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Jesus Confronts Death

Jesus was greatly disturbed in spirit, and deeply moved.

Dear Family in Christ,

The Gospel for the 5th Sunday of Lent gives us a glimpse of the human heart of Jesus as He faces the death of His friend Lazarus. We see His emotional response; much is made of the fact that ‘Jesus began to weep’. It is His other response, however, that reveals His Divinity.

When Jesus saw the sisters of Lazarus mourning, and the tomb where Lazarus was buried, He ‘was greatly disturbed in spirit, and deeply moved.’ As the translations become more literal, they also get more visceral- and even strange. A more literal translation says that He ‘groaned inwardly’, but even that doesn’t quite capture Jesus’ response.

It isn’t until we get to the original Greek verb that Jesus’ response takes on a different tone. The Greek word we hear translated as ‘greatly disturbed’ is ebrimaomai, which literally means to ‘charge with earnest admonition’, to ‘warn sternly’, to ‘rebuke harshly’, to ‘threaten’, or (my personal favourite) to ‘snort with anger’. What does this tell us?

While He is fully man, Jesus is not simply another mourner at the grave of Lazarus. He is the Son of God, the Resurrection and the Life- and here He is, face to face not just with the death of His friend, but with Death itself; not just the end of earthly life, but separation from the source of all life, God Himself. Jesus came not primarily to teach and work miracles, but to wage war on Death, to rob the grave of its power and Hell of its victory.

When Jesus confronts Death at the Tomb of Lazarus, He doesn’t just weep like the average mourner; He ‘snorts with anger’, like a war horse pawing the ground ready to charge into battle. Neither Hollywood, nor all professional sports have ever seen a greater pair of enemies, a rivalry so bitter as that of Life and Death. At the grave of Lazarus, Jesus solemnly declares war on Death and begins to reveal His power over it. On Holy Saturday, He will see this battle through.

All of Hell trembles as Jesus, the eternal grave robber, beats down its gates which cannot prevail against Him. Aren’t you glad He’s on our side?

God Love You,

Father Daniel

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