Sermon for Easter, April 4, 2010

Job 19:23-27a (The Resurrection of Our Lord)

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

April 4, 2010

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Our text today is from Job 19:

“Oh that my words were written! Oh that they were inscribed in a book! Oh that with an iron pen and lead they were engraved in the rock forever! For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.

 There was a Jewish college student who always sang in the school’s annual presentation of Handel’s Messiah.  She explained, “In my head I don’t believe in Jesus and am not too sure about God.  But when I sing the ‘Hallelujah Chorus,’ I believe in my heart that Christ rose from the dead.”  Sometimes there is a disconnect between what the head knows and what the heart believes.  Easter, however, is the day that brings head and heart knowledge together so that the Christian can declare with absolute certainty, “I know that my Redeemer lives!” 

It’s difficult to know things that we can’t see or be aware of or become acquainted with.  Job had no knowledge of Satan’s accusations against him before God’s throne.  Satan asked the central question of the book, “Does Job fear God for no reason?”  In other words, why should Job or any other person fear, love, and trust in God?  Satan wants to show that a person only serves God because He rewards obedience or punishes disobedience.  Job’s three friends take up this understanding and they argue with Job about this issue for most of the book. 

 Fast forward in time to the early dawn of the first day of the week.  The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and the other women, went to the tomb taking the spices they had prepared.  They were planning on anointing Jesus’ dead body for its permanent burial, following the hasty preparations on Good Friday as the Sabbath was beginning.  But Jesus’ body was not there.  Two angels stood in dazzling apparel, asking, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”  It’s difficult to know things that we can’t see or be aware of or become acquainted with. 

But so that the women would know with certainty the events of that morning, the angels said, “He is not here, but has risen.  Remember how he told you, while He was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”  Luke records that the women did remember and returned from the tomb to tell the eleven and all the rest!  But it’s difficult to know things that you can’t see, so to them these words seemed like an idle tale and they didn’t believe the first witnesses of the empty tomb. 

What a contrast to Job!  Centuries before the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, decades and decades before His crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection, Job declared the Easter message, “I, even I myself, know my Redeemer lives!”  Job confesses millennia before the Resurrection his complete and utter certainty of the Living Lord.  Job admits that there is a Redeemer, that the Lord is his Savior.   Job learned true wisdom from the Lord, which comes from “fear” and repentance so that he could say with all certainty, “I know my Redeemer lives.” 

With those words Job beautifully points forward to Jesus of Nazareth, the very Son-of-God-made-flesh, who suffered Satan’s accusations, temptation, and finally endured suffering and death on a cross in order to redeem all people from sin.   To “redeem” means to buy back.  Our Redeemer, Jesus, bought us back from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil.  Upon the cross Christ took upon Himself our guilt and the punishment for our sins which we deserved.  He shed His holy, precious blood to make us clean from all our sins.  Through His suffering, death, and resurrection, Jesus has triumphed over death.  Since He now gives you and me eternal life through the forgiveness of sins, we need not fear death.  What’s more, the ancient accuser, the devil himself, has been completely conquered.  Satan can no longer accuse us of our sins and we can resist his temptations. 

It has been said that Satan, either in reality or in a dream, appeared in the depth of the night and addressed the Reformer Martin Luther in the following terms: ‘Luther, how dare you pretend to be a reformer of the Church?  Luther, let your memory do its duty—let your conscience do its duty: you have committed this sin—you have been guilty of that sin; you have omitted this duty, and you have neglected that duty: let your reform begin in your own heart.  How dare you attempt to be a reformer of the Church?’  Luther, with the self-possession and fairness by which he was characterized, (whether it was a dream or reality, he himself professes not to decide,) said to Satan, ‘Take up the slate that lies on the table, and write down all the sins with which you have now charged me; and if there be any additional, add them, too.’  Satan, rejoiced to have the opportunity of accusing.  He took up a pencil and wrote a long and painful roll of the real or imputed sins of Luther.  Luther said, ‘Have you written the whole?’  Satan answered, ‘Yes, and a black and dark catalogue it is, and sufficient to deter you from making any attempt to reform others, till you have first purified and reformed yourself.’  Luther said, ‘Take up the slate and write as I shall dictate to you.  My sins are many; my transgressions in the sight of an infinitely holy God are countless as the hairs of my head: in me there dwells no good thing; but, Satan, after the last sin you have recorded, write the announcement which I shall repeat from 1 John 1:7, “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin.”  Luther in that text had peace; and Satan, knowing the source of his peace, had no more advantage against him.

And Satan has no more advantage against you.  Jesus Christ has died.  He has shed His blood once for all on the cross.  He now lives again, risen from the dead.  The tomb is empty.  I know my Redeemer lives!  By raising Christ from the dead, God the Father has accepted Jesus’ sacrifice for the sins of the world.  Because Jesus lives, you and I are guaranteed that our sins are all forgiven, even the ones we have yet to commit.  And with our sins forgiven, we have life everlasting.  No longer does death have any power over us.  We heard this good news in our Epistle lesson, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.  But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.  Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.  For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.  The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (1 Corinthians 15:22-26)

This, too, Job knew.  He knew that because He has a living Redeemer that death is but the gate to eternal life.  He knew by faith that death would not have the last say because he, like his Redeemer, would live again: “And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.” (Job 19:26-27)  On the Last Day, our living Redeemer, Jesus Christ, will raise us and all the dead.  The same bodies that have died will be made alive.  All believers in Jesus Christ will rise with glorified bodies and enter everlasting life in heaven with ever-living Lord. 

It’s difficult to know things that we can’t see or be aware of or become acquainted with.  But like Job, like the women on that first Easter, like all Christians of every time and place, “we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Cor. 5:7)  By faith we trust the word of God spoken through the angels, “He is not here, but has risen.”  By faith we confess that Jesus Christ is our living Savior and Redeemer, who rescued us from sin, death, and the devil.  Our sins are forgiven; death has zero power over us.  And even now as we believe in Christ our Savior through faith, we know that we have been chosen to eternal life out of pure grace in Christ without any merit of our own.  Our forgiveness, life, and salvation are all God’s free gift to us through the suffering, death, and resurrection of our Redeemer Jesus.  Because of this gift of faith and life, no one can snatch us out of our living Redeemer’s hand—not sin, not Satan, not death.  “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.  And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.” Amen.