The Emotions of Christ

The Emotions of Christ

In the events surrounding the last of the ‘signs’ of John’s Gospel – the raising of Lazarus, we get an insight into the heart and soul of the Word made flesh. It commences with the encounter that Martha had with her Master on the road as He approached Bethany. John is fulsome in the detailed discussion that took place and would indicate that all the while Martha was standing as they conversed. Her opening remark “Lord if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” has the feeling of a rebuke. Whereas Mary, while she used the same words said them on her knees weeping in an attitude of adoration and worship. This attitude corresponds with Luke’s account of the Lord’s visit to Martha and Mary’s home. The former over wrought, complains that she is left alone to serve while Mary sat at His feet. The word ‘weeping’ used of Mary and those who were with her was really a wailing, customary of those times. Whereas the word used by Jesus means the tears were running down His face! Divine eyes shedding human tears.

The Gospel records that “when Jesus saw her weeping…. he groaned in the spirit and was troubled.” adding, as he approached the tomb, He “groaned within himself” Groaning here has a particular signification. It means anger to the point of indignation. Many years ago a speaker, whose name I can’t recall, said this expression had in it the thought of the neighing of angry horses. In this connection It is interesting to note that in Job 39:20-21 referring to the horse it says “the glory of its snorting is terrible”. Whether or not this can be attributed to “groaning” as referred to by John ,we cannot underestimate the intensity of anger in the Lord’s utterance. We might ask “Why so?”

When the Creator made man it was in His image, to have dominion over His creation. Now that man is a decaying corpse behind a stone in a tomb in the grip of death! Death was the outcome of sin. The arch enemy Satan had ruined God’s handiwork. Referring to this In the Gospel According to John by G. Campbell Morgan, he comments “All the wrath of God surged through Him, in the presence of human misery, resulting from human sin, the issuing of death and the breaking of human hearts”. He knew He had come to destroy the destroyer, but in that conflict there would be a cost. The adjoining words “and was troubled” means “troubled Himself”. It is the same word as used in John 5:4 where it says “the angel troubled the waters” In other words, the waters rippled as though they were trembling. Does this indicate that the Lord physically trembled in the midst of His indignation? Again we ask, if so, why? Could it be that in order to bring Lazarus out of death to life, He, Himself would have to go in and encounter death to “defeat him who had the power of death , that is the devil, and to deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” (Hebrews 2:15)? The cost to Him would be enormous. He would make Himself responsible for the sinner’s sin, “bearing them in His own body on the tree” 1 Peter 2:24. And in the darkness to utter the cry of abandonment “My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46. The very thought of it all caused Him to tremble!

And what about those “tears?” They could hardly be those of sympathy, because He knew that very shortly He would remove the cause of the grief bringing joy instead of sorrow. It surely must be a prelude to those referred to in Hebrews 5:7 “…in the days of his flesh when he had offered up prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears”. It is important to note that His groaning and troubling preceded His weeping.

When the group of mourners finally arrive at the tomb Jesus commanded them to remove the stone. When this was done, despite Martha’s protest we are told “Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, Father, I thank thee that Thou heardest me….” His emotions now turn from earth to heaven and the language He used indicates a continuous perfect harmony with His Father. In other words, the Father was with Him all the way through as He now displays to the multitude His divine credentials “that they may believe that thou didst send Me”.

How wonderful and revealing in this ‘sign’, clearly indicating that the raising of Lazarus pointed forward to that great coming age when “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes” (Revelation 21:4) and see the full accomplishment of Calvary and the amazing journey that our beloved Lord took so willingly in order to secure our eternal salvation.

We must not overlook one other specific reference to the Lord’s emotions. It is recorded for us in Luke 19:41-44; regarding the forth coming destruction of Jerusalem, “And when he drew near he saw the city and wept over it. Saying, If thou hadst known in this day, the things which belong unto peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, when thine enemies…. shall dash thee to the ground and thy children within thee, and they will not leave one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation” This last expression revives in our minds the truth as recorded in John 1:11 “He came unto his own (things) and his own (people) received him not.” William Mcdonald in his Commentary states ‘If the nation had recognised who He was they would have had peace, but now it was too late’ 

Luke tells us that as he approached the city from the Mount of Olives “the multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice… Saying, Blessed is the King that cometh in the name of the Lord; peace in heaven and glory in the highest” All that they proclaimed was true but little did they realise that their King at that time had other thoughts, thoughts that pained His heart. From Olivet He had a panoramic view of the city with the beautiful Temple dominating the scene. Yes, it was the place of Divine choice described by the Psalmist in his Song of Ascents “Wither the tribes go up… to give thanks unto the name of the Lord, peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces…” Psalm 122.  But on this occasion Luke gives us an insight into His emotions. “As he drew near” LOVES APPROACH “he beheld the city” LOVES APPEAL “and wept over it” LOVES AGONY! Is it too much to postulate that as He stood there His heart was breaking?

We would do well to take time to contemplate with awe and wonder these scenes that reveal the emotions of our beloved Lord’s true humanity. But at the same time, to join with Isaac Watts as he reminds us of His ever abiding Deity.

With joy we meditate the grace of our High Priest above;

His heart o’er flows with tenderness,

His very Name is love.

He, when He sojourned here below,

Poured forth His cries and tears;

And though exalted, feels afresh,

What every member bears.


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