“Your Word Is Truth”
‘Happy They Who Mourn’
CONTRADICTORY, is it not, to say that one who mourns can at the same time be happy? Not necessarily. When Jesus made this seemingly contradictory statement in his Sermon on the Mount he apparently did not have in mind the more common meaning of the word “happy.” Evidently he meant something more than lighthearted cheerfulness.—Matt. 5:4.
The Greek word for “happy” in this text, makaʹrios, was applied by the Greeks to the supreme bliss, the bliss that the gods were supposed to enjoy. In view of the way the word is used in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and throughout the Christian Greek Scriptures, a more comprehensive meaning of makaʹrios would be ‘happiness due to being favored by God.’
Who, then, are those ‘favored by God’ because they mourn? Just anyone who is sad? No, for the Greek word for “mourn,” pentheʹo, means a deep mourning, a feeling of being crushed. The apostle Paul used this word when censuring the Corinthian congregation because they were not deeply cut to the quick with grief due to the gross immorality in their midst: “And are you puffed up, and did you not rather mourn?” (1 Cor. 5:2) In a similar vein the disciple James censured certain ones in his day: “Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you indecisive ones. Give way to misery and mourn and weep.”—Jas. 4:8-10.
That Jesus meant a deep sense of mourning is borne out by Luke’s parallel account: “Happy are you who weep now, because you will laugh.” (Luke 6:21) “Weep” here translates the Greek word klaiʹo, which “is used of any loud expression of grief, especially in mourning for the dead.” (An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, W. E. Vine) No doubt about it, a deep mourning, a strong weeping, is what Jesus meant in this second of the beatitudes (happinesses) mentioned in his Sermon on the Mount.
But are all persons who, for any and all reasons, are deeply moved by grief the ones made “happy” or favored by God? Evidently not, for Jesus said that these mourners would be comforted, and yet not all who are crushed in a spirit of grief receive comfort. The motive of the heart enters into the matter. For example, there was Esau, the brother of Jacob, who, because of “not appreciating sacred things, . . . in exchange for one meal gave away his rights as first-born.” Afterward he regretted the exchange and deeply mourned his loss, but to no avail.—Heb. 12:15-17.
Similarly Judas, the unfaithful apostle, felt remorse after betraying Jesus, yet he ended up a suicide. There will be no comfort either for the rich who mourn over the fall of Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion. They too will perish.—Matt. 27:3-5; John 12:6; Rev. 18:7, 8, 11, 15, 19; 19:19-21.
Then to whom do the words of Jesus apply? They have primary and direct application to those of his followers who will inherit God’s heavenly kingdom. It is to these that “the kingdom of the heavens belongs,” it is these that “will be called ‘sons of God’ and will actually “see God.”—Matt. 5:3, 9, 8.
The disciples of Jesus deeply mourned when their Master was put to death on a torture stake. But they were later comforted when he appeared to them after his resurrection. (Luke chapter 24) The apostle Peter deeply mourned because of having denied his Master three times. (Matt. 26:75) However, because he showed godly sorrow he was comforted, being given a threefold commission to feed Jesus’ sheep and lambs, and being privileged to take the lead in preaching the Kingdom good news to both the Jews and the Gentiles.—John 21:15-17; Acts 2:14-41; 10:34-48.
Jesus’ words, ‘happy they who mourn, who weep,’ had special application to the anointed Christians in modern times who were grieved because of their desolate condition due to the attacks of the enemy. The prophet Isaiah foretold that Jehovah’s anointed One, primarily Jesus Christ, was to “comfort all the mourning ones; to assign to those mourning over Zion, to give them . . . the oil of exultation instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of the downhearted spirit.” These are also the ones of whom it was written: “When Jehovah gathered back the captive ones of Zion, . . . our mouth came to be filled with laughter.” Yes, comfort and laughter were their lot.—Isa. 61:1-3; Ps. 126:1, 2.
However, the words “happy are those who mourn,” “happy are you who weep now,” also state a principle that applies to others as well. The prophet Ezekiel had a vision of some who were “sighing and groaning over all the detestable things that are being done in the midst of” their city Jerusalem. They in turn were greatly favored by divine preservation when God’s executioners went through that city slaying all those who had not been identified as mourners.—Ezek. 9:1-7.
These mourning and weeping ones find their counterpart in our day, for Christendom claims to be God’s ‘city,’ even as did Jerusalem. Like that ancient city, Christendom is filled with detestable things—false religion, sexual and other kinds of immorality and violence. Those with the right heart condition are not indifferent to this situation; they deeply mourn over these things. These are the ones today who also receive God’s favor and are comforted.
By what means? By means of the preaching of the good news of Jehovah God’s kingdom. This message, being brought to such mourners by the Christian witnesses of Jehovah, tells them of God’s purpose to root out from the earth all practicers of wickedness. (Prov. 2:21, 22) It tells them that soon now will be fulfilled the prayer of Christians: “Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.” Surely this is a great comfort to them. And more than that, this good news also tells of the coming of a resurrection of all those in the memorial tombs. Yes, there will be a reuniting of those whom death has separated.—Matt. 6:9, 10; John 5:28, 29.
Also of great comfort to these mourning ones is the good news that under God’s kingdom nothing will hurt nor destroy, for the knowledge of Jehovah will cover the earth as the waters cover the very seas. (Isa. 11:9) Additionally, by applying to mankind the benefits of the ransom sacrifice of Jesus, God “will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be any more.”—Rev. 21:4.
Surely with this deeper understanding of what Jesus was saying, all question of contradiction is removed. Truly happy, in an enlarged and greater sense, are those who mourn, who with the right heart condition toward Jehovah God are deeply grieved, for they enjoy God’s favor and are comforted.