“When Jesus saw her crying, and the Jews who had come with her crying, He was angry in His spirit and deeply moved. ‘Where have you put him?’ He asked.” (John 11:33-34 CSB)
This particular translation of John 11:33 translates a word as “angry in spirit.” It’s an interesting word. It literally means “to snort like a horse.” The King James Version translated it as “groaned in His spirit,” while the New American Standard Bible renders it as “troubled.” This word is used elsewhere to describe the emotion of Jesus, for example, in the Garden of Gethsemane.
When Jesus came to the outer area of the place where Lazarus, Martha, and Mary lived, Martha went out to greet Him. In that conversation Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies.” Martha then went to get Mary, who came crying, with some of the Jews who came with her also crying. Then occurs this verse that when Jesus saw this He was “angry in His spirit and deeply moved.”
We might wonder what prompted this strong emotion in Jesus. Could it have been the fact of the death of Lazarus, and, if so, what about his death brought on this emotion? Could it have been the apparent victory of sin at that moment, represented in the disbelief of those He saw and their sense of hopelessness? And we might also need to ask whether this emotion was anger in the sense we understand anger or whether it was really more of a deep groaning related to sorrow as a result of all the disbelief and sin that was at work in the lives of these people.
We actually may not be able to answer these questions to our satisfaction, but it is clear that there was a deep feeling of indignation and groaning in Jesus’ spirit in this event. It seems that this emotion was prompted by the reality that these folks still had such little comprehension of who He was, that they still did not get it. Their lack of discernment, resulting in a sense of hopelessness, is likely what caused Jesus to feel this indignation.
Before we come down too hard on these folks, we should probably take a little stock on our own levels of discernment. It may well be that there remains a serious lack of faith in us, a serious lack of discernment about just who Jesus is and what He can do. We say we believe, but belief requires action. Someone who prays for rain should be going out to buy an umbrella. Faith in Jesus trusts all of life to Him. And there is no room for hopelessness in that kind of faith.
Lord, Help us to act out our faith in You, and help us to be more discerning about who You are and what You can do. Let there be no room in us for hopelessness. May Your victory over sin on the cross also be our victory. Amen.