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FIRST-PERSON: The God who fights for us

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During a basketball game when I was in school, I was fouled in the act of shooting, but the referee did not blow the whistle. Suddenly I heard this bellowing come from my usually mild- mannered coach. I turned just in time to see him launch a towel over his head way up into the stands.

Todd Fisher

My coach was so demonstrative that the referee then blew his whistle to give my coach a

technical foul. I stood there and watched him support me in the most boisterous way I’d ever seen—all in support of me! As a result, my teammates and I were motivated knowing our coach was standing on our behalf.

I think about that experience when I read multiple places in the Bible where God says He will fight for His people. Moses told the Israelites on the shore of the Red Sea, “The Lord will fight for you” (Exod. 14:14); God assured Gideon he would fight for the people and told him to reduce the number of their army “lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved

me’” (Judges 7:2); David told Saul in reference to Goliath, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from this Philistine” (1 Sam. 17:37).

What an encouragement to know that God is fighting on our behalf! I want you to consider a unique word in the New Testament that shows the depth of God’s advocacy for us.

One such occasion is in John 11:33 and 38. When Jesus sees Mary and others weeping over the death of Lazarus, many translations state He is “deeply moved in his spirit” (v.33). John repeats the same word again of Jesus when He stands before the tomb of Lazarus (v. 38). “Deeply

moved” can be somewhat vague and could include a wide range of emotions––sadness, empathy, compassion. However, the word John uses in Greek is not vague at all and describes a very specific emotion: anger.

The Greek word translated “deeply moved” is embrimaomai—I remember this word by thinking, “To be filled to the brim in anger!” The word was used in that day of a horse snorting in anger and refers to a demonstrable expression of anger on the part of someone.

John is telling us that Jesus is so angry regarding the death of Lazarus that He makes a physical sound—a snort or groan not once, but two different times. In fact, Jesus’ short, abrupt statements after each “snort” reveal his emotion, “Where have you laid him?” and “Take away the stone.” I guess it seems out of place to have Jesus “snort,” so translators often say “deeply moved.”

But at whom or what is Jesus angry? Mary or Martha? Lazarus? The Jewish leaders who were present? No. Jesus is angry at sin. He is angry at death and that it has affected His friend Lazarus. This is a powerful scene because it shows the depth at which God “fights” for us. Jesus is mad at the sin that hinders us from walking closely with Him. He is mad at disease and death that comes from the result of a sin-fallen world.

It meant a great deal to me that day on the basketball court that my coach defended me with such passion and even anger. Knowing I had an advocate like that made me want to play even better. The same is true in our spiritual lives. We have an advocate in Jesus Christ who is praying for us and fighting for us who is angry at the things that enslave us and bring about death.

Jesus says in this same passage that He is the resurrection and the life. One day He will return, consummate His kingdom, and His followers will live for eternity with Him. But until that day, we can also be grateful Jesus is fighting for us in the daily struggles we have against sin. What a strong advocate we have in Jesus who encourages us and enables us to walk with Him.

This article first appeared in The Baptist Messenger.

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  • Todd Fisher