“Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.”
Like many people, I have had my fair share of mourning, and like most mourners, I have indeed been comforted. When my beloved wife died unexpectedly just 33 days after our wedding, my friends and family rallied around me and kept me strong in my faith. So I know for a fact that God brought me comfort in my mourning, just as many people believe the verse above promises. But that is not the kind of mourning Jesus was talking about.
“What? You mean He isn’t going to comfort me as I mourn for my ruined home, my broken marriage, my lost job, my whatever?” Yes, Jesus WILL comfort you in those situations, and sometimes His may be the ONLY comfort you receive. Rather, I am pointing out that in this Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is calling for a blessing upon those who mourn for something else.
We need look no further than the Savior’s own life and death to see what the situation was like in Judea at the time. The Romans had conquered Palestine and ruled as benevolent dictators over God’s chosen people. There was rampant injustice. Many felt like they were slaves in their own country, and many felt like God was once again angry with Israel. Belief in a coming Messiah was very popular, and many wished for a worldly king who would rise up against Rome. The Pharisees existed solely because some Jews felt like they had offended God and needed to become more holy. Many undoubtedly compared the Roman occupation to the days of the Babylonian captivity.
By the rivers of Babylon,
There we sat down, yea, we wept
When we remembered Zion.
Into such a climate steps Jesus, proclaiming: “Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.” So what is He saying to Israel?
* Blessed are those who mourn for Jerusalem…
* Blessed are those who mourn and cry out for a coming Messiah…
* Blessed are those who are grieved by the unholiness in their land…
* Blessed are those whose hearts are broken by their distance from God…
* Blessed are those who mourn the first sin that brought death into the world…
God will bless anyone who sees that they are far from Him and who grieve over that distance. But how will He bless them? He will comfort them.
The word translated as “comfort” comes from the Greek “parakaleo,” which means literally “to come alongside” someone, like a friend who joins you in your time of trouble. But this word has deeper meaning, because it is the verb form of a noun that Jesus uses later in the Gospel of John:
“And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever…”
“But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.”
“Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.”
The word we see here as “Helper” is the Greek “parakletos,” which is, as you might have guessed, “one who comes alongside.” It is also sometimes translated as “Comforter” (ESV, KJV) or “Counselor” (NIV, NLT), and the word “parakletos” carries all those connotations. In our mourning, we desire someone to help us, to comfort us, to counsel us in our grief. In all those instances, we understand that “parakletos” refers to the Holy Spirit.
Let’s look at that final reference in the Gospel of John. In essence, Christ is telling His disciples not to mourn after He has left them, because they cannot receive the Holy Spirit – their Helper, Comforter, Counselor – until after He has gone home to the Father. Why is that so important? Look at the verses that follow:
8 “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
9 “of sin, because they do not believe in Me;
10 “of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more;
11 “of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”
There will be no comfort for those who yearn for God unless and until the Holy Spirit comes to convict the world – and OUR HEARTS – of sin, righteousness, and judgment. But when we mourn for our distance from God, He will come alongside us as our Comforter in times of trouble, our Counselor in times of doubt, and our Helper in times of weakness and temptation. We who mourn for the world will be blessed to receive the Comforter Himself!
Precious Holy Father, I praise You for Your Spirit that You have sent among us. I thank You, Lord God, for the healing that Your Son brought to the world, and the comfort that Your Holy Spirit continues to bring to us. Let me mourn for this broken world and be comforted in You alone – the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Amen.
© 2009 Glenn A. Pettit