Jesus Raged.

When someone that you fiercely love dies, the calendar becomes a minefield. You learn to clumsily tiptoe around explosions of grief, shattered again and again as you unearth new depths of loss. You grit your teeth and lurch forward as you absorb the splitting ache of birthdays and Christmas mornings and family pictures with one missing face. You get out of bed and pretend that you haven’t been sliced open and hollowed out as maddeningly, inexplicably, the world spins on even when your little brother isn’t there to blow out 25 birthday candles. You drive your car and walk into meetings and send emails as though life as you once knew it hasn’t burned to ashes around you.

In John 11, Mary’s world burns down. Her brother dies, and she collapses at the feet of Jesus heaving with visceral, shuddering sobs. I close my eyes, and I can hear her choke out her question—where were you? If you’d been here, He’d still be alive. She’d watched Lazarus fall sick, watched his skin turn pale and translucent and his face grow gaunt. She’d held the midnight watch as he gasped for breath—and she’d KNOWN that Jesus could save him. She’d been certain of it—her face fierce with belief, she’d clenched her brother’s hand tightly and told him hang on, Jesus is coming. But, Jesus hadn’t come. Ragged and desperate, perhaps she’d cradled her brother’s face as took one, final, rasping breath—screaming for a Jesus that was nowhere in sight.

I’ve been there.

Jesus comes too late. Lazarus isn’t just gone—he’s been buried. Mary collapses under the trauma and grief of watching her brother die, of kissing his cheek one last time and watching neighbors carry his lifeless body into a waiting tomb. She stares up at Jesus and says precisely what I would have said: you could have stopped it. You could have done something. You could have made him better—you could have prevented all of this but YOU WEREN’T HERE. You weren’t here. You weren’t here.

She collapses under the impossible weight of it, at the feet of the One who could have healed her brother with a word.

I’ve read the story a thousand times, but until recently, I’d missed what has become inexpressibly dear to me.

As it turns out, our English translation of the original text is pale and anemic—a black and white recounting of a technicolor scene. I’ve always known that Jesus wept–but I had no idea he’d also raged.

The text tells us that when Jesus saw Mary collapse, he was “deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.” But the original Greek word there actually means “to quake with rage.” Jesus stares down at Mary and He’s livid. In verse 38, as Jesus walks toward the tomb we read that He was “deeply moved”—but the original Greek word actually means “to roar or snort with anger, like a lion or bull.” Tim Keller tells us that the best translation here would be, “Bellowing with anger, He came to the tomb.”

Bellowing. Jesus is INCENSED. He’s so furious that he’s physically shaking. His nostrils are flaring and He’s roaring out with rage—thundering at the entrance to the tomb. Crying out with the heartbroken sisters.

There aren’t words for how deeply this makes me love him–how much his rage and grief endear Jesus to me. He is not removed or callous or numb—he is as close as their breath, shouldering the splitting ache with them.

Jesus isn’t angry with Mary or the other mourners—he’s enraged with death itself. He despises it. He’s enraged by the decay that sin has wrought on the world, wrought on the brokenhearted sisters he dearly loves. Every fiber of his being LOATHES death—and he’s ready to lay down his very life to undo it.

Today would have been my little brother’s 25th birthday. Jesus hates Ian’s death with me—he aches with me–but more than that, Jesus died so that in the midst of grief I could cling to hope, knowing full well that death is not the end of the story for any who call him Lord.

Happy birthday, baby brother. I miss you so much–and I can’t wait to see you again.

Comments

  1. Oh what a story you have to share. I’m thankful to see a glimpse of your heart for others. I have prayed several times for you and your passion for others always to be lead by Our Savior. Thank you for being a champion for the least of these.

  2. Sarah Chancey says:

    Love this and you. Thank you for sharing.

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