By Keith Sharp
We have a saying, “Laugh, and the world laughs with you; cry, and you cry alone.” Yet, here, in a striking paradox, the Master declared that those who are truly happy are those who mourn. Which mourners are comforted? How shall they be comforted?
The term which is here translated “mourn”
. . . is the strongest word for mourning in the Greek language. It is the word which is used for mourning for the dead, for the passionate lament for one who was loved. In the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament, it is the word which is used of Jacob’s grief when he believed that Joseph, his son, was dead (Genesis 37:34). It is defined as the kind of grief which takes such a hold on a man that It cannot be hid. It is not only the sorrow which brings an ache to the heart; It is the sorrow which brings the unrestrainable tears to the eyes.”l
Thus, in Luke’s record of this beatitude, Jesus observed, “Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh” (Lk. 6:21b).
Did Christ teach us to go around with a scowl on our face and tears in our eyes? A thousand times, “NO!” The kingdom of God brings consummate joy (Rom. 14:17). Christians are to be joyous in heart (Phil. 4:4-8). Over what, then, were the mourners to mourn? Paul bore solemn witness to the Roman Christians: “. . . I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Rom. 9:2-3). He sorrowed intensely over the lost condition of his own people, fleshly Israel. Simeon, as all other godly and devout Jews, was “waiting for the consolation of Israel” (Lk. 2:25). He mourned over the down-trodden and sin-cursed condition of his nation. The primary mourning to which the Lord referred is sorrow for the sinful and sin-cursed state of the world.
However, this mourning is also for one’s own sins. “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation . . .” (2 Cor. 7:8-11). James warned sinners: “Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness” (Jas. 4:9).
How are such mourners to be comforted? “Comforted” is used “. . . of the consolation (comfort) given not in words but by the experience of a happier lot. . . .”2 ‘Thus, this comfort is that received in the realization of the forgiveness of sins.
Zechariah prophesied that the inhabitants of Jerusalem would “. . . look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son. . . .” and promised “In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness” (Zech. 12:10-13:1). On the first Pentecost after the Lord’s triumph over the grave, the very day upon which the kingdom of Heaven was established, Peter boldly accused the Jews there assembled of having crucified the Lord of glory (Acts 2:22-24). Many were made intensely sorrowful (v. 37) and repented at his preaching (vv. 38-41). They were comforted in the remission of their sins (v. 38).
Many hardened souls can feel no compassion for the sin-blighted world. To them, either sin is humorous, or they simply do not care. But to those who are truly moved to deep, painful sorrow by the condition of the lost, soothing comfort is abundant in that Jesus “is the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29). The multitudes have no remorse or feeling of guilt over their lawless lives. But for those whose pierced consciences cause them to agonize in godly sorrow, abundance of forgiveness in Christ can ease the stricken conscience (Isa. 40:1-5; 51:11; 2 Thess. 2:16-17; Heb. 6:18).
Isaiah looked for that blessed time when the Christ would “bind up the broken hearted” and “comfort all that mourn” (Isa. 61:1-2). The tender, pitiful plea of the Meek and Lowly is “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).
The second beatitude is a declaration of` the consolation available in the kingdom of Heaven to those who, having mourned over their own guilt and that of the people of the world, can rejoice in the forgiveness of sins and resultant righteousness offered both to themselves and to the world through Christ our Redeemer.
1. William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, (Philadelphia, 1956), 1, p. 88.
2. Joseph Henry Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, (Chicago, 1886), p. 483.