Quasimodogeniti Sunday Sermon
April 11, 2010
“I Know that My Redeemer Lives”
For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! Job 19:25-27
I know that my Redeemer lives. So we sing. So Job confessed. He made this Christian confession about four thousand years ago – two thousand years before Jesus was born. We don’t know exactly when Job lived, but it is likely that it was about the time of Abraham. Job looked forward to his redemption by his Redeemer. We look back to the same event. We see in Easter the vindication of Job’s confession and of ours as well.
Job was a devout man. He lived an upright life. No one could find fault with him. He was a sinner as is everyone born of the flesh, but he did not live a life of service to sin. He lived a holy life, the kind of life to which God calls all of his children.
Job was also a very wealthy man. He had thousands of camels and thousands of sheep. God had blessed him with many children. He was admired by everyone.
Satan told God that the only reason Job lived such a good life was because God had given him so much. Take away what he has and he will curse you, Satan claimed. So God permitted Satan to deprive Job of all of his wealth. He lost everything, including his children. Job responded by saying:
Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked shall I return there.
The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the LORD. (Job 1:21)
Then God permitted Satan to strike at Job’s health. He suffered from painful boils all over his body. His faithless wife told him to curse God and die. Job refused. He did not accuse God of doing wrong.
Job was sorely tempted during his suffering. His friends told him that God was punishing him for his sins. Job confessed his sins, trusted in the promised Redeemer, and knew that God was not punishing him. He lived under grace. He lived under the forgiveness of sins to be purchased by the blood of the promised Redeemer. Whenever he offered up a burnt offering to God he confessed this faith. Job knew that God was not punishing him, but he surely didn’t understand why God was letting him suffer in such profound misery.
There was no explanation for it. Job cried out to God and man alike. He poured out his heart. His friends gave him bad advice and God said nothing at all. Job wanted to know why he was suffering. He complained to God. He wanted to understand. But God wouldn’t tell him why he was suffering. When God finally answered Job and spoke to him out of the whirlwind he offered no explanation for Job’s suffering. Instead, God made it crystal clear that he would not be put on trial. He owes us no explanation for our suffering and pain. It is he who stands in judgment of us; not we who stand in judgment of him.
It was in the midst of his anguish that Job spoke the words we take to heart today. “I know that my Redeemer lives.” Two thousand years before he was born of the Virgin Mary he was living. Indeed, he was living from eternity for he is the eternal Son of the eternal Father, God of God, light of light, very God of very God. Job knew him. He knew him by faith. He trusted in him as his Redeemer.
A redeemer is one who sets you free. He takes your cause upon himself and makes it his own. Whatever trouble you are in he confronts it for you and brings you out of it. He has the means to do it. In Old Testament times a redeemer would often be a close relative. Job knew what a redeemer was and he knew who his Redeemer was. In faith, he looked forward to the incarnation of the Son of God. He looked forward to his obedience, suffering, and death. What Thomas denied in arrogant unbelief, Job saw with the clarity of faith two thousand years earlier. He saw his Redeemer and he saw his redemption.
Job confesses with the Church. The Church has always taught the resurrection of the body. Jesus taught the resurrection of the body. When he was arguing with the Sadducees, the liberals of his day who denied the resurrection of the body, he said:
But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. (Matthew 22:31-32)
But Jesus did more than to teach the resurrection of the body. He said to Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.” (St. John 11:25) Then he did what he said he would do. He was betrayed into the hands of sinners, mocked, whipped, handed over to be crucified, and on the third day he rose from the dead.
Job confessed his faith in a living Redeemer. So do we. But something vital has happened between the time that Job made this confession and the time when we make this same confession. This living Redeemer died. That’s how he redeemed Job and us. There was no other way.
It is not enough to say that Jesus lives. We confess that he lives who once was dead. He lives who died for us. He lives who took upon himself the sin of the whole world, bore it, suffered God’s punishment of it, and destroyed it with his innocence, obedience, and death. It is not just his living that brings us life. It is his dying and rising from the dead. His death and resurrection go together.
Job speaks from his deep pain and speaks the most personal confession of faith any man ever made and yet, by the miracle of divine inspiration, his personal and profoundly human speaking is at the same time divine promise. God spoke through Job. God spoke his eternal truth through the words that Job cried out in the midst of his pain and suffering.
Job speaks of his Redeemer standing upon the earth – literally dust, as of the dust of the grave. He sees Jesus risen from the dead. He sees Jesus victorious over sin and death. He sees Jesus triumphant over the power of Satan who would attack Job’s faith and the faith of every sincere Christian who has ever lived. He says:
For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
He sees Jesus and he sees himself. That’s how we should see things.
Job suffered terribly. He never understood why. He didn’t have to. Was God punishing him? No. He wasn’t. But it was in repentance that Job was restored. That’s the only way.
Jesus gave to his Church the authority to forgive and to retain sins. To forgive sins is to speak words that convey the forgiveness of sins that Jesus won for us all on the cross. Penitent sinners should hear this gospel. It is for them. It is for those who are sorry for what they have done against God’s law. They are sorry that they have trusted in created things more than their Creator. They are sorry for neglecting prayer and misusing God’s name. They are sorry for skipping church for no good reason, ignoring God’s word, and relegating it down the list of things that should occupy their attention. They are sorry they have not loved as God loves them.
Their sorrow cannot take away their sin. But their Redeemer can. And he has. And standing on this earth he gave to his Church the authority to forgive sins in his name. Until the end of time sinners burdened by guilt and the fear of punishment and the doubt that sin plants in our hearts will find in Christ’s Church the full and free forgiveness of all their sins and the peace of the Holy Spirit that comes with it. They receive this forgiveness, not by doing, working, or praying, but by believing the gospel – trusting in Christ – their Redeemer who is risen from the dead.
Those who choose to ignore God’s law and live lives of impenitence and unbelief will find no forgiveness of sins. Why? Because they did not believe the testimony that God has given of his Son. They will face God’s anger on the Day of Judgment.
But not the Christians. They will stand with Job. They will be raised from the dead. Their bodies may have rotted in the grave and returned to the dust from which they were originally made, but God will raise up those mortal bodies and glorify them. In their flesh they will see God.
“How my heart yearns within me!” So said Job. So say we. We yearn to see God. To see with our own eyes that what we were taught, what we believed, and what we lived and died confessing is most certainly true. To see faith replaced by sight. To see what Thomas saw and to be eternally blessed in seeing it. To see with our eyes untainted by the corruption of sin and doubt. What a wonderful day that will be!
We were baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Our baptismal confession of faith concludes with these words: “[I believe] in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” They go together. Forgiveness and resurrection go together for the resurrection of Jesus is God forgiving us our sins. Only when our sins are forgiven can we rise to eternal life.
Eternal life is not the endless existence of a soul floating out in space. Eternal life begins as we live in these dying bodies and will be seen, felt, and fully experienced when God changes these dying bodies into bodies that cannot die. As we hear at the grave, “This mortal must put on immortality.” That’s what Job saw. In the midst of a suffering greater than most Christians will ever know he saw beyond his suffering – and ours – to when our faith will be fully vindicated and our bodies will be set free from every vestige of sin. What he confessed is our confession. We are those of whom Jesus was speaking when he said to Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” They have not seen. But they shall see. Amen