“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4 ESV)
Yesterday’s text contained the first Beatitude. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3 ESV). Notice the state of being verb “are” that immediately follows the word blessed. The individuals to whom Jesus addresses are those who exist in a recognized condition of spiritual poverty. This is the opposite of self-sufficiency. This is the sinner’s recognition of their spiritual bankruptcy apart from God’s redeeming grace. This speaks of our lostness and hopelessness apart from grace alone, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone.
“Any attempt to save ourselves is a deadly avoidance of Jesus. We think our efforts will makes us right with God when, in reality, they keep God and Christ at a distance from us. Ironically, what we thought would save us – our works – keep us from being saved. Here is the altar at which we must sacrifice our pride. Once we grasp that our works contribute nothing to our salvation, we have come to the end of ourselves. At the end of self, we always meet Jesus. We will never meet Him anywhere else. How could we? Blinded by our relentless doing, we miss the centrality of His dying and doing,” explains Gabriel Fluhrer in his book The beauty of Divine Grace.
The second beatitude is found in today’s text: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted,” (Matthew 5:4 ESV). What kind of mourning does Jesus have in mind, and correspondingly, what comfort?
Mourning (πενθέω; pentheō) refers to a present and active grief and sorrow. The immediate context means a mourning over sin. This is a godly sorrow that leads to repentance without regret (2 Cor. 7:10). This mourning results in comfort (παρακαλέω parakaleō) that God provides. It is the encouragement of the forgiveness within salvation.
Isaiah 40:1-2 says, “1Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. 2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.”
Isaiah 61:1-2 says, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;”
Both texts refer to the coming Messiah; Jesus Christ. He alone provides a comforting salvation to both Jews and Gentiles (Luke 4:18-21; Rom. 1:16-17).
“Given the human condition, Jesus’ promise to comfort those who mourn sin could scarcely be more counterintuitive. Given the spirit of our age, it could scarcely be more countercultural. Sin in the late-modern West is not grieved. It’s not disapproved of. It’s not merely tolerated. It is celebrated. Our society doesn’t mourn sin; it mourns those who mourn sin,” explains commentator Matt Smethurst.
“Yet we can succumb to similar tendencies, can’t we? No doubt one reason we fail to mourn sin is because we underestimate it. We assume it’s little more than a cosmic parking ticket. But sin is not trivial; it is treason, an insurrection against heaven’s throne. We have never committed a small sin because we have never offended a small God.”
“To the degree that we mourn our sin—both individually (Ps. 51:1–4; Luke 18:13; 1 John 1:9) and collectively (Ezra 9:4; Ps. 119:136; James 5:16)—we avail ourselves of heaven’s comfort. To the degree that we don’t, we rob ourselves of it,” concludes Smethurst.
Soli deo Gloria!