Happy mourners – commentary on Matthew 5:4

Up close view of the Scroll of Fire monument found in the Jerusalem hills, which commemorates Jewish history from The Holocaust until Independence. The monument was inaugurated in 1971. The sculpture is made of bronze and is eight meters high. It is in the shape of two scrolls, a gesture to the Jewish nation being the "People of the Book". One of the scrolls describes the Holocaust and the other describes independence. (Photo: Avishai Teicher/PikiMedia)

When you lose someone or when your heart is broken and sorrowful, you obviously don’t feel happy about it. But Yeshua teaches “happy are those who mourn.” In what way should a mourner feel “happy,” and when will mourners find this promised consolation?

Yeshua says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). The English language provides no adequate word to translate the original Hebrew expression behind Yeshua’s beatitudes. Various English translations render it as “fortunate,” “joyful,” “blessed,” or even “happy.” The Hebrew implies something closer to “deeply contented.”

In what way are the poor in spirit, the mourners, the down-trodden, and the persecuted to be understood as glad and deeply contented? The seeming contradiction emphasizes Yeshua’s central message of good news: “Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” That is to say, “Their hope is in the Messianic Era.” Such men and women cannot base their happiness or sense of contentment on temporal circumstances. Instead they must rely on God and His promises about the kingdom, and because they rely on God and look to the kingdom instead of this present world, they find inner peace.

The Master says, “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh” (Luke 6:21). The Bible says that in the kingdom of heaven, “Our mouth was filled with laughter … those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting” (Psalm 126). The kingdom offers hope of consolation for the brokenhearted and bereaved. This explains why Jewish tradition prescribes greeting mourners with the words, “May you be comforted along with the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.”

The Master contrasted those who mourn for Zion against the powerful and elite of society such as the Romans, the Herodians, and the Sadducees. He said, “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep” (Luke 6:25). When the kingdom comes, those who have loved this present world and its deceits will suffer loss, but those who mourn over the exile and yearn for Zion’s redemption will find their consolation in the kingdom. “They will be comforted” because Yeshua fulfills the messianic mission “to bring good news to the afflicted … to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners … to comfort all who mourn, to grant those who mourn in Zion … the oil of gladness instead of mourning” (Isaiah 61:1-3).

In this way, the beatitudes of Yeshua bring good news to the lowly and downtrodden, as the prophet Isaiah says: “Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble. Say to those with anxious heart, ‘Take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come … the recompense of God will come … He will save you’” (Isaiah 35:3-4).

This article originally appeared on First Fruits of Zion and is reposted with permission.