May 20: “Why Would Jesus Get Angry at a Funeral”

9 Minute Read

Today’s Bible Reading:

1 Samuel 26:1–28:25
John 11:1-54
Psalm 117:1-2
Proverbs 15:22-23 

Today’s Bible Verse(s):

John 11:33 (NLT): “When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled.”

Reflections on Today’s Bible Verse(s):

When we read John 11:33, we are brought into a scene filled with unbearable sorrow. Mary and Martha were in deep agony as they reconcile their hearts to the fact that their brother is dead. 

Three days after Lazarus stepped through death’s door, Jesus showed up. The numbness that these sisters had experienced had worn off, and reality was setting in. Their brother was gone, and he wasn’t coming back no matter how badly they wanted to turn back the time.

But, as Jesus showed up, we read a word that John chose to describe Jesus’ emotional response. We observe how Jesus felt as He looked around at the crowd of mourners. 

Let me share John 11:33 in the four current, most popular Bible translations. I will underline the phrase in each translation that I want us to consider.

John 11:33 (NIV): “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.”

John 11:33 (KJV): “When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled,”

John 11:33 (NLT): “When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled.”

John 11:33 (ESV): “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.”

Notice the phrases that I underlined in each translation. In the original language, all of those words are simply one word in Greek. According to A.T. Roberson’s trusted classic, “Word Pictures in the New Testament,” that word means “to snort with anger like a horse.” According to Louw and Nida’s masterful work, “Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament,” that word means “to have an intense, strong feeling of concern, often with the implication of indignation.”

In other words, as Jesus looked around at all of the people grieving over Lazarus’ death, He had a powerful emotional response. That response, at least in part, was anger. He was furious, “snorting with anger like a horse.”

That seems totally inappropriate in a crowd of mourners, doesn’t it? 

I’ve probably done a hundred funerals in my 19 years of pastoral ministry. Yet, I cannot remember a single time when I was angry. I certainly would never allow my anger to show at a funeral.

So, why did Jesus get angry?

Here’s the explanation that makes sense to me…

Jesus looked around and saw tears. He saw hearts that were utterly broken. Because of this intense grief, the happiness that had characterized this family was completely gone. It was replaced with loneliness, emptiness, despair, regret, deep sorrow, and everything else that those who lose a dear loved one in death experience.

When Jesus saw this, He became angry at what caused His dear friends to hurt so badly. Listen to what I’m about to say – I believe that He became furious at sin!

You see, when Adam and Eve sinned in Genesis 3, that one act of rebellion against God poured out its consequences upon all mankind. It caused each person to inherit the sinful nature so that we are born not desiring God or obedience to Him. But the results of Adam’s and Eve’s sin also brought death upon all humanity.

Romans 5:12 (NLT): “When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.”

Living here in Florida, it’s not unusual to see alligators in ponds and creeks. In fact, a story out of Tampa a few years back told of a lady who had left her back sliding door open, and an alligator made its way into her kitchen.

Using that illustration, sin opened the door, and the alligator of death made its way into the human experience and has wreaked havoc. As Jesus’ heart broke over the pain that the alligator caused, He was livid at what allowed the alligator into the house in the first place. Jesus got angry at sin and its consequences for breaking the hearts of His dear friends.

But, thank the Lord(!), Jesus’ death on the cross and the vacant tomb turned the tide. It defeated sin and death. And we look forward to the day when there will no longer be sin, or any of its consequences, including tears and death (Revelation 21:4).

In the meanwhile, life will sting. We will be faced with the horrible consequences of our own sin and with Adam’s sin. Friend, realize that God is not indifferent to our struggle. It angers Him that His beloved children have to go through such pain. And He looks forward to calling us home one day, never to suffer from sin’s consequences again!


Matt Ellis is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Polk City, Florida (fbcpolkcity.com). His latest book is God’s Grace in the Real World. Connect with him on FacebookTwitter, or LinkedIn.

Photo by adrianna geo on Unsplash

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I have an incredible wife that God gave to me on May 10, 1997. Since then, the Lord has blessed us with three wonderful boys. I am also the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Polk City, Florida.

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