John 11: 32-39
When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 ‘Where have you laid him?’ he asked.
‘Come and see, Lord,’ they replied.
Then the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’
But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’
Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead
Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. ‘Take away the stone,’ he said.
Isaiah 53: 3-4 (NKJV)
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief…
Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows…
As we read the story of Lazarus we see a great deal of emotion surrounding his death. Look at verse 33:
“When Jesus saw her [Mary] weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.”
There is an outpouring of grief and many tears are shed at the loss of one who was so dearly loved. From Jesus himself we see two dominant emotions. The first is that “…he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” We read this twice in the space of just a few verses (33 and 38). The phrase “deeply moved in spirit” could also be translated “groaned in his spirit”. It was a word used of a horse snorting with rage and it signifies a deep and passionate response of anger, outrage or indignation. In fact, a more accurate translation would be, "Jesus was irate."
What was it that Jesus was so angry about here? I believe that Jesus is angry because he was in the presence of the ravaging destruction of the greatest enemy of mankind, death. He is face to face with the enemy’s work in the life of one he loved dearly. Jesus is furious that the enemy has been able to inflict suffering and rob people of health, life and loved ones. This was the foe that, in only a few days, he was going to confront head on, dying on the cross to conquer death.
There are times when the Holy Spirit stirs up a holy rage in us about what sin and the devil has done to people. When we see victims of abuse, human trafficking, starving children, babies dying of curable diseases, the exploitation of the poor, injustice, religion used to control and manipulate, evil inflicted on the most vulnerable – we should get angry, we should experience emotion – and the indignation should stir us to look for ways to transform the situation and alleviate the suffering.
The other place we see the emotion of Jesus on display is in the shortest, and one of the most poignant, verses in the Bible:
“Jesus wept.” (v. 35)
John tells us that after Jesus has groaned with anger at the devil’s work, he now weeps. This is a strong word in the original Greek literally meaning “sobbed”. When Jesus sees the suffering of the grieving people at his friend’s tomb, he breaks down in convulsive sobs and weeps unashamedly and publicly before everyone who has come to the tomb with him.
If everything Jesus says and does reveals what God the Father is like, then his sobbing at Lazarus’ tomb speaks volumes. It shows us that Abba, Father is not remote from our suffering. Rather, He is deeply compassionate, suffering with us when we suffer, weeping when we weep. He knows what it’s like to lose a loved one in death. He even knows what it’s like to experience death itself.
N.T. Wright expresses it so well:
“The Word, through whom the worlds were made, weeps like a baby at the grave of his friend…Only when we put away our high-and-dry pictures of who God is and replace them with pictures in which the Word who is God can cry with the world's crying will we discover what the word 'God' really means.”
Whenever we have to suffer the sharp pain of loss, let’s remember what Corrie Ten Boom’s sister said when she was imprisoned during World War Two in a Nazi concentration camp. Before she died, Betsi said to Corrie, “Go tell the world that there is no pit of suffering so deep that Jesus Christ isn’t deeper still.”
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