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  • Writer's pictureRobert Phillips

The Beatitudes: Mourning

Updated: Apr 8

In John 16:16-24, Jesus tells the disciples that He is going to leave them soon in His ascension to the Father. When the disciples question this, Jesus answers, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy."

Jesus didn’t give His disciples the impression that this long moment between His ascension and return was going to be happy hour. In fact, the indication He gave was that this would be a difficult time during which they would need the Holy Spirit’s comfort and would have to ask the Father for joy. This is not the popular message of the world.

When someone is crying open tears, it causes us to stop and take note.  Tears tend to be contagious. They move our hearts. It’s easy to point out that what makes us the most happy is what our focus, identity and desire are built around. But we don’t often remember that tears, in a paradoxical way, communicate the same thing! We don’t mourn things that don’t matter. What causes you to mourn or be sad in this life? The idea of spiritual mourning is the concept of value ascribed in longing and loss. When we weep because we miss someone through absence or death, we are ascribing a place of value on them. We are communicating that they bring value to our own lives, and we miss that value! In Jesus’ statement in John 16, Jesus is communicating that the world had missed His true value. Jesus was also recognizing that what He was going to endure would also be painful for those who truly loved Him. Jesus’ death and burial was brutally painful for those who put their hope and trust in him as the Messiah, but His resurrection made that suffering worth everything they had witnessed and experienced. The resurrection of Jesus Christ turned mourning to dancing! And His eventual return will do away with sadness completely.

A Place For Severity

D.A. Carson writes, “When God blesses man, he is approving man; and that is always an act of condescension” (Carson, 20). God’s blessing should mean more than any earthly blessing because we don’t deserve anything from God! We live in a culture that continues to tell us to do whatever we can to find inner happiness, but what this world offers is contrived happiness. The desire to be “happy” above all has found it’s way into the church. We don’t like a severe or intense message of deeper purpose and intentionality.

In Matthew 5:4, Jesus says, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" (ESV). There are Biblical attributes that go together and run together: severity and simplicity; honesty and humility. These attributes mark a surrendered believer, but are not the attributes the world values. There are also Biblical attributes that go together but are counterintuitive: poverty and royalty, mourning and comfort, simplicity and wealth. These attributes turn the world’s view of purpose upside down. John Stott translated this second beatitude: “Happy, are the unhappy” in order to draw attention to the startling paradox it contains (Stott, 13).

A true understanding of the Gospel stirs severity or intensity that directly speaks peace and hope. We aren’t severe because we are angry, depressed or mean. We are severe because there is a lot at stake in the lives of people. Our problem is that we don’t see the people around us with the view of destiny. We don't think about the fact that most of the people we encounter day in and day out will die and spend an eternity in hell! We also aren’t thinking enough about how indebted we are to God for His mercy and grace.

A true understanding of the Gospel stirs severity or intensity that directly speaks peace and hope.

Remember, Jesus started the Beatitudes with the idea that we need to be "poor in spirit", which means we recognize our spiritual indebtedness and we are terrified. It is that recognition that allows us to come in neediness to God and receive acceptance into His kingdom. But now, Jesus wants us to understand that we cannot be truly satisfied in the earthly kingdom in which we dwell, because we should have an internal longing for the King Himself: Jesus. Do you long for Jesus to the point of tears? Do you long for the world around you to know Jesus to the point of tears?

Living As A Severe Christian

What is a severe Christian? How does he or she live?

First, a severe Christian is serious about his/her purpose. Consider the job of a fire fighter. Fire fighters don’t look overly happy to be putting out fires. They are severe and intense about saving the lives of those in imminent danger. In the spiritual sense, we are fire fighters! We are on this earth to make the way of Salvation known to a lost and dying world. Fire fighters don’t walk into a burning home and sit down for dinner with it’s residents. They do everything they can to lead them out of the danger. It’s not time for frivolity! The meal can happen later!

Second, a severe Christian speaks directly to the needs of humanity about the fulfillment of Jesus Christ. The problem is, we can’t motivate believers today to reach the world because we can’t even motivate believers to take their own sanctification seriously. I truly believe this is the wimpiest generation of believers this world has ever seen. Perhaps it’s because we have been spoiled.

Where previous generations were unyielding and uncompromising in their dedication to living lives that are set apart from the world, our current generation can’t even string together a few Sundays of faithful church attendance. It’s just not that important to us any more. The late singer/songwriter Keith Green used to sing “Jesus rose from the grave but we can’t even get out of bed!” We consistently make excuse for sin because we give ourselves permission to elevate our feelings to the position of spiritual conscience. 2 Corinthians 7:10 says, "For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death" (ESV). Jesus didn’t give His life so that you and I could make excuses about our half-hearted commitment. Jesus fully committed, and that is what He deserves from us.

Comfort From The Cross

The only truth that can bring us comfort in a world of tears is the comfort of the cross, the Gospel. That is exactly why in John 16, Jesus, as He was preparing to return to heaven, said He would send the Holy Spirit to remind us of Gospel truth and bring us comfort through that truth.

The only truth that can bring us comfort in a world of tears is the comfort of the cross, the Gospel.

In his book on the Sermon on the Mount, D. A. Carson said this about the sermon: “There are two repeated themes thoughout the Sermon on the Mount: 1. The Kingdom of Heaven working with God, and 2. the law and the prophets, [all] in an effort to relate the Old Testament to the New Testament".

Once we understand that the Gospel is prepared and predicted in the Old Testament, then we begin to hear the voice of the New Testament Gospels in all the Law and the Prophets. We can see the Gospel and this paradoxical idea of mourning that turns into joy all through Psalm 30, especially verse 5: "For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning." Psalm 30 was written by David for the dedication of the temple--an event David never got to see. Hebrews says faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. That’s also the comfort that results from Gospel!


Carson, D. A. (2018). Jesus’ Sermon On The Mount And His Confrontation With The World: A Study Of Matthew 5-10. Baker Books.

Stott, J. (2020). Beatitudes: Developing spiritual character. INTERVARSITY Press.

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