Happy people – those who mourn

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Our second beatitude promises blessing or happiness for those who mourn.  In Matthew, the reason that they are happy, or blessed is because they will be comforted. Luke 6:21 sets an even strong contrast

“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.”

Jesus here is picking up on an important Old Testament theme that Goud will turn mourning into joy, singing and dancing.[1] Remember as well that the declaration of Jubilee from Isaiah 61: 1-3 which Jesus has taken up as his mission statement also talks about comfort about those who mourn. 

Now, these are comforting words for those who have lost a loved one.  God will bring comfort to them. However, in some respects these words are far too big for a normal bereavement. After all, whilst in the midst of grief, especially when it was someone close, it feels like the sadness will go on and on for ever, deep down we know that a brighter day will come and that life will go on. Furthermore, the hope of the believer is that one day we will be reunited in heaven. We do not grieve as those without hope.

However, step into the Israel and Judah of Isaiah and Jeremiah’s day and what do you see? You see a land experiencing the brutal assault of northern powers, starting with Assyria and followed by Babylon. By Jesus’ day the land had been occupied by Persians, the Macedonian Greeks and finally the Romans. So, in Jesus time, those who were mourning were those who grieved the state of the land. Now for some, there would simply have been grief at the political state of the land.  However, for many, there would have been the deep recognition that the political situation reflected the spiritual reality that God’s people had betrayed him and turned to idols. People like Simeon and Anna would have grieved over the way that God’s people had failed to love him and their neighbour. This will have prompted deep longing for the Messiah to come.

Isaiah 40 talks about speaking comfort to Jerusalem.  This is not just an arm around the shoulder but the comfort or encouragement that comes with hope. Jesus will describe the Holy Spirit as the comforter.  So, the promise here in Matthew 5 is that comfort is coming in the form of salvation as God’s people will be lifted out of their distress and restored.

We now know that this promise was not just for Jews and not about the mere restoration of political fortunes. Rather, the comfort that turns tears to joy means that God’s kingdom has arrived in Christ.

And so for us today. Well, there will be mini-episodes of grieving as we see the destruction that sin brings to our communities, as we long to see family trust in Christ and at times as we see the church in a state, ripped apart by division and far too often drowsy and complacent. Into those situations God brings the comfort that comes when we remember that these things are temporary and God remains sovereign.

However, God has already brought comfort to us, the comfort of salvation. If you are grieving over your own sin and crying out to God in repentance then lift up your eyes for your deliverer is here.

  • Have you mourned and grieved over your own sin, turning to Christ in repentance?
  • Are there particular circumstances in the church or in your community causing you to mourn at this time?

[1] See Psalm 30:11-13 and Jeremiah 31:13.

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