What makes you laugh? Jokes? Funny things your kids do? Comedians or comic movies? My dog makes me laugh when he is so happy he can’t contain himself, running around the apartment with his squeaky toy mouse, creating a symphony of peeps. Fortunately, he tires of the game after about five minutes. I appreciate his playfulness, especially at times when life is hard. I finally recovered from a very intense summer cold that I thought would never end. Five of my friends and neighbors lost their spouses within the last few months. And when my arthritic, flat feet and sciatica are causing me pain, or I feel burdened with administrative tasks, GG cheers me up. But “There is no comfort to compare with the comfort given to a man by God.” (1) Whatever makes us laugh here on earth is a drop compared to the river of delight and joy the Spirit provides now, and even more in eternity. “In his commentary on Matthew’s Gospel, William Barclay reminds his readers of an Arab proverb that says, ‘All sunshine makes a desert.’ And it is true that a life of unmixed happiness would be unbearable and withering to the soul. Sorrow gives spice to life. It teaches us to appreciate good things. It increases our sensitivity, particularly to the needs and sorrows of others.” (2) As we continue studying the Beatitudes, we will be reminded that those who mourn and weep here will be comforted by God. We study so that we will not shrink from grieving over sin, from repenting, and thereby receive Jesus’s comforting forgiveness.
The True Christian Life
“The Christian life, according to Jesus, is not all joy and laughter. The truth is that there are such things as Christian tears, and too few of us ever weep them. But the spiritual, emotional, or financial loss resulting from sin should lead to mourning and a longing for God’s forgiveness and healing.” (4) In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus preached, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4) Luke’s record is similar, but adds the fact that our grief is earth-based (“now”)—”Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” (Luke 6:21b) “As our own experience suggests, this line of teaching is rather difficult to digest…[but] if we are poor in spirit, we cannot avoid weeping; we cannot be other than distressed. We are not, after all, without feelings…immovable as an anvil or a rock! Such a thing goes against our nature. We have instead to feel our miseries, which are meant to press us to the point where we bend and break; we can no longer hold our heads up, our breath is taken from us, we are, so to speak, dead men.” (5) But the Lord doesn’t leave the redeemed in their wretched state. “According to the Old Testament prophets, ‘consolation’ was to be one of the offices of the Messiah. Christ does pour oil into our wounds and speak peace to our sore, scarred consciences. Yet still we mourn over the havoc of suffering and death which sin spreads throughout the world. For only in the final state of glory will Christ’s comfort be complete, for only then will sin be no more and ‘God will wipe away every tear from their eyes'” (Revelation 7:1 7). (6) “What we must do is learn to weep before our God. It is to him that our tears must send us. When we do that, we will experience the truth of David’s words, ‘Lord you have put my tears in a bottle.’ [Ps. 56:8] Just as someone looks after a precious perfume or costly ointment, so, David says, God stores up our tears. Of course, tears fall to the ground, or else we wipe them away with our hand. Nevertheless, when we weep before God, not one tear will be lost: God will carefully preserve them all.” (7)
Weeping Like Jesus
As we consider grieving over sin, especially ours, we cannot help but think of the difference between our tears and those of Jesus. However, sin is the cause of both. While we mourn over our personal sin and the sin that infects the entire world, Jesus grieved only over the latter, having no sin in himself. “When [Jesus] drew near and saw [Jerusalem], he wept over it, saying, ‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” (Luke 19:41-44) On a different occasion, “Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother [Lazarus] would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept. So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!'” (John 11:32-36) “Jesus’ example shows that heartfelt mourning in the face of death does not indicate lack of faith but honest sorrow at the reality of suffering and death.” (6) “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” (Isaiah 53:3) But while Jesus knew grief as a man in his incarnation, he, unlike us, “was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5) If we don’t shrink from grieving over our sin, repenting as we follow Christ, we will receive his comforting forgiveness.
“The promise of the second beatitude is ‘comfort,’ comfort to those who sense their sin and mourn for it. There is deliverance from sin’s penalty…The Bible tells us that we have been made ‘accepted in the Beloved’ (Eph. 1:6 NSB). There is unspeakable joy in this experience. This is the joy that was foretold by the angels on the evening of Christ’s birth, for they said, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord’ (Luke 2:10–11)…The deliverance of Jesus Christ also means a deliverance from present sin and from its power. If you are a Christian, Christ lives in you through his Holy Spirit. You are united to him. And you are united to him in order to make a victorious, triumphant life possible… in spite of the fact that sin will always be with the Christian so long as he lives, it is simply not true that he needs to be defeated by it…[Another] God’s comfort lies in the fact that one day Christ will remove sin and all of its effects from the believer forever.” (7) John Gill writes, “They shall be comforted: here in this life, by the God of all comfort, by Christ the comforter; by the Spirit of God, whose work and office it is to comfort; by the Scriptures of truth, which are written for their consolation; by the promises of the Gospel, through which the heirs of promise have strong consolation…and by the ministers of the word, who have a commission from the Lord to speak comfortably to them; and then are they comforted, when they have the discoveries of the love of God, manifestations of pardoning grace, through the blood of Christ, and enjoy the divine presence: and they shall be comforted hereafter; when freed from all the troubles of this life, they shall be blessed with uninterrupted communion with Father, Son, and Spirit, and with the happy society of angels and glorified saints.” (8) My Christian friends who have lost their husbands are joyful in the midst of their grief, having the Spirit and knowing that their beloved partners are with Christ. Their faith inspires me to mourn with hope.
While we know that we shouldn’t shrink from grieving over our sin, the world would have us believe the opposite—to live for pleasure since tomorrow you may die. We ought to mourn for those having no hope for anything after death while we have the assurance of our best existence. We enjoy our spirit-lifting distractions as we remain aware of the great problem of sin. “Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.” (James 4:9) “The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18)
Related Scripture: Psalms 126:1-3; Isaiah 25:8; 53:3; 61:1-4; Luke 4:18-19; John 16:20-22; 2 Corinthians 7:10-11; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 7:17; 21:4.
1. Boice, James, Boice Expositional Commentary Series, Matthew 5:1-5, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
2. Boice, Ibid.
3. Stott, John, The Beatitudes—Developing Spiritual Character, Matthew 5:4, InterVarsity Press, 1998.
4. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Matthew 5:4, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
5. Calvin, John, Sermons on the Beatitudes, p. 28, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2006.
6. Stott, Ibid.
7. Boice, Ibid.
8. Gill, John, John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, Matthew 5:4, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/matthew-5.html
August 18, 2022