The Requiem Series
This 8-part series explores the contours of grief and Christian hope, and highlights the biblical passages interpreted by Johannes Brahms in his classic chorale work, A German Requiem. For a deeper dive into both the Bible and the music, see Carol Bechtel’s curriculum, Sowing Tears, Reaping Joy: The Bible and Brahms’ Requiem (Kerygma 1996; Sowing Tears, Reaping Joy ).
The View from the Graveside
Read: Matthew 5:4
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Anyone who has ever stood beside the grave of a loved one will wonder at these words. Blessed? Surely not. Cursed maybe, but not blessed! If we didn’t know that it was Jesus talking, we might conclude that the person who said this didn’t know what he was talking about.
Yet, we know that Jesus was all too familiar with the view from the graveside. In John 11 we read the story of how Jesus wept for his friend Lazarus. So, far from being unfamiliar with grief and loss, Jesus was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3, KJV). What, then, can his words mean?
A dying saint was heard to remark, “I have never felt such pain, or known more joy.” Her words bear witness to the kind of “blessedness” Jesus is talking about. It does not deny the agony of the present, but it testifies to the way Jesus infuses that reality with hope. And that, for the Christian, is what makes all the difference. It is what makes joy possible even when pleasure is out of the question.
Prayer: Be present with us, Lord Jesus, in the midst of our grief. Help us to experience the blessedness of your presence and the hope of your resurrection.
Listening option: Brahms’ Requiem, Movement 1.