INSIGHTS FROM BONHOEFFER AND LEWIS ON THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT

The Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-10)
Part Two

. THOSE WHO MOURN (Matt. 5:4)

Blessed are those who mourn
for they shall be comforted.
.


Mourning and sorrow are such an integral part of life during this present age before Christ's return that before John describes the wonderful things in heaven, he first tells us what will not be there: "there shall no longer be any ____________; there shall no longer be any _______________ or _______________ or _________________. The first things [those just mentioned] have passed away" (Rev. 21:4).

How much of a role do evil and suffering play in life? According to the Buddha, they play a huge role. In fact, probably the most important contribution Buddha makes is his claim that evil and suffering are woven into the very fabric of life. His whole system springs from this major insight (Buddhism is the philosophical attempt to respond to the fact that evil and suffering permeate life.) Whereas we might not agree that the essence of life is evil and suffering as Buddha contends, we can at least agree with him that they do play a major role in life.

As we look at this beatitude, we need to remember that Jesus is addressing it to His followers. So, therefore, why does God allow His sons and daughters, followers of Jesus, to experience such hardship that they mourn? What did Jesus learn by His sufferings (Heb. 5:8)?

Trust is an essential ingredient not only in all serious relationships but especially in the relationship between a father and his son. Now since God has called us to be His sons and daughters, then He allows suffering in our lives in order to help us truly become full sons and daughters, sons and daughters who trust (by obeying) Him no matter how difficult it might be to trust and obey Him.

As seen in Heb. 5:8, Jesus the perfect Son suffered pain to such an extent that He wept. What brought Jesus to tears in Matt. 23:37-38?

Why did Jesus weep in John 11:35?

Why did Jesus physically ache ("felt compassion") for the people (Matt. 9:36)?

Now some misunderstand this beatitude to mean that it refers to ALL sufferings in life. That is not true. Jesus, again, is addressing His followers. He is speaking about sufferings which we endure specifically because we are His followers. What kinds of sufferings do people today experience because they are followers of Christ?

Just in case you feel that Christians today are not really experiencing persecution like they have in the past, you then need to check out the website Voice of the Martyrs (http://www.persecution.com/). It has been noted that more Christians were martyred for Christ during the 20th century than in the previous 19 centuries combined.)

Most of the persecutions we think about are persecutions dealt to us by human beings. The truth, though, is that Satan also is at work. On the surface, the way he abuses Christians may not seem to be because we are Christians; however, he goes after us specifically because we are Christians. As a result, many of the hardships you encounter may actually be coming directly from Satan. For example, Job lost his children, his home, and his cattle because he feared God. On the surface, these don't seem to have happened to him because he was a God-fearer. In fact, his friends claimed he had sinned; yet we know that behind the scene God allowed Satan to go after Job precisely because Job did love and fear God.

Lewis illustrates this in Perelandra from his Space Triology. In the book the evil Weston appears is going insane. He thinks that he is telling himself all these mad and crazy thoughts which are driving him crazy. Instead, he doesn't realize that a demonic lizard is sitting on his shoulder whispering to him all these insanities. The lizard has so mastered Weston's vocabulary and way of speaking that when the lizard speaks, Weston thinks that the words are his. Whereas psychology is a needed and important field of study, psychology cannot address all our mental and spiritual problems. Some of the problems are spiritual. For this reason Jesus told His disciples that some problems can only be dealt with by means of prayer and fasting (Mark 9:29).

Make sure you are not suffering because of the wrongs you have committed. I have heard people say that they are like Job because they are suffering, whereas the truth is that they are suffering because they have done something wrong, or they claim that even if they did wrong, they are praiseworthy because they are taking their punishment in a Christ-like manner. How does Peter address this (1 Pet. 2:20)?

The truth is that Jesus never suffered in a praise-worthy manner when He did something wrong precisely because He never did any wrong. Therefore, this is NOT a valid comparison.


AND NOW FROM BONHOEFFER AND LEWIS

From The Sermon on the Mount: Beatitudes, pages 108-109

According to Bonhoeffer, "By 'mourning' Jesus, of course, means doing without what the world calls peace and prosperity. He means refusing to be in tune with the world or to accommodate oneself to its standards. Such men mourn for the world, for its guilt, its fate, and its fortune. While the world keeps holiday, they stand aside, and while the world sings, 'Gather ye rose-buds while ye may,' they mourn. They see that for all the jollity on board, the ship is beginning to ____________. The world dreams of progress, or power and of the future, but the disciples meditate on the end, the last judgement, and the coming of the kingdom. To such heights the world cannot rise. And so the disciples are ______________ in the world, unwelcome ___________ and ____________ of the peace."

There has been a shift recently in atheism. Today's atheists tend to have a "sunny" outlook on life. Traditionally, that has NOT been the case. Instead, the major atheistic philosophers have been nihilists, that is, everything ends in despair. E.g. read any of the books by Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, literary perpetrators of nihilism. For philosophers, read Heidegger, Camus, and Sartre.

There is a major difference between the promises in beatitudes 2-7 and the promise in the first beatitude. According to v. 3, when do we receive the kingdom of heaven, right now or in the future?

According to v. 4, when will we be comforted, right now or in the future (Matt. 5:4)?

C.S. Lewis in his life experienced tremendous loss, first the loss of his mother when he was 9, the loss of his best friend when he was in his late teens, and finally, the loss of his wife after only a few years of marriage in his late 50's. The loss of his mother was a real shock to his system. His father had been so emotionally unstable; his mother had been the emotional rock in his life. About her death Lewis wrote: "“With my mother’s death all settled happiness, all that was tranquil and reliable, disappeared from my life. There was to be much fun, many pleasures, many stabs of Joy; but no more of the old security. It was sea and islands now; the great continent had sunk like Atlantis.”

If that was not enough, his wife Joy died from bone cancer, just a few years after they had been married. I don't think he ever fully recovered from this third loss. According to his friends, he was more subdued after Joy's death. After her death, Lewis wrote A Grief Observed: one of the great Christian classical studies in grief. Upon his deathbed, Lewis commented that he felt like he was a sentry who was finally being relieved of his duty. Ultimate joy didn't come to Lewis during this lifetime; however, he was OK with that because he realized that ultimate joy comes in the "morning" (Ps. 30:5). All we can experience here is a just a taste of the true joy awaiting us: a true taste to be sure, but nothing more than a taste. Ultimate joy and comfort lie only in the future upon the return of Christ.

Bonhoeffer has a different twist on the comfort Jesus bring us. Since the sorrows we bear are actually the sorrows of Christ, then the comfort we enjoy is the comfort of Christ Himself: "They stand as the bearers of sorrow in the fellowship of the _______________________; they stand as strangers in the world in the power of him who was such a stranger to the world that it crucified him. This is their comfort, or better still, this Man is their comfort, the Comforter (cf. Luke 2:25). The community of strangers find their comfort in the _____________, they are comforted by being cast upon the place where the Comforter of Israel awaits them. Thus do they find their true home with their crucified Lord, both here and in eternity."

Two things:

  1. God is such a Comforter that throughout the OT and NT, many times He gives Himself the name "the Comforter.
  2. A person being able to comfort us makes sense. Whenever you've experienced real sorrow, just the mere appearance of a friend or loved one brings such comfort to you...even without them having to saw a word or giving you a gift. Just like Milton Cunningham used to say: Persons respond to persons. That's the reason God didn't send us a communiqué; He sent us a person, His Son to comfort us.

Remember now that Christ lives IN YOU, if you are a believer. When you come to a scene of sorrow and sadness,you come as Christ to those people. You are Christ with flesh on. That is powerful.

I remember that when the oldest grandchild in my family committed suicide, the family was so devastated. The funeral service was a good hour away from where we lived. Right before the service began, 2 friends whom Nancy and I loved so deeply showed up at the funeral home. Their coming touched us so deeply. Twenty-three years later I am still touched by their thoughtfulness. They didn't have to say anything when they showed up. Just their showing up made all the difference in the world to Nancy and me.