Jesus was an itinerant preacher. We might call him a traveling evangelist. It’s important to remember that when reading the Beatitudes. This is a sermon He’s given multiple times. We learn in Matthew chapter 4 that Jesus, “went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom.” Matthew goes on to tell us that not only was Jesus teaching but also healing people and this made him famous. Everywhere he went people showed up and followed him. So when Jesus had gathered a crowd he begins his sermon.
This is part two of our Beatitudes series you can read part one by clicking here. Today we pick up in Matthew chapter 5:4, which reads, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
You’ve probably heard this passage used at funerals or recited to people who are dealing with sadness and loss. And sometimes it seems a little cliché. It is perfectly fine to use it in those situations but we need to be reminded of the power of this passage; its a New Kingdom passage.
Let’s dig in.
We have two questions to answer from this passage: Why are these people mourning? And how will they be comforted?
Jesus is building on his previous statement; the poor in spirit not only recognize and trust Jesus with their sin, but they also grieve the effects of sin in their life and the world around them. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “For godly grief leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” They are free of regret but heartbroken because sin has worked its destructive power in their world. So they mourn. They long for a time when sin no longer reins.
But it goes a little bit deeper. Luke, a doctor, historian, and missionary, records in his gospel another sermon Jesus would give regularly before the Sermon on the Mount. He writes, “And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood to read.” Now the passage that Jesus would read was Isaiah 61:1-2a. And after reading it he states, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And that had everyone’s attention. So jump ahead to when these same people hear, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” their minds would go back to Isaiah 61. The Jews of Jesus day would have known Isaiah 61 by heart.
Isaiah 61 is about Jesus and his restoration work. It’s a beautiful passage filled with Jesus restoring those who are mourning the loss that sin has brought to them and their world.
Stop reading this post and go read Isiah 61.
Amazing right? Now let’s look at a few highlights.
Isiah tells us that Jesus will, “give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning. The garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness.” In other words, you may be devastated now but watch what God is going to do. He will turn your ashes into crowns, and mourning into gladness. You are weak now but you will be as strong as an oak tree.
The prophet continues by saying through this new strength they will rebuild what has been destroyed, and they will be called, “priest of the Lord; they shall speak of you as the ministers of our God…” And Isaiah speaking on God’s behalf says, “I will make an everlasting covenant with them. Their offspring shall be known among the nations… all who see them shall acknowledge them, that they are an offspring the Lord has blessed.”
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Jesus is speaking to the repentant heart saying, “I know you hate what sin has done in your life and the world around you but I tell you sin’s days are numbered. No longer will it reign. No longer will you be its slave for my kingdom is here.”
And this is the same comfort for us. When we are truly heartbroken by the devastating work of sin Jesus promises that he will exchange our mourning for gladness, and rebuild what was broken down.