Good and Angry.
When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up withing him, and he was deeply troubled. – John 11:33 NLT
Chapter 11 of the Book of John contains the well-known and often recounted story of Jesus’ miraculous raising of Lazarus from the dead. This was a watershed moment in the life of Jesus and was going to set up a dramatic shift in emphasis for His ministry. The end was drawing near. Jesus knows that He is entering the last part of His mission as God’s servant. He has one last thing to do before that mission is accomplished and it will require Him to go to Jerusalem one last time. It there that He will be betrayed into the hands of His enemies, be beaten, mocked, unjustly tried, and undeservedly crucified. The event recorded by John will help set up all that is to come in the days ahead. It will help explain much of what we see happen as Jesus enters into Jerusalem for the Passover celebration. But we must look closely if we want to see some of more hidden or difficult messages contained in this story. While the raising of Lazarus from the dead is spectacular and worthy of our wonder and attention, there is so much more going on that is often overlooked.
Lazarus was the brother of Mary and Martha. They were friends of Jesus and He had been in their home on other occasions (Luke 10:38). They lived in the village of Bethany, which was about two miles outside the city Gates of Jerusalem. This village and, more than likely, their home, would become Jesus’ base of operations during the final week of His life. During the Festival of Passover, which was coming up in just a few days, Jesus would return to Bethany each evening after having visited in Jerusalem all day. The path from Jerusalem to Bethany would have taken He and His disciples through the Mount of Olives on the east side of the city. This would become an important venue in the days ahead.
Jesus received an urgent message from Mary and Martha that their brother Lazarus was sick. They begged Jesus to come to His aid, believing that if He came, Lazarus could be healed by Jesus. But interestingly, upon hearing the news, Jesus delayed His departure for an additional two days. Then He informed His disciples that it was time to return to the region of Judea. Jesus and the disciples had been ministering in the region east of Judea called Perea. When they heard Jesus say it was time to return to Judea, they tried to talk Him out of it, because just days earlier the people of Judea were ready to stone Jesus to death. But Jesus waves off their concern, knowing it is necessary for Him to go. He also had a reason for His delay. Jesus knew full well that Lazarus would have died by the time they arrived. He even told the disciples so. “Lazarus is dead. And for your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there, for now you will really believe. Come, let’s go see him” (John 11:14-15 NLT).
When they arrived, they found the entire village in a state of mourning. Mary and Martha were beside themselves with sadness and could not process why Jesus had not come sooner. He could have saved their brother, but now it was too late. While they believed in Jesus’ power, they didn’t think He could do anything about their brother’s death. What happens next is significant. I’m not referring to the raising of Lazarus from the dead. It was what John tells us just before that miraculous moment. Jesus saw the tears and agony of Mary, and looked at the other people sadly mourning the death of their friend Lazarus, and “a deep anger welled up within him” (John 11:33 NLT). While some translations simply say that Jesus “groaned in His spirit” and was “deeply troubled,” I think there is far more going on here. The New Living Translation gives what I believe to be a far better feel for what is really going on. Jesus wasn’t just troubled, He was angry. The word used here in the Greek is from a root word that means to “snort with anger.” Jesus is not just sad, He is angry. Why? Jesus knew that Lazarus would be dead, so I don’t think He is upset about that. His anger seems to be related to the tears, agony, sorrow and sadness He sees displayed before Him. Death has brought that about. And death is the direct result of sin. Jesus is having to watch the byproduct of the very thing He came to eliminate and eradicate: Sin and its residual effects. I believe Jesus is angry at the devastating impact sin brought on the world that He Himself had created. Jesus is watching people who have had to live with the reality and permanency of death all their lives. But He had come to change all that. Which is what He told Mary when He arrived on the scene. “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die” (John 11:25-26 NLT).
Jesus wept when He arrived at the tomb. But why? He knew He was going to raise Lazarus to life again, so why would He be crying? Was it simply out of sympathy for the people? I don’t think so. He knew their sadness would be turned to joy in just a matter of minutes. Once again, I believe Jesus is angry and upset because of the dominion death had over the lives of those He came to save. He knew that in that crowd that day were countless people who would never believe in Him and as a result, would never receive everlasting life. Death would end in their eternal separation from God the Father. John says that Jesus was still angry when he arrived at the tomb. He was good and angry. He was going to give Satan and death a small glimpse of what was about to come in the days ahead. He would raise Lazarus to life. But in just a short period of time, God the Father would raise Jesus to new life, conquering sin and death once and for all. Paul reminds us of what Jesus’ death and resurrection accomplished: “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57 NLT). This moment at the graveside of Lazarus was a galvanizing moment for Jesus – not that He needed anything to encourage His obedience to the will of His Father. But He would leave the town of Bethany more focused than ever at the task at hand. News of this event would spread like wildfire. Many people believed in Jesus because of what they witnessed. But when the leading priests and Pharisees caught wind of what happened, they began to plot Jesus’ death more vigorously than ever.
Jesus’ anger at sin and death would soon culminate with His own death on the cross. He would defeat sin and death by taking all the sins of mankind on Himself and dying a sacrificial death on the cross – once for all. Jesus was good and angry, and it would result in good news for mankind.
Jesus, You had a right to be angry that day. You were watching the devastating effects of sin on the very ones You had created. You were having to watch what sin had done to those whom You loved. But You did something about it. You dealt with it. You conquered sin and defeated death once and for all. And I think You that I am the beneficiary of Your righteous anger. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men