Matthew 5:4 - Faithful Mourning
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.Matthew 5:4
The Preacher said, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). He did not say this so we might be fatalists, accepting every situation in life with a shrug or a sigh. He said it so that in trouble and in joy God’s people might seek His face and look for guidance and salvation!
In the days of our text, the Lord Jesus Christ had come to grant many people that salvation. He had set up His “pulpit” on a mountain in Galilee teaching the disciples and crowds by His life-giving Word. First He showed them the necessity of laying all self-righteousness aside. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” He said, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Then He went on to speak about blessed mourners who would be comforted. Here was another startling paradox. Mourners, people who weep and wail because of some great grief or pain, were pronounced blessed. How is that possible? Doesn’t this fly in the face of our experience, our emotions? How can we speak of blessings when there is pain and sadness? The answer must be found in understanding who these mourners are and what it means that they are comforted.
Christ was not speaking of all and every mourner. He knew there was much grief that was in vain. Not all crying is bliss. There are rows of mourners the world over who are not consoled, nor blessed, nor comforted. Cain once lamented that his punishment was greater than he could bear (Genesis 4:13). Yet his punishment bothered him more than his sin. Esau sought his father’s blessing with tears (Hebrews 12:17), but not with genuine tears of sorrow for having despised God’s covenant.
Christ was speaking of faithful mourners, mourners who do not tear their clothes or veil their faces at random but mourners who grieve according to God’s Word. These know that man’s sin is the root cause of crying and pain and death. So they mourn. Every time they hear the Law of God they know their sins are discovered. Will they be blessed? Then they must “grieve with heartfelt sorrow that they have offended God with their sin” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 33). With David, they sincerely confess those sins. “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight...” (Psalm 51:4).
They do not hide behind a cloak of self-righteous finger-pointing. They do not dismiss their sins with, “No one is perfect, you know.” Faced with the holiness of God and the evidence of their guilt, they say with the prophet, “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5).
Mourning, they look beyond themselves. They see history, past and present, in the light of God’s Word. They do not blame the ravages of war on the disparity between rich and poor; they do not blame illness and famine on a hole in the ozone layer. They do not close their eyes and mouths to the murder of countless thousands of infants the world over. They cry, they mourn for a world gone mad with hardness of heart, hedonism and insistence on human rights. They mourn with godly grief for churches, sliding a slippery slope of deformation. They grieve, as Paul did, knowing that “many live as enemies of the cross of Christ” (Philippians 3:18). They mourn, as Christ Himself wept when He saw Jerusalem and knew it would be utterly destroyed (Luke 19).
There is more to their mourning than grieving. When the prodigal son repented, he went back to his father (Luke 15:18). When God’s people realized their idolatry and had wept, they offered sacrifices to God (Jude 2). Heartfelt mourning is part of true repentance. It is a process that involves hating sin more and more and fleeing from it (Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 33). It is the realization that the Holy Spirit is at work in us, so that we might fight the good fight of faith, and so that we might not become listless grumblers but a people constant in prayer. All the while we are to examine ourselves: “Is our love for God genuine? Am I truly sorry for my sins?” Such mourners as these are “blessed” for “they will be comforted.” The psalmist said, “Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).
How true that was for Christ’s hearers on that mountain in Galilee. How real also for Christ’s disciples who would face much grief and misery and pain. Yet they all stood in the presence of Christ who would give His life on the cross. He gave up His life so that those who mourned under a load of guilt might have life; so that crooked and twisted lives, lost souls, perpetrators and victims of sinful disasters might have hope; so that they might have hope in Jesus Christ their Only Comforter in life and death. The prophet Isaiah had foretold it. “The Lord will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins” (Isaiah 51:3). The “year of the Lord’s favour” would come. So Isaiah could proclaim comfort “to all who mourn” (Isaiah 61:2).
This comfort would not just be a momentary respite from the ravages of sin and death. There would be lasting comfort. God would dry the tears from the eyes of His true children. Instead of being crushed by the heel of godless oppressors they would inherit thrones and crowns.
Yes, there will come a terrible judgment. At the end of days the, “merchants of the earth will weep and mourn,” over “Babylon the Great” because no one will buy their cargo anymore. This cargo includes not only gold and pearls, fine linen, iron and marble, but even the “bodies and souls of men” (Revelation 18:10-13). Christ’s church will also face a time of great oppression, as is being experienced today in various parts of the world.
Yet Christ’s blessed comfort will prevail. Faithful mourners will see Christ ‘s face and His name will be on their foreheads (Revelation 22:4). There, in Mt. Zion, Christ will dwell with His people.
There will be no more death or mourning, crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.
Rejoice! For He will turn mourning into dancing!