Death Defeaters

Death DefeatersPicture the cemetery scene in John 11: the hysterical wailing and shrieking; unrestrained weeping and the chaos that must have been; the stench that was coming from more than one body in that dug out tomb; the utter hopelessness of the situation.

The hopelessness of the people.

Martha says, “Jesus if you had only been here…but there’s nothing you can do now.” Mary says, “If you had only been here, Jesus…but it’s too late now.” The friends and the mourners say, “What a shame Jesus didn’t get here sooner to keep Lazarus from dying.”

All hope for Lazarus — this great friend, this brother — is gone because he’s dead.

But Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. Christ is the One who personifies victory and life and resurrection as powerful realities. And he’s standing right there! He’s angry at what death has done — and is doing — to his people, to his world, to his creation. His tears are not for Lazarus. He knows he’s coming up. Jesus’ tears, I’m convinced, are connected to deep anger. This scene is the result of sin and death. And Jesus is there — he’s here! — to reverse the damage.

They tell Jesus they believe. But they look at dead Lazarus and they feel hopelessness. It’s over. There’s no hope for Lazarus because he’s dead. They’re not expecting anything.

Satan uses our fear of death as a terrible weapon against us. Hebrews 2:15 says the devil holds the power of death and holds us in slavery by our fear of death. No wonder Jesus is so upset! He sees in this Bethany cemetery the ravages and devastation of sin and death and Satan in the people and the world he created.

Death is the enemy. But it’s no match for the Lord of Life. He tells the sisters the sickness will not end in death. He tells his disciples he’s going to wake Lazarus up. He tells Martha her brother will rise again. Even if you die, he says, if you believe in me you’ll live.

With Christ Jesus, death does not have the last word. Death does not have the final say. Death is not the bottom line. The Lord of Life is the ultimate power with the ultimate authority.

And as resurrected believers, we ought to live like it.

Afraid of death? No! Jesus has overcome death!

Dragged down by sickness or the other things that afflict us in this earthly life? No! Jesus has already defeated those things.

Is your hope stolen away by sin, by bad choices, by the destructive things you’ve experienced? No! Jesus has already obliterated it all.

So, why don’t we live like it? That’s what has Jesus so upset, that Satan causes the bad things that happen to us in this world to distract us from the reality that in Christ, we’ve already defeated all of it.

We are death-defeaters in Jesus. It’s already done. As baptized participants in the resurrection community, death has nothing on us now. And neither does sin.


Red Ribbon ReviewThe Dallas Cowboys claim they don’t retire jersey numbers. But they do. Yes, there are some members of the hallowed Ring of Honor who have seen their numbers worn by other Cowboys. And that’s OK. But, whether they admit it or not, there are some numbers — an exclusive two or three — that are just sacred. They should be retired. And they are. Whether the Cowboys call it that or not, they are. #12 is one of those numbers. And so is #74.

So there’s no #74 in our Red Ribbon Review today. Only one player has ever donned that number in Cowboys history. And I will not desecrate him or his name by mentioning him in this space.

There are 74 days left until Cowboys season. But you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to get a second-best player.




  1. James Prather

    I don’t know if his crying was so much tied to anger as it is sadness that his friends are in pain. The Greek word there that is translated as “wept” is one that means a soft, quiet crying. Later when Jesus cries because the people of Jerusalem missed the big picture and instead were wanting a military Messiah, the Greek word used is one of uncontrollable and violent sobbing (Like 19:41). If anything, I’d think the Luke 19 crying was more tied to anger.

  2. Allan

    The greek word in v.33 and v.38 translated in the NIV as “deeply moved in spirit” literally means an audible snort like that of a horse in a race or a war. It means a harsh expression of anger or displeasure. The word represents conflict and confrontation, not sympathy.

    Richard Schnackenburg, a German theologian who’s written a three-volume commentary on John says this word “indicates an outburst of anger, and any attempt to reinterpret it in terms of an internal emotional upset caused by grief, pain, or sympathy is illegitimate.”

    The KJV is a little better at translating this word in v.33 and v.38: “groaned in the spirit and troubled” and “groaning in himself.”

    The New Living Translation is even better: “moved with indignation and deeply troubled” and “moved with deep anger.”

    I think The Message is right on: “a deep anger welled up within him” and “anger again welling up within him.”

    I’m no Greek scholar. Not even close. But I see how this cemetery scene, in light of the reality of the resurrection, would upset our Lord. I think Christ has come face to face with the enemy: death. And he’s angry at what death is doing to his people, his world, his creation.

    The word John uses to describe the shout of our Savior in v.43 is translated “called in a loud voice” by the NIV. It’s the exact same word John uses to describe the voice the angry crowds used to scream “crucify him!” less than two weeks later. I think when Jesus screams “Lazarus, come out!” it’s a battle cry, it’s a war yell. Not at Lazarus but at and against death and Satan. Knowing that what he was about to do was going to be the shot heard ’round the world, that the events of the day would directly lead to his own suffering and death, that this would escalate matters between him and death — between him and Satan — that this would take it to all out war. Knowing this and feeling this, I think Jesus looks into the tomb. But he’s staring Satan square in the eyes. And he screams. A loud shout of holy power and authority. “Lazarus, come out!”

    I think Jesus was ticked.

  3. James Prather

    Hmmm…that’s very interesting! I suppose from the context you have given in verse 33 and 38, one could suppose that his crying was not merely from sympathy but an anger against death and its power.

    I like it. Keep up the good work, brother.


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