, and His promise to comfort our mourning applies to these situations as well.

First, we may experience the deep conviction of the Holy Spirit and mourn for our sin and its offense against our holy Creator. We see biblical examples of this in David’s repentance for his sin with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 12:1–23; Ps. 51) and the response of the Jewish pilgrims to Peter’s Pentecost sermon, when they were “cut to the heart” (Acts 2:1–41). This experience of mourning over sin is part of what it means to be “poor in Spirit,” tying the second beatitude nicely to the first one.

We may also mourn in the midst of suffering for the kingdom. Although we have a certain kind of joy in such trouble, Scripture is honest that this pain is real. Jeremiah mourned over the prosperity of the wicked and the afflictions of the righteous remnant of Israel (Jer. 12:1–4). Even Jesus was a “man of sorrows” who mourned the wickedness of the Israelites and suffered for His people (Isa. 53; Luke 13:34–35; 22:39–46). God’s comfort of His mourning people means that those who suffer for righteousness’ sake will receive an eternal reward (Matt. 5:12).

Coram Deo

Though Jesus was a man of sorrows, He was able to endure suffering and pain because He knew that “out of the anguish of his soul” He would “see and be satisfied” (Isa. 53:11). We will never have to go through what Christ did, but we can look to God’s promise of comfort as a similar guarantee that we will one day see our mourning is not in vain. This, in turn, will help us to suffer for the sake of the kingdom of heaven in the here and now.

Passages for Further Study

Genesis 45
Ecclesiastes 7:3–4
Joel 2:12–27
Luke 8:40–56

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