Saturday, July 16, 2016
“If you have ever lost a loved one, then you know exactly how it feels. And if you have not, then you cannot possibly imagine it.” ― Lemony Snicket
I’m going out on a limb here, but I’ve been on this limb many times and it always seems to bear my weight. This is what I call “Wiggins Theology 101” which means I couldn’t find any scholars or theologians who agree with me, so you can reject what I write knowing you are with the experts and scholars. In the Beatitudes which directly precede the Sermon on the Mount, the second is “Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” What no one I could find seems to know is that in Jesus day there was no concept of heaven or hell. When you died, everyone went to the same place—Sheol. Good, bad, or indifferent, when you died you went to Sheol. There are only two examples in all of the Old Testament of two individuals who ascended into the heavens and didn’t go to Sheol, Enoch and Elijah. Even with these two there was no acclamation of eternal joy, bliss, or being in a wonderful place as we today think of heaven. So, if you were mourning the dead, it was because you had lost your source of support or food or love. Being grief stricken was seen as a curse, something that did not show that God was pleased with you. In Jesus’s times, if you were rich, you were considered to be blessed. No one was ever thought to be able to better themselves because the lot in life you had was what God gave you—and you were not to mess with it. Mourning meant being cursed because there could be no comfort forthcoming. There were no life insurance proceeds to make the rest of your life livable. There was no one who had to take you in or take care of you. That’s why Jesus was continually saying to remember the widows and orphans. So, if you lost a loved one, a husband, wife, child, mother, father, or anyone important in your life, and you grieved for them, you were to be avoided. There was no one to put an arm around you and tell you that your loved one was in a better place and beyond pain. No one knew what went on in Sheol, only that everyone who died went there. Jesus was so radical as to pronounce that those who were grieving would be comforted. That would have sounded nonsensical to all His listeners. We now know that eternal life awaits us if we belong to Christ and have done our best to imitate Him in this life. We know about eternal bliss, reuniting with loved ones, feeling euphoria, or so almost all of the near death experiences so indicate. We also know that Christ told us that we would be with Him. It would be hard to equate that with anything other than eternal happiness and peace. I feel sorry for those who think that this life is all, but I can’t convince them otherwise. They have to discover on their own the comfort and peace that will be theirs. I am comforted to know that my parents and my wife’s parents are in a better place. I am comforted to know that all those I have loved who have passed are happy and where I may see them again. I once held a man while he died, and at the last, he smiled, looked me in the eye and said, “I am at peace. You be, also.” And I was as I held his now lifeless body. Even as I am mourning now, I am comforted. That’s what I think Christ meant by that Beatitude. I might be wrong, I’ve been wrong before many times, but I don’t think so. Sometimes I can feel God’s arm around my shoulder as if to say, “I’ve got this. You know I do.” It is enough.