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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Title:See how Jesus feels!
Text:John 11:28-37 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Comfort in a World of Pain

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 121

Hymn 63:7 (after the law)

Psalm 56:1,3

Psalm 116:1,5,8

Hymn 73:1,2

Scripture readings:  Isaiah 53, Revelation 21:1-8

Text:  John 11:28-37

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of Christ,

I want to begin by addressing the men here this morning.  Brothers, let’s talk about showing our emotions.  Let’s talk about tears in particular.  There are some emotions that are acceptable for men to show.  For example, a certain amount of anger is okay for guys, as long as you don’t overdo it, don’t lose control.  But what about tears?  A lot of us just aren’t comfortable having people see us with any tears in our eyes. 

I know it’s true for me.  There’s this video on YouTube that can get me going every time.  It’s a song called Highway of Heroes.  It’s about fallen Canadian soldiers being brought home from Afghanistan.  I see that and it just gets to me.  But it’s strange:  I really don’t like watching the video with other people around, even if it’s my family.  I don’t want anyone to see me getting teary and emotional. 

Emotions and our feelings are funny things, aren’t they?  That’s true not just for men, but for all of us in different ways.  Because of our culture or upbringing, we can get strange ideas about which emotions are appropriate to have and to show, and which aren’t.

The Bible speaks to all areas of life, and that includes our emotions.  The Bible has a lot to say about our feelings.  In the Bible, God tells us that feelings are part of what it means to be human.  God created us with the capacity to feel.  He created us with the capacity to have emotions, and that includes anger and sadness. 

Our passage for this morning contains these really intense emotions of anger and sadness.  It’s Jesus who’s having them.  Jesus is getting angry; Jesus is sad.  Well, how does God speak to us in this?  The purpose of the sermon this morning is to have us see Jesus with these emotions and learn what’s revealed about him and what’s revealed about God.  We’re going to see that this is about two things:  it’s about our comfort and about his worship. 

So the main thrust or theme of the sermon is this:  See how Jesus feels!    

We’ll consider:

  1. His indignation
  2. His tears

Earlier in John 11, the first one to go out and meet Jesus was Martha.  She was one of the two sisters of Lazarus.  Jesus had comforted her and strengthened her faith after the loss of her brother.  Now Martha goes and calls her sister Mary to meet with Jesus too.  Apparently he wanted to offer her comfort and strengthen her faith as well. 

Mary quickly goes to the outskirts of Bethany.  But she doesn’t go alone.  There’d been crowds of mourners in the house.  They follow Mary.  They thought she was going to the tomb to weep there, and so they were going to join her. 

When Mary meets Jesus, she falls at his feet.  That’s an act of worship.  Her attitude towards Jesus becomes clearer when she speaks and calls him “Lord.”  She recognizes him as her Master, and she’s his disciple.  Mary is a follower of Jesus.  She believes in him.  Mary believes that if Jesus had been present, he could have prevented the death of Lazarus – and she says exactly that in verse 32.  And through all of this, she’s weeping.  This disciple has faith in Christ, but it’s a faith through tears.  Loved ones, you can notice right away here that faith doesn’t rule out tears.  You can still believe in Jesus while weeping over the loss of a loved one.  Never listen to anyone who tells you it’s unchristian to show tears.

Now we come to verse 33 and look at how Jesus responds to all the weeping going on around him.  Mary is weeping, the crowds are weeping.  And then Jesus responds like this:  “he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.”  Let’s look closer at this response. 

The Holy Spirit says that Jesus was “deeply moved in his spirit.”  That’s actually a rather bland translation.  When I studied the words being used here, I found that it’s a rare expression in the New Testament.  Outside of the Bible, it’s used to describe someone becoming enraged or angry.  The root word for being “deeply moved” is actually used to describe animals snorting in rage.  Like a bull snorting before it charges.  It’s actually a powerful word portraying a strong emotion of pent-up fury. 

Jesus is also said to have been “greatly troubled.”  That means he was unsettled.  Jesus was upset.  He’s not cold or indifferent to what he’s witnessing. 

When taken together these two expressions tell us Jesus was indignant.  That’s mainly an emotion on the inside – he’s deeply moved “in his spirit.”  But there’s also obviously an outward sight of it.  People can see that’s he affected.  People can see that he’s indignant, angry.  But then the question is:  why?  Why is Jesus getting angry at the sight of all this weeping around him?  At first glance, that might seem to be a strange emotion for someone to have. 

Well, imagine for a moment that you’re an artist.  You spend hours and hours creating a work of art, a masterpiece.  You put all your time and energy into creating this beautiful painting.  You poured your heart and soul into it.  When the painting is finished, it’s almost like it’s your child.  You bring it to an art gallery to be put on display.  One evening there’s an opening gala for the exhibition.  In front of everyone, a man walks up with a can of spray paint and in a moment he destroys your masterpiece, vandalizes it.  What emotion would you have at that moment?  You’d be indignant, right?  Angry. 

That helps us understand Jesus and his indignation here in John 11.  His beautiful creation has been vandalized.  His beautiful work of art was defaced by sin and the death it brings.  It’s being rubbed in his face.  All the weeping he’s hearing and seeing is reminding him what Satan has done to this world.  It’s reminding him of what Satan has done to his beloved creatures.  Satan, sin, and death have wrecked it all.  That’s what he’s getting angry at.  This is not the way it’s supposed to be and it makes Jesus indignant, furious.

There are two things we can take away from this. 

First, remember what Scripture says in Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever.”  When he ascended into heaven, he didn’t stop being a human being.  And so he didn’t stop feeling.  He didn’t stop having emotions.  So still today, he indignantly observes the vandalism of his beautiful creation by Satan, sin and death.  This world still has tears, we still have tears, and it doesn’t go unnoticed by Christ.  But there is a difference.  Christ now sees all this after the cross and after his resurrection.  At the cross, he smashed Satan’s skull.  With his empty tomb, he laid death to waste.  The cross and the empty tomb do change things for him and for us.  There can still be anger at death and what it does.  Jesus has that anger and so can we.  But there’s also the sure hope that Satan, sin and death are defeated enemies.  The death blow has been delivered and these things are dying.

The other thing we can take away is to remember that Jesus reveals God to us.  What’s true of Jesus is true of God.  That’s because Jesus is God.  He is God come in the flesh.  Jesus shows us that God is not pleased with how his beautiful creation has been defaced by Satan, sin and death.  When we see the indignation of Jesus, we also see the indignation of God. 

If you ever go on social media, you see a lot of indignation.  People get angry about all kinds of things.  They vent about everything.  But rarely do those people actually do something about their indignation.  They just talk, but they seldom act.  That’s where God is different.  God was and is indignant about what's happened to break this world.  But God did something about it.  He sent his Son on a rescue mission.  And in the end, God is going to fix it all.  He won’t leave it the way it is.  That’s our comfort and hope in a broken world, isn’t it?

That comfort and hope also come through as we look at the tears of our Saviour.

In verse 34, Jesus speaks his only words in our passage.  He asks where Lazarus has been laid to rest.  He’s invited to come and see.  It would appear that he then set out for the tomb. 

Then we get verse 35.  This is one of the most famous verses in John, as well as in the entire Bible.  Of course, it’s famous for being short.  But it should be famous for far more. 

It says “Jesus wept.”  You could also translate that as “Jesus burst into tears.”  It’s not the loud wailing of the mourners.  When Jewish people mourned, it would often be a loud, vocal weeping.  Jesus simply shed tears quietly.  But nonetheless, we see him here openly crying.  He’s clearly emotionally saddened.

Now when many people read this verse, they right away latch on to the humanity of Jesus.  This is affirmation that Jesus is a true human being.  Human beings weep, Jesus wept, therefore it proves that he was a true human being.  That’s absolutely true.  He was and he continues to be one of us.  The tears we see here come from a real man who knows real grief in his real heart. 

Moreover, his tears affirm how it’s all right for us to grieve too.  Especially when we’re faced with death, it’s a natural human response.  Someday you’ll likely be at the funeral of a loved one.  As some of those psalms or hymns are being sung, you may not be able to keep it together.  Hymn 85 (Now Thank We All Our God) was sung at my mom’s funeral.  I couldn’t sing it then – I was too broken up.  Many times I still can hardly keep it together when we sing that hymn in church.  I know some of you have similar hymns or psalms.  That sad memory, that loss, it’s attached to that hymn or psalm.  It brings on the tears.  It’s okay, whether we’re men or women.  Jesus shows us that tears are not sinful.  It’s a natural reaction to loss and we don’t need to suppress it.  Jesus validates our tears.

Our passage teaches us that, no doubt.  But what’s often forgotten is another aspect to this.  It’s the perspective of Isaiah 53:4, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.”  That prophecy was speaking about Jesus Christ.  Here in John 11, we see him partially fulfilling that prophecy.  Here Jesus is bearing our griefs and carrying our sorrows.  He did that for two reasons.

First, it was part of his suffering in our place.  When Jesus was weeping on the way to the tomb of Lazarus, that was part of his suffering the curse of sin for us.  Part of the curse of sin is that’s there death in this world.  Part of the curse of sin is that we have our hearts broken when death takes a loved one away from us.  Jesus took that on himself.  You see, it wasn’t only at the cross where he suffered.  Sometimes we get tunnel vision.  We hear about the suffering of Jesus and we fixate on the cross.  The cross was where his suffering hit its climax, for sure.  But he also suffered on the way to the tomb of his friend Lazarus.  His weeping shows his heartache.  That was a heartache that followed Jesus all his days on this earth.  It didn’t always express itself like it did here, but it was there. 

Have you ever noticed that we never read about Jesus laughing in the New Testament?  We read of indignation and weeping, not only here, but in other places too.  But never laughing.  You see, what Isaiah 53:3 said was true:  as he walked this earth, he was a man “acquainted with grief.”  That was part of his suffering the curse in our place.  Out of love for us.

What was the other reason why Jesus bore our griefs and carried our sorrows?  To reveal his compassion for broken and grieving people.  Loved ones, Jesus has a compassionate heart.  He did then, he still does now.  His Ascension hasn’t changed that at all.  He still feels compassion for those who are downcast.  He feels compassion like no one else for those who are downcast and dealing with the brokenness and misery of this life. 

The Jews could see that.  Look at what they said about Jesus in verse 36, “See how he loved him!”  He loved Lazarus, and he loved those who loved him.  He loved Martha and Mary.  Then also we can see how much he’s loved us.  He loved us so much that he went to the cross.  He bore our burdens into hell and death.  Who else has done that? 

And brothers and sisters, remember too that his tears reveal the heart of your God.  It’s not as if Jesus is compassionate and God is aloof.  Or the Son of God cares, but the Father and the Holy Spirit are removed and disinterested.  No, God, the Triune God, he cares in the same way and to the same degree that we see Jesus caring here.  In fact, here’s something to ponder:  look at Jesus in John 11.  This is what it would look like if God came to a funeral.           

So see your Saviour and see your God.  See the care, the compassion, the tears of love.  All of this pointed ahead to the cross.  At the cross, your God dealt the death blow to death.  And so when you’re in the house of mourning, know that God is not indifferent.  God is not cold and uninterested in our pain and heartache.  He’s entered into it.  He’s entered into it through Christ.  He promises someday to take it all away.  Revelation 21:4 says it all, and says it so beautifully:  “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 

Back in John 11, when some saw Jesus and his strong emotions, they saw his love.  But verse 37 reveals that others were cynical.  In other words, they were doubtful or sneering.  They had a mocking attitude towards Jesus, even at this sad moment.  Can you imagine?  He’s weeping and they’re making fun of him.  It’s unreal.  So disrespectful.  It reveals their unbelief.  They have an emotion here too and it’s cynical hatred for Jesus. 

Our passage ends on that note and in so doing, God is putting it to each one of us here this morning:  you’ve seen Jesus get angry at Satan, sin and death because they’ve vandalized his good world and his beloved creatures.  You’ve seen Jesus weep because of how his heart breaks for those whom he loves.  Are you going to join those who see all this and look at Jesus with a jaded cynicism?  Or are you going to be with Mary at the feet of Jesus?  Let’s be there where we’ll worship and love the indignant and weeping Saviour.  AMEN.


Heavenly Father,

We look at our Lord Jesus revealed in Scripture, and we see both him and you.  He has shown us your heart.  You hate the sin and death that Satan introduced into this world.  You did something about it with the cross and the empty tomb of Jesus.  For that we praise your Name.  You also have a heart of compassion for the weeping and broken-hearted.  You’ve made it clear that none of our tears are lost on you – you put our tears in your bottle.  You’re a compassionate and caring God, and for that too we worship you.  We’re also grateful for your promise that at the end you will wipe away all our tears.  There’ll be no more death or pain or crying.  Father, we look forward to that and we ask you to bring it quickly.  But as we live here and now, please help us with your Holy Spirit to love you more and to find our comfort and strength in who you are and what you’ve done and what you promise to do.  Please be with those among us who are grieving and broken-hearted.  Maybe it was a recent loss, maybe many years ago.  Whatever the case, please help them to know your care and your presence with them.  Lift their hearts up to you, Father.  Comfort them with your love and care.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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