Entering His People’s Affliction
“When Jesus saw [Mary] weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept” (vv. 33–35).- John 11:28–35
Lazarus, Mary, and Martha were among the closest people to our Lord during His earthly ministry. John 11:5 tells us as much, informing us that Jesus loved the man and his two sisters. Moreover, we see Martha’s trust in Jesus. Verses 21–22 and 27 indicate that she believed He was the Messiah, the Son of God come into the world.
Today’s passage indicates that Mary likewise trusted in our Savior. Having spoken with Martha, Jesus calls for Mary, and when she comes, she confesses that if Jesus had been there four days earlier, Lazarus would not have died (vv. 28–32). Commentators believe that Mary does not speak these words with bitterness; rather, they express confidence in His power and an honest admission that she believes He could have solved the problem had He come earlier. Since she does not ask Jesus to heal Lazarus now, it may be that she does not yet know His power extends over life and death itself. Soon, however, she will see that death is no impediment to the Son of God.
When Jesus sees Mary and the other Jews who are weeping over the death of Lazarus, He is “deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled” (v. 33). This phrase translates a strong Greek verb that indicates Jesus is angry and indignant, not merely concerned or worried. Some commentators suggest that He is angry at the lack of faith of the crowd, who do not seem to believe He can or will do anything about Lazarus’ death. However, it is perhaps more likely that what angers Jesus on this occasion is death itself. It is important for us to remember that although God is sovereign even over death and that death is the moment at which believers enter heaven, death in itself is a bad thing and not part of God’s original creation. It is an intruder that Adam brought into the world through his sin, and it will be the last enemy to be destroyed (1 Cor. 15:22, 26). Of course Christ was angry at death—and so should we be.
Finally, when Jesus sees that death has taken Lazarus, He not only grows angry but He also weeps (John 11:35). These emotions reveal our Lord’s humanity. When the Son of God took on a human nature in the incarnation, He took on everything that makes us essentially human, including our emotions. He became acquainted with grief, having entered our world and our suffering. John Calvin comments, “The Son of God, having clothed himself with our flesh, of his own accord clothed himself also with human feelings, so that he did not differ at all from his brethren, sin only excepted.”
Although we often sin in the expression of our emotions, the same is not true of Jesus. Calvin writes that “in Christ the feelings were adjusted and regulated in obedience to God, and were altogether free from sin.” This means that Jesus is our model for what it means to have righteous anger, righteous sorrow, and righteous joy. Let us look to Him to see what it means to be holy in the expression of our emotions, asking Him to help us avoid sin.
Passages for Further Study