Scripture: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4 ESV
Observation: Luke includes four of Matthew’s eight beatitudes in his Sermon on the Plain: the above second, the first, the fourth, and the eighth. Regarding the second beatitude, both accounts remain silent on the object of one’s mourning. Hence, scholars debate whether it refers to grieving over sin or any misery due to a loss in life. D.A. Carson argues that reality is subtler: “The godly remnant of Jesus’ day weeps because of the humiliation of Israel, but they understand that it comes from personal and corporate sins” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, p. 133). Indeed, many of the prophets grieved over corporate sin, as did the psalmist: “My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law” (Psalm 119:136 ESV).
Of further consideration, these first two beatitudes allude to the messianic blessing of Isaiah 61:1-3, which Jesus ascribes to himself after reading the passage in his hometown synagogue: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:16-19 ESV). Here, Jesus equates the messianic prophecy to his mission: to set us free from the consequences of sin through forgiveness and reconciliation and thus bring comfort to those suffering from sin’s physical, emotional, and spiritual pain.
Takeaway: Understanding that sin and suffering are integrally linked does not give us the license to judge others who mourn. Our pain and sorrow may result from our sinful actions, but other people or forces of nature beyond our control also inflict suffering on us. Whether original or conditional, sin bears the ill fruit of loss and heartbreak. And our Father understands, which is why he sent his Son to resolve the penalty of sin and comfort his children.
Indeed, Isaiah’s epic prophecy of the Suffering Servant points to Christ as we read his introductory words of assurance, “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. 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 40:1–2 ESV). Even though Isaiah addresses Jerusalem under siege, comfort reverberates to the first-century and present church and all its believers when we confess and repent. Hence, Paul writes in his second letter to the fledgling church in Corinth, whose members struggled with selfish hurtful behavior, and tells them godly grief (that leads to personal or corporate repentance) will leave no regrets (2 Corinthians 7:10).
So how can we receive the blessing of comfort when mourning? First, acknowledge that sin is the culprit, whether or not of our making. Secondly, sincerely confess our part, whether we are the perpetrator or the victim who withholds forgiveness. Thirdly, seek or extend forgiveness (understanding that feelings will eventually catch up with our words). Lastly, seek reconciliation and make restitution when possible. And the grace and comfort of Christ imparted by his Holy Spirit will eventually transform our godly sorrow into contentment and peace, even if consequences linger for the remainder of our earthly lives.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Suffering Servant Son who came into our world to comfort those who mourn over the burden of sin. Would you please help us cooperate with your Holy Spirit, our Comforter, in submitting to his lead in working through the grieving and forgiveness process with confession and repentance? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling
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