He was deeply moved in his spirit.

“Jésus pleura” — James Tissot
a blog post from Galen Dalrymple

When Jesus saw her crying, and the Jews who had come with her crying, he was deeply moved in his spirit and troubled.

John 11:33 (CSBBible)

John 11 is my favorite narrative chapter in the Bible. It is full of drama, emotion, and wonder. The climax of the story comes when Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. How I would have loved to be there to witness that firsthand! (I’m hoping there will be “instant replay” in heaven so we can watch all the biblical stories.)

Lazarus was Jesus’ friend. Yet it is when he sees the grief of his friends Mary and Martha, as well as the rest of the mourners, that Jesus becomes “deeply troubled”. Here we encounter an unfortunate translation. The word is used three other times in the gospels to describe rebuke or a stern warning. In this context, some have translated it as “Jesus was moved to anger in his spirit” or as Rieu put it: “He gave way to such distress of spirit as made his body tremble.” In classical Greek, it was used of the sound of a horse snorting, indicating that an involuntary groan was likely wrung from Jesus’ heart and lips.

This is vitally important to understand about Jesus: he enters so deeply into our hurts and sorrows that his heart is torn with anguish. William Barclay puts it this way in his commentary on the Gospel of John:

But there is more. To any Greek reading this—and we must remember that it was written for Greeks—this would be a staggering and incredible picture. John had written his whole gospel on the theme that in Jesus we see the mind of God. To the Greek the primary characteristic of God was what he called apatheia (from which we get “apathy”), which means total inability to feel any emotion whatsoever.

“How did the Greeks come to attribute such a characteristic to God? They argued like this: if we can feel sorrow or joy, gladness or grief, it means that someone can have an effect upon us. Now, if a person has an effect upon us, it means that for the moment that person has power over us. No one can have any power over God; and this must mean that God is essentially incapable of feeling any emotion whatsoever. The Greeks believed in an isolated, passionless and compassionless God.”

Instead of presenting the heart of God to us as the Greeks believed, Jesus shows us a God with a heart torn in anguish for the sufferings of his people. Perhaps this is the greatest revelation of all which Jesus have given us about the Father: God is a God who loves and deeply identifies with us in our plight.

Stephen Ministers have hearts that care, too, and they come along those in pain. If you could use a Stephen Minister, contact Deacon Rob Lewis or Galen Dalrymple. You can also contact us if you interested in becoming a Stephen Minister to help those who hurt.