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Why Are Mourners Blessed?

Carey Simonson | The Voice of Zion March 2024 - What Does the Bible Say Article --

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. – Matthew 5:4

When and where were these words spoken or written?

On a hill near the Sea of Galilee, Jesus spoke these words, now referred to as His Sermon on the Mount. This particular verse comes from the beginning portion of the sermon, known as the Beatitudes, in which Jesus describes nine types of blessed people, e.g., “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matt 5:3). The verse for our study explains that those that mourn are blessed because they will be comforted.

What kind of mourning was Jesus talking about?

People who were listening to Jesus’ sermon would have been familiar with the Jewish ritual of mourning. The Jews would usually bury their dead on the day they died (Deut. 21:23, Lev. 10:4, and Act 5:5–10), and the family and loved ones of the deceased would then observe a period of mourning, which was typically seven days. For example, Joseph mourned for his father Jacob for seven days (Gen. 50:10), Job’s friends mourned with him for seven days (Job 2:11–13), and the Children of Israel mourned for Moses for 30 days (Deut. 34:8).

What did that period of mourning look like?

During the period of mourning, there would be much weeping and outward show of emotion. Mourners might tear their clothes, put on sackcloth, shave their heads, sprinkle their heads with ashes or dust, fast and wail (e.g., Gen. 37:34, Job 1:20, Ecc. 4:1–3). Sometimes professional mourners were hired to enhance the mourning and may have been present when Jesus awoke Jairus’ 12-year-old daughter from the dead “And he cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly” (Mk. 5:38).

The purpose of this mourning was to comfort the family and loved ones of the deceased. Many neighbors and loved ones would gather at their home and not leave their side while they mourned. 

Did Jesus mourn?

This is evident in the events surrounding Lazarus’ death: “And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother”; “The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying, She goeth unto the grave to weep there;” “When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled” and “Jesus wept” (John 11:19,31,33,35). 

We see that Jesus, as true man, also felt sorrow over the loss of His dear friend Lazarus. Therefore, Jesus is able to empathize and help us when we are grieving (Heb. 4:15). In fact, Jesus could remove all sorrow and grieving from our life and heal all sickness and diseases (Matt. 4:23–24), even raise a person from the dead (John 11:43–44). Rather than end all difficulties, Jesus often sends His dear children, fellow believers, to be with us and to comfort us when we are mourning. We are fortunate to have this love and support here in God’s kingdom.

What did Jesus hope His listeners would learn from this Beatitude?

Jesus wanted to use this temporal image of mourning to teach a spiritual lesson. The Jews knew that a person who was mourning would receive comfort from their neighbors and loved ones. In the same way, one who is mourning over committed sin can receive help and comfort from Jesus. Jesus wanted to teach the listeners that a person grieving over sin can receive comfort when they believe their sins forgiven. Isaiah wrote, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the  Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; 

to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified” (61:1–3).

When the Holy Spirit reveals to a person their sin, it causes sorrow. This sorrow is replaced by joy when the sinner hears and believes the preaching of the gospel of the forgiveness of sins from God’s kingdom (2 Cor. 7:10). The sinner then joins in the words of Hezekiah king of Judah: “Thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back” (Isa. 38:17).

What is the message of this for believers today?

When we remain believing in this way, holding faith and a good conscience (1 Tim. 1:19), one day our temporal and spiritual sorrows will end when eternity dawns. In faith, we wait for that day. 

  • This writing tells how mourners acted in Jesus’ time. How can we today know or see that someone is in mourning? What are the outward signs of this?

  • What reasons do people today have to mourn?

  • In what way do we or should we mourn over our sins? What comfort is available when we mourn in this way?

  • What image of eternity is found in SHZ 600? What kinds of comfort are offered to those who mourned here on earth?

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