Philip Casmer

Knowing Easter… 

by Philip Casmer on March 31st, 2024
Job 19:23-27

Hallelujah! What a chorus for this day! Indeed – not just for us – Easter’s glorious morning, the Rising Son, has warmed many a heart and kindled a fire that blazed forth in poems, in songs, as the last word on dying lips – to say, “Christ will reign! Hallelujah!”

Maybe you were asking, “Isn’t that a Christmas song?” That is probably where most of us heard it last but, no… it’s absolutely for this. Handel’s Messiah – that famous oratorio was composed for this day, this celebration – an Easter Hallelujah! It does remind of a problem, though… Forget about church seasonality. There are seasons, aren’t there, where we put up the sign at the entrances to the concert halls of our hearts, “Concert Canceled! No ‘Hallelujahs’ Here!”? I mean, for goodness’ sake, it happened on Easter with the women! They made their way to the tomb to anoint the dead. They were sad, afraid, worried. And though they found the tomb empty… Though they met an angel… Though they heard the news, “He’s not here…” Though they even got the command: Go and tell and he will meet you! Even so, instead they were terrified, trembling, totally silent… No Hallelujah.

Of course, that’s how the story generally goes, isn’t it? That’s how it was with Job. Do recall his tale? 

Long, long ago in a land called Uz lived | A man. Just a servant of God he strived | To be, though greatest in the East was he | Of all the peoples. Desired just to be | Like Job did many; sheep, camels, oxen | Donkeys, thousands; a household strong and grown | To lovely daughters three and sons, seven. | Job shunned sin, feared God, was blessed by heaven.

But his life was no poem – no fickle arrangement of syllables in rhyme to please your ear… From the moment Satan asked to plague him and God allowed it, Job lost everything… almost. Raiders took his donkeys and his oxen and slaughtered his servants. Fire from heaven fell on the flocks, consumed sheep and servants. Chaldeans carried of the camels, put the servants to the sword, all of them. And, while all the kids were partying in the eldest son’s great hall, a great wind assaulted it and smashed it down on all Job’s children – dead. In each case, only one escaped the calamity – and they arrived one after the next, to deliver the news. 

I suppose one could cynically reason at least Job still had his health… Until later, when God let Satan’s leash out a bit and Satan took that too. Plagued Job with ulcers his body over. So that satisfaction for Job became sitting in the ash and scraping plague puss with a broken piece of pottery. 

In those kinds of moments, the minimum for comfort should be the counsel of those we love. But his wife’s counsel amounted to, “Curse God and die already!” And his friends’ counsel was essentially, “This must be karma. You must have really screwed up somewhere. Repent!” And I suppose you might say, “At least he was still alive…” But Job didn’t feel like living anymore after all that. He even asked God to die.

Sit in the ash pit with Job for just a moment. I understand that. I have felt moments of “I don’t want to do this anymore… I don’t understand… I feel terrible…” You have too – likely worse than mine. Don’t sell yourself short, either. Some here have lost business and family and health. And, if I asked you about it, some of you could probably write it in epic poetry. You may have even shared the sentiment of Job’s words from earlier in ch.19, “Can’t you see it is God who has done this? … God is angry and rages against me; he treats me like his worst enemy… The hand of God has struck me down.” (vv.6, 11, 21) You may have felt that way too – God is the attacker, attacking you, in what he allows for you. In fact, to say it even more strongly – there are things we know about which we feel – so that both in what we know in our experiences and how we feel abou them, just like with Job, we have moments that seem very much not “Hallelujah!” 

You know what the definition of Hallelujah is, right? It means, “The LORD be praised!” You know what’s interesting? When Job’s stuff all imploded and his kids died, you know what he said? “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” (1:21, NIV) It’s not the word he used, but it sounds like, “Hallelujah.” What an astounding response! And today just after those “God is attacking me” words I read, later in ch.19, Job said, “Oh, that my words were recorded, that they were written on a scroll, that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead, or engraved in rock forever!” As though what he’s going to say next is so important that it needs to be on a 12ft tall monument for passersby to read. And it is that important. Listen again, “I know that my Redeemer lives…”

Do you see what Job is doing? He’s standing this knowledge right up in the midst of all the other terrible, heart-wrenching things he knew, as if to defeat them…which makes sense. Job’s word “Redeemer” comes from an ancient Israelite concept called the “kinsman-redeemer”.  That person guaranteed the security and rights of his fellow family – if Uncle Shlomo was murdered, the redeemer avenged his blood; if cousin Josef gambled into debts, the redeemer paid them off to secure the family’s property; if someone was taken captive, the redeemer paid the ransom or made a special-ops dark of night rescue. In all the terrible things a family might know, God intended that they would know they had one who would vindicate them and conquer their troubles. That’s Job’s Redeemer, his vindicator.

“[I]n the end [my Redeemer] will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another.” Boils and puss, poverty and loss might come. They might even take Job’s life. But his Redeemer holds the field. His power will make it so that when that inescapable enemy, death, finally gets Job, the Redeemer will defeat that enemy too – in his own flesh, with his own eyes – Job would live again with the living Redeemer and see his victory done, and share in it as God’s own family. 

Jesus, God’s own Son, is that kind of Redeemer. He saw that we were captive to sin; against our will and willingly at times. Still he walked onto the battlefield of this world for his family. He lived the way God’s family should always have – always he did. He finally made payment for our debt – all our sins – at his cross. In truth, whatever you’ve experienced, whatever God’s allowed to plague me, none of it compares with this. God attacked him instead of you: the undeserving died for people who deserve it. But he is not conquered by death. He’s the vindicator – the one who stands at the end all alone on the field victorious. That victory started when the angel said, “He has risen! He is not here…” (Mk 16:6-7) And it will be complete, as St. Paul said, when Jesus  destroys dominion, authority, power, and even death itself… 

So powerful is Jesus your Redeemer that no enemy can destroy his promised goodness. He doesn’t promise to remove every struggle or take away every danger.  He promises forgiveness for our struggles against sin; he gives new life to serve God among all the enemies; he takes us in his hand and saves us. He proves his power to do those things in his rising to life again. And he applies that power to you: “[I]n Christ all will be made alive…” Paul says. Finally, even after our flesh has been struck off or shriveled up or desiccated away – in our own flesh and with our own eyes we will see him – Christ is risen, so shall I – in his victory we will be vindicated.

But Job tells it and Paul says  it and angels were sent to show it, so that you would know it. To defeat whatever else you know – brokenness and death, sins you’ve done, temptations to shut up God’s praise – they might fill your life and bring your death but Jesus’ tomb stands empty. Know it to publish and print and say to the generations after you and to the people around you – this is resurrection visibility day. Because Easter is vindication, the knowledge that God’s mighty power is at work for his family in the Redeemer, the Risen Lord, Jesus Christ. 

Knowing such a thing, Job said, “How my heart yearns within me!” Knowing this kind of Easter, wouldn’t you say, “Hallelujah!”? 

Indeed, Christ is risen, death is dead… and the name of the Lord be praised.

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