Why Was Jesus Upset?


In John Chapter 11, why was Jesus upset after Lazarus died? You probably think the answer is obvious! However, there’s more to the answer than ‘just’ Jesus grieving his dead friend.

In verse 33 it says, “When Jesus therefore saw [Mary’s] weeping, and the Jews who came with her, also weeping [or ‘wailing’], He was deeply moved in spirit, and was troubled.” (New American Standard Bible). New Testament (N.T.) scholar Don Carson translates “deeply moved” as “outraged”.

Why does Carson translate it as “outraged”? Well, outside the Bible the word used here can refer to horses snorting. In the N.T. the word is translated as “sternly warned” in both Matthew 9:30 and Mark 1:43, and “scolding” in Mark 14:5. Jesus was not just sad; it was not only grief he was experiencing. He was angry, outraged and indignant (as well as being sad, grieving).

So, what was he angry, outraged and indignant about? There were two things. Firstly, Jesus was outraged and angry with sin, sickness and death in this world. Sin has imprisoned the human race, and life in this sin-filled world has much sadness and sorrow. Finally, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a). Jesus is angry about this.

Secondly, Jesus is also indignant that all those present seem to be grieving “as do the rest, who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). His disciples did not believe Lazarus would be resurrected, despite Jesus having said that “this sickness is not unto death” (v4). Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me shall live even if he dies.” (v25), yet, when Jesus asked for the stone to be removed from Lazarus’ tomb, Martha thought this was a bad idea and she was not thinking that Jesus would bring Lazarus back to life (v39). Jesus was indignant that Mary, Martha and the crowd with them were not grieving as those who are believers in Christ should.

Despite these two things, Jesus was also genuinely sad and grieved for the sisters. He was compassionate.

So, you and I, when we think of death or are confronted by it, should be both, indignant and sad. Don’t be merely sad over death— also be angry about it. And do not merely be angry, but also grieve. For having BOTH is a Christian response to death.



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September 13, 2020