Tears And Anger To The Point Of Death

Text:  John 11:1-53

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

“If only things had gone this way.  Oh Lord, if only You had been here, none of this would have happened.  We’d still have our brother with us!”  These were the words from Mary and Martha after the death of Lazarus.  They echo to us today some 2,000 years later. 

Mary and Martha in our Gospel reading had sent a request for help to Jesus several days before the death of their brother Lazarus.  Mary and Martha knew, as we know from the Bible, that Jesus had power to do miracles.  Upon hearing the news about Lazarus, the Scriptures say that Jesus waited.  Yes, when Jesus heard about the illness of Lazarus, He waited; He stayed two more days longer in the place where He was.  Think about this for a moment and take note of what just happened.  Lazarus is sick and Jesus waits!  Jesus, who has the ability to heal and the power to save Lazarus, hears the news of Lazarus’ illness and then He waits

Well, as is seen from our Gospel reading, Lazarus dies.  After the death of Lazarus, Jesus shows up in the city of Bethany where Lazarus had passed away.  It had been sometime, 4 days to be precise.  Lazarus was dead - dead.  He was placed in the tomb. 
Now, as Jesus came to the city of Bethany he was met by Martha.  We can compassionately empathize with her pain and confusion as she speaks to Jesus, “If only you had been here Jesus, my brother would had not have died.”  We can sense her sorrow over the circumstances that were beyond her power to control or repair.  She was in despair because she was powerless to change the circumstances.  She was regretting the fact that Jesus wasn’t there.  You get this impression that if she was in control things would be different. 

So, how do we reconcile this story?  Jesus hears the news about Lazarus and He waits.  Lazarus is Sick + Jesus hears the news = Jesus waits.  How do we make sense of this?  Well, maybe Jesus didn’t think that Lazarus was going to really die, right?  Or, maybe Jesus didn’t hear the message correctly, maybe?  Or, the situation of Lazarus was something that was too great and was too out of Jesus’ ability, could that be?  I’ve got it; maybe Jesus simply did not care.  That’s it, I am sure that He simply did not care, right?

For each and every one of us in the twenty-first-century, we are continually faced with the challenge of making sense of the struggles of life and God’s power and control.  We find ourselves empathizing and resonating with Mary and Martha.  “If only things had gone this way.  If only I had done this?  If only I had said that.  If only I had not done that.  If only God could have not waited.  If only God would’ve listened to me.”  The list can go on and on.  Furthermore when we try and make sense of the tragedies of life in the context of God we find ourselves coming to really two forks in the road.  On the one hand when we look at tragedies we can come to the conclusion that God is powerless to address the pains of this life.  On the other hand when we look at tragedies of life we can come to the conclusion that God simply doesn’t care. So, which one is it?  Is God powerless?  Or does God simply not care?  Which one was it for Mary and Martha?  Which one is it for us today in the midst of our pain, with questions, grief and the loss of life; the loss of parents, sisters, spouses, and even children?  Is God unable to do anything about suffering and death?  Does God even care? The actual answer is that Jesus does love and He isn’t powerless.

In John 11:3 it says that Jesus loved Martha and Lazarus, even though He heard that Lazarus was sick and stayed away where he was for two more days.  Yes, Jesus loved Lazarus who was sick and dying.  The word that is used in the original language of the New Testament is the most powerful word for loved that the Bible uses, the word ‘agape.’  It communicates an unconditional love, loving someone without getting anything in return.  To love someone not because of their excellency but to love based on an insane compassionate love from the giver and extender of the love.

So, Jesus loves.  In fact, this love of Jesus for Lazarus wasn’t simply an empty word, or a glittery kind of love found in perfumed love cards. This love of Jesus for Lazarus is found in verse 33 where we see that Jesus wept.  Upon arriving to the place where Lazarus was and where Lazarus had died, Jesus wept, He had sorrow; He shed tears in a silent manner for a friend who had died. 

But, why the tears?  Jesus expressed His tears and sorrow because He had witnessed the effects of wretched sin.  He saw the deadly grip of sin upon mankind.  He wept over death, He wept over the death of Lazarus that was a result of this world that is in bondage to sin and death.  Jesus wept over death because it was not the way things are supposed to be.  God created us originally in harmony, in peace.  But sin entered the picture and marred our relationship with God; it turned the world upside down.  Christ wept because of sin’s corrosive effects and because of the devastation of sin upon mankind, which results in death. 

What a Lord that we have that will weep with His children.  He wept because He loved. 

Not only does our Gospel Reading share with us that Jesus wept over death, it also says that He was ‘deeply moved’. As Jesus approached the tomb of Lazarus, He not only wept but He ‘snorted at death.’  In a literal sense He was ‘ticked off’ with death.  He snorted at death, He was disgusted at death, He sighed at death, He mumbled in anger towards death… he expressed hatred and anger towards the tomb of Lazarus.

Again what comfort for us that when we are angry at death, when we are frustrated and upset at death, we can know that our Lord understands and angered at death Himself.  When we anger and shake our fist at death and scream out in pain, we have a Lord who angered at death as well.  When we punch at death, we have a Lord that identifies with us.  When we yell at death, we have a Lord that identifies with us.  When we grit our teeth at death, we have a Lord that identifies with us.

Indeed, Jesus not only pulled inward with tears but He also expressed His frustration with death outwardly; Jesus wasn’t restricted to just one end of the emotional spectrum, rather he expressed sorrow and anger simultaneously. 

I think it is safe to say that our response to death and dying is either tears or anger.  These are natural responses.  However, with that said, the one thing though is that these emotions are merely responses.  Yes, anger and tears are our emotions, feelings and pain due to death.  Beyond these emotions there is not much else we can do with death and suffering. 

While it may be of comfort to know that we have a Lord who identifies with us, who understands our emotions and pain that still doesn’t address the problem of death itself.  Yes, Jesus cares but there has to be more!  When death calls, does our Lord have an answer beyond tears and anger?  My friends, Jesus wept and angered, thus we know that He cares, but is He powerless?  What is Jesus’ response to death itself beyond tears and the gritting of teeth?

Christ’s tears and anger at death is not limited like our mere emotions.  While our tears and anger move no further than emotions, Christ wept and angered at sin and death to the point of the cross.  In other words, Jesus angered and wept at sin and death to the point where He did something about it.  The Lord’s anger and tears over death and sin moved Him right into the center of sin and death, the cross. Jesus wept over death to the point of the cross.  Jesus angered over death to the point of the cross.  Otherwise stated, God so loved this world that He gave His one and unique Son.  Jesus came not to be served but to ‘give’ His life as a ransom for many.  Throughout the Gospels we see that Jesus journey was always towards the cross.  He was born 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem; He was born to die.  The mission of Jesus was the cross. 

My friends, Look to the cross what do you see?  We see not just a weeping victim but we see God in the flesh bleeding, dying, paying for your sins, and considering it well worth it.  Look to the empty tomb what do you see?  We see not a frustrated savior but we see a savior that really did destroy sin, a savior that is really victorious over death.  Yes, Jesus certified His work on the cross by rising from the dead.  His resurrection assures us that His work on the cross was not just anger towards sin, but a reality, a real destruction of death, sin, and the devil.

Baptized saints, there is nothing in this life that can go back and keep Jesus from making a payment on the cross – for you.  There is nothing in this life that can go back and keep Christ in the grave.  Therefore, in Jesus Christ you have life in the midst of the shadows of death.  Indeed, just as Christ called Lazarus by name and the grave was completely powerless in holding Lazarus back from the call of His Lord, in Christ your grave and your death is not the final word, for Christ will someday call you by name.  Yes, your sin will put you in the grave, but take comfort that the Gospel takes you out of your grave, a grave of death, and puts you in Jesus’ grave, a grave of life; a grave that cannot and will not end in death. 

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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