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A small verse with a big message

April 21, 2008

by Rev. Robert Hellmann, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Montrose

“Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)

What’s special about this verse of the Bible? Maybe you know, or quickly figured out that this is the shortest verse in the Bible. In spite of that, it speaks volumes to us.

Why was Jesus weeping? Mary, Martha, and Lazarus of Bethany (two sisters and a brother) were close friends of Jesus. Lazarus, who was in the prime of his life, had become sick and died. Jesus came to visit them as they grieved over the death of their brother.

But there is more to it than that. We’re told in verse 33 that Jesus “was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” Jesus was angry! Yes, righteous and holy anger welled up inside of him over the death of Lazarus.

Was Jesus angry at Lazarus for dying? Angry at the sisters for not taking better care of their brother? Angry at the doctors for failing to save Lazarus? Angry at himself for not coming sooner?

None of the above. Jesus was angry at the terrible suffering and heartaches that sin and death bring to the human race. He was angry at the devil, who had used sin and death to destroy mankind, and still tries to plunge all of us into eternal misery.

Jesus didn’t sit and stew in his anger. He took action. He commanded that the stone be taken away from the mouth of the grave. Then he said, “Lazarus, come out!”

Immediately, Lazarus, already dead for four days, came out alive and well. The family and friends of Lazarus were overjoyed.

This shows without a doubt that Jesus is true God and true man in one person. Only God can do a miracle like that.

Everyone knew that Lazarus had been dead four days and that Jesus had raised him from death to life. Jesus, praying to his Father, said that this miracle was so “that they may believe that you sent me.” Many who saw it put their faith in Jesus.

But some didn’t. They went and told the Pharisees. From that day on, they plotted to kill Jesus.

What about Lazarus? Wouldn’t he have been far better off to remain in heaven?

Jesus gave Lazarus a special opportunity. Lazarus would witness the sufferings, death, and resurrection of Jesus that brought salvation to him, his sisters, and to all people. Lazarus understood Jesus’ words, “I am the resurrection and the life.” He must have been eager to tell the gospel to as many people as possible.

Jesus is our Savior, too. He died and rose bodily for us. He sends his powerful Word into our unbelieving hearts to give us saving faith in him.

On the last day, He will speak the almighty words that will raise our bodies from the grave and give us eternal life with all believers.

Meanwhile, grow in faith by hearing God’s Word. Worship him regularly. Spread the gospel to others who do not yet know it. Praise our Lord by leading holy lives dedicated to Him who saved us. We have just as much to give thanks for as Lazarus!