Today is part 2 of a series on the second Beatitude from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” – Matthew 5:4. In the first post, I wrote about how mourning logically follows our awareness of needing Jesus because we are poor in Spirit. When we mourn this way as Christians, we deeply acknowledge that we aren’t happy with the consequences of having sought our own way.
Many religions and philosophies see no value in sorrow. Ancient Greek and Roman philosophers hated it and strived to avoid it. Eastern religions sometimes deny its reality and seek to live above it. On the other hand, in Christianity and Judaism stories like those of Job are highly valued, and verses like these from Ecclesiastes 7:2-4 are common –
“It is better to go to the house of mourning
than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind,
and the living will lay it to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter,
for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.”
In Christianity, mourning can have value, helping sanctify us, making us more like Christ. Mourning can be a form of confession – a way of saying the same thing about sin that God does. When we mourn doing wrong things or neglecting things that should have been done, we agree with God on what is “wrong” and what “should” be done. It is not the same as repentance but is often a preceding part of it.
The framework of the series of posts on Matthew 5:3 – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” – shows many ways living outside the kingdom of heaven fails us and others:
- Times we were too proud or ashamed to act (Post 1)
- Times we thought earning God’s favor was more important than loving Him and our neighbor (Post 2)
- Times we thought our own sins were ok because we thought they weren’t as bad as someone else’s (Post 3)
- Times we failed privately because we couldn’t see the consequences or the point in trying (Post 4)
- Times we didn’t love someone because they weren’t like us (Post 5)
Therefore, we should mourn! Emotionally reacting to these things means that knowing we are “poor in spirit” is more than just an intellectual or logical idea. Sin needs to mean something to us, deeply. However, this mourning is not the same as despair, depression, or meaninglessness. In the words of J.R.R. Tolkien, spoken through the wizard Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings: “Despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt.” Only God can see the end, and there is more to come! In Christianity it is but part of a journey, or in the case of the Sermon on the Mount, part of a sequence of Beatitudes.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” – Matthew 5:4
In the next post of the series, I plan to talk about Jesus’ reaction to death and the consequences of sin, focusing on John 11: 33 and 11:38. He knows more about it than we ever will, and He cares deeply.