(Study created by Susan Holmes)
God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Matthew 5:4 (NLT)
Jesus had just come through 40 days of fasting, communing with His Father and being tempted by His enemy, the devil. He was tempted in His area of greatest weaknesses at the time and came away victorious because He relied on applying the scriptures – ‘it is written’.
He had received word that His cousin John had been arrested and Jesus’ ministry began where John’s left off .. With the continued call to repentance. With His ministry team chosen, Jesus started His ministry of preaching, teaching and healing. This led to a large following and increasing momentum. What better time for some character training for those closest to Him who would eventually be subjected to the same tests that He had endured.
He taught them that those who realize their need for Him are truly blessed. His kingdom is so different than any imagined in this world. As we have previously been taught, It is the one who embraces surrender who realize the kingdom of heaven.
This next lesson presents quite a paradox. “God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” From mankind’s limited viewpoint it may seem cruel to consider one who is in mourning to be blessed. What was Jesus thinking?
The Greek word for mourning used here is the deepest, most powerful sense of the word in the Greek language. It grips the very heart and soul and often can’t help but express itself in the outpouring of tears and yet it is even beyond that. It is undeniable.
King David knew this type of mourning. After being convicted of His sin of committing adultery with Bathsheba, King David says, “Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.” He goes on to say, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.” (Psalm 51:10-12)
King David had a close relationship with God. He was referred to by God as ‘a man after My own heart.’ And David realized that his actions had broken God’s heart. He had allowed himself to stray enough from God’s heart in the busyness of life to be insensitive to his sin until after he had been faced with it. But his heart was still soft enough to break under the conviction of the Holy Spirit. David’s heart grieved as the Holy Spirit grieved. David yearned to be comforted … needed to be comforted. “Restore to me the joy of your salvation.”
Another interesting factor is that Jesus used the present tense. He didn’t say, “Blessed are those who have mourned or will mourn.” He addressed it in the present. We are always living in the present. Does this mean we should always live with a downcast face, ready to morph into a bent down character in sackcloth with ashes? No. But just as we are to be continually working out our salvation as an ongoing part of life, we need to have a heart that is sensitive to God’s heart and ready to mourn that part of our own life that grieves God’s heart. As in the previous lesson, we need to be ready to fully surrender what temporarily satisfies in order to embrace His kingdom.
With that surrender comes His embrace … His comfort. God has always been willing to embrace a humble and contrite heart. Through the prophet Isaiah he says, “To all who mourn in Israel, He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.” (Isaiah 61:3) The Apostle Paul speaks in his letter to the Corinthians of his God who “comforts the downcast” (2 Corinthians 7:6). Jesus, Himself, mourning over the rebellion of Jerusalem says, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” (Matthew 23:37) It makes one wonder if He was remembering the words of Isaiah “Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice greatly with her, all you who mourn over her.” “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 66:10, 13)
Back to that grassy mountainside, Jesus was teaching us, as His followers, the treasure found in keeping our hearts soft before Him. He was teaching that the rebellious way of the world is so much the opposite of that which brings God’s comfort. The self-entered way of this world is not the way of our Comforter. Jesus had a purpose for our comfort as stated through the Apostle Paul … “Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you.” (2 Corinthians 1:6)
If we truly recognize our ‘poorness in spirit’ shouldn’t we mourn for more of Him? This verse is a call for compassion, a call for brokenness, and a call to feel our poverty of spirit and allow it to break open our heart as an offering on His altar. It is an invitation to experience His comfort in the form of the eternal joy and compassion needed to strengthen us as we follow Him.