I don’t know any of the victims. I don’t live in Boston or West Texas. But I do know that I was deeply disturbed by the events of last week. I was disturbed that an 8-year old boy, who was probably peering through the crowds to see his parent finish a marathon, died in the blast. I was disturbed that the first responders who ran toward the fire in West Texas were killed instantly in an explosion they were trying to prevent. I was disturbed by all the life that was snatched away. I was disturbed by the young men who willingly hurled death at so many people. We were all disturbed.
So what do we do with those instances where the carpet is violently torn from under us (or others)? What happens when we just can’t stomach our once-felt optimistic outlooks? What do we do when our seemingly secure world suddenly displays its heartbreaking volatility? We want to be fearless. We want to be positive. We want to hope that there is more than the immediate pain we’re feeling, but we’re getting tired of putting our hearts out there.
Jesus has those feelings too. When he attended the funeral of his dear friend, Lazarus, the Bible says, “he was deeply moved in the spirit and greatly troubled” (John 11:33). Jesus then went to his friend’s gravesite and “he wept” (11:35). At the gravesite, the Bible says that Jesus again felt “deeply moved.” According to the original Greek, the term “deeply moved” may connote anger.
Anger. Why would Jesus feel angry? Especially since he had just told his disciples there was going to be a happy ending. “This illness does not lead to death. It is…so that the Son of God may be glorified” (11:4) and then later, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him” (11:11).
Anger. Probably for the same reason that we, when faced with death or tragedy, feel angry. Because it’s intensely disturbing. And just like Jesus, somewhere deep inside our core, we know that death is not right. It’s not the way things were meant to be. We weren’t made to die or to be killed, we were made to live. And if we were created to live, then that makes death the enemy.
Years after this incident, Paul explained in his letter to the early church of Corinth, “the last enemy to be destroyed is death” (I Corinthians 15:26). Unlike popular notion, death is not a part of life. It’s the opposite of life. It’s not a natural event in the life cycle or in the survival of the fittest. No, it’s life’s greatest adversary. It’s why Jesus came to earth in the first place. It’s why he stood in front of his friend’s grave and felt deeply disturbed. He was face-to-face with the very enemy he had come to conquer. The thing that constantly threatens God’s miracle of life.
And in that moment of quiet anger and deep sadness, Jesus did something amazing. “Take away the stone,” he said. Lazarus’ sister, Martha, objected, “Lord! He’s been dead for four days!” Jesus replied, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they rolled away the stone and Jesus thanked the Father who had sent him and then called Lazarus out. The Bible says, “The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go’” (John 11:44).
Let him go. Jesus saw death and commanded life. Death completely lost its power over Lazarus the moment Jesus spoke. That’s the glory of God. That’s what Jesus came to do, he came to conquer death and grant new life. But this new life isn’t just a rebirth into our broken, imperfect, terrorized, and eroding world. It’s actually an eternal life, one that’s saved for us in Jesus. A life void of everything bad that happened last week. A life without the threat of death. A life full of God’s perfect glory.
Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” ~ John 11:25-26