Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (Matt. 5:4)
As with all the teachings of Jesus, these words have rich Old Testament roots.
Isaiah 61:1-3 – The Day of the Lord’s favor!
Jesus actually testified to his fulfillment of this prophecy in Lk. 4:21, as he read from the scroll in the synagogue at Nazareth. He is the servant of the LORD. He is Israel’s hope. He is the LORD’s favor. He is the one coming to comfort the broken-hearted. However, the fact that he stops reading after verse (Is. 61:2a) probably indicates that the full fulfillment of Isaiah’s words awaits his second coming.
The Jews of Jesus day lived in great anticipation of this comforter – Lk. 2:25. They were waiting for the consolation of Israel.
With this backdrop in mind, we can start to answer the questions, why must we mourn? And, why are the people of God mourning? Christ has come into my life, fixed all that was broken, instituted peace where there used to be chaos, given me infinite amounts of joy, and now he’s telling me I should be sad? What’s with that?
The answer lies in what it means to be a disciple or follower of Jesus. The apostle John tells us that, “whoever claims to live in Him, must walk as Jesus walked” (1 John 2:6). Jesus bore the whole suffering of the world upon the cross, and so, in a non-redemptive sense, the Christian has become a “sorrow-bearer.” Christ’s death has knit them so tightly to the heart of their fellow-human, that they feel every bruise, cut, and wound of their brothers and sisters. Their great love drives them into mourning. As they follow, the disciple bears the burdens that come his way, for Jesus’ sake. They don’t seek out suffering or cultivate an attitude of melancholy. Mankind’s pains simply have become their pains.
They mourn for the world. They mourn because it has rejected them. Because the disciple has seen-through its highly-acclaimed “peace and prosperity,” and counted it as nothing, the world bids them farewell. Because the follower of Jesus finds its treasury bankrupt, the world reckons them strangers and aliens. Because the disciple refuses to align himself with its standards and priorities, the world despises him. The Christian mourns because he is counted an unwelcome guest on earth. He mourns for the world, for its culpability, for its destiny, and most-overwhelmingly for its rejection of their LORD.
Yet… “Sorrow cannot tire them or wear them down, it cannot embitter them or cause them to break down under strain; far from it, for they bear their sorrow in the strength of Him who bears them up, who bore the whole suffering of the world upon the cross. They stand as the bearers of sorrow in the fellowship of the Crucified: they stand as strangers in the world in the power of Him who was such a stranger to the world that it crucified Him. This is their comfort, or better still, this Man is their comfort, the Comforter. The community of strangers find their comfort in the cross, they are comforted by being cast upon the place where the Comforter of Israel awaits them. Thus do they find their true home with their crucified Lord, both here and in eternity.” (Bonhoeffer)
Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.