Matthew 5:4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."
Commentators are universal in their thought that verse 4 is intimately tied into verse 3. The following words of Nicky Gumbel are representative.
"The word for 'mourn' means 'to be sad', or 'to grieve'. It is frequently used in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament for mourning over the dead. It is the word used of Jacob's grief when he believed his son was dead. Paradoxically, Jesus appears to be saying, 'How happy are the unhappy!'
It is a mistake to think that Christians should never be happy, that we should always go around carrying the world's cares on our shoulders and that there should be no joy and no laughter in church. Equally it is a mistake to think that Christians should never be unhappy. As the writer of Ecclesiastes points out, 'There is a time for everything . . . a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.' Eccl 3:1,4
It is not wrong to weep and mourn at the loss of those we love, just as Jesus wept on hearing of the death of Lazarus. We may also weep over the mess we see in the lives of others. Paul wept over the enemies of the cross of Christ. But these types of mourning are not the ones Jesus is speaking about here. Rather it is a weeping at our poverty of spirit. It means not only recognizing our own desperate spiritual poverty, but also being broken-hearted about it.
There is a godly grief which the Spirit of God brings. We see it often right after conversion, with weeping over past sins and tears of repentance. Even as Christians, we still make a mess of our lives and need to weep as Peter did when he realized how much he had let Jesus down. Matt. 26:75
When the Spirit of God comes upon a man or woman the experience is sometimes accompanied by tears. Sometimes past hurts are being healed. Often someone is mourning over opportunities wasted and a sense of spiritual poverty. There is great precedent for God's children weeping, not simply for themselves, but for the cities they are part of and for the land in which they live. Jesus wept over Jerusalem because it inhabitants were so blind to what was going on in their midst. There is such a thing as godly sorrow for our spiritual bankruptcy.
Jesus said that when this happened to people, 'They will be comforted.' In this age when the Spirit is poured out 'on all people' (Acts 2:17), we see how the Spirit of God, known as the Comforter, comes alongside a person and brings them encouragement. He assures them of forgiveness and cleansing and that 'in Christ' they are proclaimed righteous. Often, as we observe the ministry of the Holy Spirit, we see tears turn to joy and even laughter, although our comfort will only be complete in heaven."
Here are some verses that may be helpful in the discussions.
This is a good example of people who are experiencing godly sorrow:
Nehemiah 8:7-10 The Levites--Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah--instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there. They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read. Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, "This day is sacred to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep." For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. Nehemiah said, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength."
This verse from Isaiah (which is universally accepted as talking about the messiah) promises that the messiah will comfort all who mourn.
Isaiah 61:1-3 "The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion-- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor."
Also, we can remember that in our tribulations, God is working:
Romans 5:3-5 "Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."
Possible discussion questions:
What kind of mourning is Jesus talking about here?
What are the promises of God when we mourn?
When was the last time you mourned and what was it about?
Have you ever mourned about your spiritual condition or for someone else's spiritual life?
What are God's promises when we mourn?
How are we comforted when we mourn over our spiritual condition?