April 20, 2014
St. John Lutheran Church, Fraser, MI
For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh shall I see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. Job 19:25-27
Job was a man who understood the meaning of the word pain. He understood what it was to suffer. He knew firsthand the hurts and trials that life could hold. Here was a man who, at one time, was wealthy almost beyond measure. In the words of Scripture, “this man was the greatest of all the people of the east.” But at the hand of Satan, Job
lost everything he had on this earth. He lost his children to the swords of his enemies and the collapse of their house. He lost his flocks to fire from heaven and a band of thieves. He lost his health, becoming deathly ill, so ill that even his wife chided him, saying, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” With his life in shambles, his children dead, his wife telling him to throw in the towel, and his friends offering not words of comfort or assurance, but rather trying to uncover some secret sin that they could blame for his misfortune, Job speaks words of unwavering faith. “After my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh shall I see God.”
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this joyous Easter morning, these are our words too, for in Job we see a picture of ourselves. Like Job, we find ourselves surrounded by death and suffering. We too live in a world where our loved ones get sick and die. I would venture to guess that there’s not a person in this room today who hasn’t had their life or their family touched by a major disease of some kind. I would venture to guess that there’s not a person here today over the age of 21 who has not grieved the death of a loved one. If I’m wrong, if there is someone here who has never tasted the bitterness of sickness or death, then I’m truly happy for you. But even you will not avoid it forever. Even if you’ve managed to avoid it to this point, you haven’t avoided all its effects. If a casket at the end of the line was the only problem we face, that would be bad enough in itself. But to add insult to injury, like Job we too live in a world where enemies threaten us daily from all sides. There is the threat of unemployment or underemployment. There are those who daily find their joy being eaten away at by mental illness or depression, by loneliness or fear. There are coworkers and neighbors who seem to have made it their sole purpose to make your life miserable. There is the guilt or shame that we feel over a poor choice, shame that we can’t get rid of, shame that clings to us like a strand of hair charged with static. There’s the feeling of inadequacy that is so hard to shake.
We live in a world where there is so much pain, so much suffering, so much frustration that it would be futile to try and describe it all, and no one knows better than you the scars it has left on your own existence. We live in a world of disease and famine, a world that promises to be many things to many people, but ultimately delivers only one thing to all its inhabitants without bias: death. For in this world all things die. Plants and animals alike share one fate. Governments and empires and political initiatives fade away. Even towering buildings and impressive monuments of great men will one day be reduced to trunkless legs of stone and a face half-buried under the sands of time. We spend our days in a dying world victimized by constant decay, and here comes Satan whispering in our ear, “What’s the point? Life is too difficult. Curse God and die,” or perhaps, “Life is too short, indulge that passion, indulge that lust, embrace the greed.” He promises that it will make the hurt go away. He promises it will make life truly worth living. “Eat, drink, and be merry,” he says, “for tomorrow you may die.”
Tomorrow you may die. In those four words you have the heart of the conflict: the world simply cannot answer the question of death. Actually, it doesn’t even try to. Instead of addressing the problem of death, the philosophies of this world dodge the question put forth the idea that death is natural, simply one more step in the circle of life. The world’s theory of origin requires the presence of death so that the fittest species may survive while the weaker genes are weeded out by predators and disease. This world’s view of pleasure stems from the belief that because we will all die one day anyway, we should enjoy life as much as we want right now, carpe diem,seize the day, for at your back you always hear time’s wingéd chariot drawing near, chasing you down so that it can bury you six feet under. But if death is natural as the world claims, then so also is the suffering that leads to death. Yet our instinct refuses to believe this. No matter what the philosophies of the world tell us, suffering still hurts. Death still hurts. People still cling to life and fight to stay alive. God’s fingerprint buried deep down inside us will not allow us to embrace suffering as natural. That’s why it is so tempting to try to hide from the pain through countless distractions and medications and self-medications, trying to drown the sorrows, or at least dull the senses so that it doesn’t hurt as much, all the while ignoring the 300lb gorilla in the corner whose shadow looms over us all and whose name is death. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, says Satan, for he knows the man behind the curtain is no wizard. He’s the grim reaper. Satan knows the world cannot answer the great question of death, so he has taught the world to ignore it. His ultimate goal in all of it is to have us lose hope. The devil wants us to curse God and accept death, to give in to the despair and live for this life only.
But like Job, we know that there is more to our existence than the pain and suffering and decay around us. We know that even though physical death awaits us on this earth, paradise awaits us when we leave this veil of tears. For like Job we know that our Redeemer lives, and that at last he will stand upon the Earth. And after our skin has been destroyed, yet in our flesh we shall see God. We shall see him for ourselves. Our eyes shall behold him. This is the joy of the resurrection. This is the joy of Easter. When it comes right down to it, this is Christianity.
So often the world treats Christianity as if it is nothing more than one system of morality among many. So often we in the church are tempted to act in the same way. So often we are tempted to act as if the main purpose of the church was to eliminate a particular cultural sin like homosexuality or pornography or abortion, as if that would eliminate sin altogether. So often we are tempted to act as if the main purpose of the church is to eliminate poverty or end world hunger or stop pollution, as if that would bring about peace on earth. So often we are tempted to act as if the purpose of the church was to help us get our families in order or help us manage our finances or teach us to live our best life now, as if that would provide lasting happiness. But each of those misses the point. It’s not that our Lord is silent about sin in the world or about acts of charity or about our vocations in our families, but each of those is fruit of the tree. The tree itself is the resurrection of Jesus. If our message is for this life only, then we are of all people most to be pitied. For this life ends in death, regardless of which president you voted for or how many plastic bottles you recycled. No matter what kind of family life you had or what your bank account looked like, death is the penultimate chapter in every person’s story. Then what? What’s the final chapter? At the last our Redeemer who lives will stand upon the earth. And after our skin has been destroyed, yet in our flesh shall we see God, whom each of us shall see for himself, and our eyes shall behold, and not another.
The resurrection makes all the difference. It gives us a perspective that gets us
through any earthly trial or tribulation. As I’ve told you before, I love watching football and basketball on TV. But there’s something different about watching a classic game when you already know the outcome. When I watch sports live, I get all worked up when my team turns the ball over or commits a foolish penalty, as I’m sure will happen when I sit down to watch the Red Wings this afternoon. But when I’m watching a game I’ve seen before, one that I know my team will win, I don’t sweat the small stuff. I may not like the turnovers or penalties, but they don’t bother me as much because I know how the game will end. So also the life of a Christian in light of the resurrection of Jesus. You know how the story ends. Jesus is the firstfruits, we are the harvest. Jesus is already risen from the dead, we too will be raised on the last day. At that point, whatever money problems or relationship issues or sicknesses we have in this life will be washed away as we cross the river of life to enter paradise. Whatever shame or guilt gnawed at you on this side of the grave will be gone forever. The resurrection of Jesus is your guarantee from God that such a future awaits you, and the anticipation of such an eternity gives us the strength to face any challenges this life throws our way.
Such is the joy of the resurrection. Such is your life in Christ. As we arrive at the end of Lent and Holy Week, we rejoice that we are Easter people. More than a one day celebration of an empty tomb, the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus is the foundation for our whole existence. While the world clamors for us to lose hope, we cry out with Job, “No. You cannot take my hope, for I know that my redeemer lives.” When Satan tempts us to curse God and embrace death, we join our voices as the people of the resurrection and proclaim: Christ is Risen! Alleluia! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!
May our resurrected and living Lord Jesus guard your hearts and minds in the true faith through whatever this life throws your way until the day of your resurrection.
 Job 1:3
 Job 2:9
 Job 19:26
 Ozymandias – Percy Bysshe Shelly
 To His Coy Mistress – Andrew Marvell
 Job 19:25-27