Jesus, in His dying hour, cried out “I thirst.” (John. 19:28) And, in another hour of darkness, having fasted 40 days and 40 nights, tempted of the Devil, it was said of the God man that He was hungry. (Matt. 4:2) Reading through the gospel accounts of the life and labors of God who had taken on flesh, having been made (Gal. 4:4) in the likeness of men (Phil. 2:7), one observes that He was at times weary, angry, troubled and always in “all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebs. 4:15)
On one occasion, at the grave side of His deceased friend, Lazarus, Jesus was stirred in His spirit when he beheld the grief of the sisters of Lazarus, intimate friends all of the Lord Jesus as He ministered so selflessly to so many during those short-lived final three years of His earthly embodiment in flesh. The humble house in Bethany where Lazarus lived with his sisters, Mary and Martha, was a haven for Him and therefore often frequented by Jesus where He would enjoy many a sumptuous meal and limitless near-Eastern hospitality.
It had to have come as a shock to Jesus’ disciples when news came that Lazarus was sick and in fact dying. Even greater must have been their consternation when Jesus did not immediately leave for Bethany so that He might speak the healing words that He had so often spoken to raise so many off beds of affliction. Now, for one of His dearest earthly friends, Lazarus, brother to two women who had devotedly served Him, followed Him, and learned at His feet, Jesus tarried two days and when He and the disciples finally did arrive, Lazarus had been in the grave, as was the Jewish custom, since the day he had passed, four days (or any part of a day), by this time.
Moving toward the tomb, it was Mary who seeing Jesus, fell at His feet, crying, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” (John 11:32) Jesus, knowing the answer before He asked, but communicating with these grieving souls on their level, asked, “Where have ye laid Him?” (v.34) But, before that question, John records that Jesus, seeing Mary weeping, “groaned in the spirit and was troubled.” (John 11:33)
Have you ever paused in wonder at that scene? Jesus, who knew Lazarus before He was born, nearing his grave, with his grief-stricken family and friends, was stirred in His spirit!
That speaks volumes to those of us who know that our High Priest, seated at the right hand of God the Father, takes note of our frame, remembering we are but dust, and in so doing, is moved by our suffering, our losses, our farewells to family and friends who have been claimed by the clammy claws of death.
Jesus was stirred, even to weeping (v. 35) because He had loved Lazarus and could remember the fellowship around his well spread table in the humble, hospitable home in Bethany.
He knew well the sacrifices Lazarus and Mary and Martha had made to invest in the itinerant ministry of this Prophet of Galilee.
He knew also, just at the moment of the weeping on the way to the wake, Lazarus was in the “bosom of Abraham,” safe, comfortable and free of pain, victor over the ravages of death, free from the struggles of this world, waiting the cross, crucifixion and resurrection of his Friend and Savior, Jesus, so that from Abraham’s bosom he could be led to glory as Jesus would descend to Hades (paradise) and deliver those Old Testament saints by His resurrected power to Heaven above. Knowing the sorrow and sadness that the mourners were experiencing, and knowing and understanding what He knew and understood, Jesus groaned in His spirit, no doubt aching in His spirit because of the clouded understanding those suffering, sorrowing saints had of the hope and eternal happiness that awaited those who, like Lazarus, were believers who had bowed the knee before Jesus as Messiah.
Yes, Jesus groaned and even wept possibly for a myriad of reasons. He knew that the death of Lazarus, as with all of humanity, was because of the sin of disobedience, the wages of which are death. (Rom.6:23) He groaned no doubt over the thought of the horrendous human toll that sin had taken from earth’s earliest ages and would continue to take until the last syllable of recorded time as we know it. He groaned because of the innumerable families, friends and fellow human beings that had been and would be utterly devastated emotionally, spiritually and often physically by the separation death mandates and the utter feeling of despair that often accompanies it, especially to those who have not the hope of David, Paul the Apostle and all believers who have had the sting taken out of death because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, first fruits of them that sleep. (I Cor. 15:20)
Oh, how Jesus must have groaned when, thinking of the “Lazarus, Come Forth” command that He was about to utter, knowing that His dear friend, for the sake of bringing many to belief, would come from that “bosom of Abraham” to awake again to this world of cruelty, crime and unbelief.
So, as you contemplate those wonderful words ”‘He groaned in the spirit,” just pause with me today and give thanks for our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who, “being in the form of God…made Himself of no reputation…and was made in the likeness of men.” (Phil. 2;7)
Thank God the Father, through the Spirit, that we have in the heavenlies, making intercession for us, a God that can and does groan!
“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)