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Dear fellow believers in the risen Christ who assures us, “because I live you will live also.”
For a number of days Martin Luther was feeling depressed and downcast. He had many cares and troubles on his mind. Being the leader of the Reformation actually put his life in danger, not only for him but also for his family. His wife Katie noticed that her husband seemed to be carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. She came to his office wearing black. Luther was shocked. “Who died?” he asked.
“Jesus did and I am prepared to mourn for him,” she replied.
Her husband shot back, “But Christ is not dead.”
“That’s what I thought,” she said, “but by the way you are acting I concluded that Jesus must have died.”
Katie was a smart woman. The point she made was well taken by Luther. He then took a piece of chalk and wrote on his desk “V-I-V-I-T”. Anyone who knows a little Latin knows that Latin word means “he lives.” What Katie reminded her husband of – Jesus lives – changed his entire mood.
So many times people complain that Christianity is not functional for our daily lives. If that’s how any of you feel this morning, then you have come to the right place. What a difference it makes to know we have a living Savior and Lord and not a dead prophet that millions settle for. Easter makes all the difference in the world. That’s our theme this morning. “Easter Makes the Difference.” 1) It changes our perspective on suffering and trials; 2) It changes our perspective on death itself.
You know the story of Job. He is the great sufferer. One day he lost his possessions – his property and servants. The Sabaeans had pillaged and plundered and robbed, and Job was the victim. More bad news was forthcoming, even worse news; a vicious storm hit the home where his children were. He had to bury seven sons and three daughters. The Bible doesn’t say anything about spouses and grandchildren. What a personal tragedy!
But the dark cloud wasn’t done raining on Job and his wife. His own personal health went out the window too. He was so disfigured that his friends Zophar, Bildad and Eliphaz didn’t even recognize him. Few, if any have suffered the way Job did.
When bad things happen to people, even Christian people, it is common to hear, “Lord, what did I do?” If you have read the book of Job, you know that’s exactly what Job’s friends, Bildad, Zophar and Eliphaz implied. They said that Job was getting punished for something he had done and had not repented of it. Although he didn’t admit it out loud, he thought that might be the case too. “Though I cry, ‘I have been wronged’ I get no response; though I call for him, there is no justice. His anger burns against me; he counts me among his enemies.” In other words, why are you punishing me, O Lord?
Who hasn’t done the same? When we endure hardship and trials we start to wonder what we have done to offend the Lord to make him angry. Over the last few years with out nation’s downturn millions in our nation have asked that.
Am I suffering because of what I did in my youth? Is it because I haven’t always been completely honest? Has my selfishness made him angry? While some believe that Job might have lived 2000 BC (we really have no way of knowing exactly), Job’s thoughts have been thought by just about every one of us.
What’s the answer? Is there an answer? Yes, there is an answer – maybe better said – a rebuttal. The answer is Easter. The answer is what Job says, “I know that my Redeemer lives!” Because Jesus lives, the thought that God is punishing me for my sins must be eliminated and ruled out. What do I mean by that?
The word “redeemer” was used for someone who would get someone else out of trouble. For instance, if someone made a very bad business decision and lost everything, a member of the family could act as a redeemer and pay the debt of the debtor. The Bible speaks of God redeeming his people. All people need redeeming. We have rung up a huge debt by the sins we constantly commit. God sent his Son to be the redeemer. His blood was the price to pay the debt – not gold or silver - but his holy precious blood. The price was paid in full on Good Friday. What happened three days later, what we are celebrating today was God’s way of letting us know the payment was accepted. The bill was paid in full.
Don’t go thinking that something needs to be done to earn what the Redeemer did. Maybe there are things you can do to help with Easter breakfast, like bring something or help serve or clean up, but there is nothing you can help with to receive fully the blessings of Easter. There is not a 50/50 split; there is not a 99% done by Christ and 1 % done by us split. Don’t even think of insulting our Redeemer. Besides what could you and I do that could actually contribute?
Now, put yourself in Job’s situation. Job was absolutely miserable. Yes, he asked the question, “Is God punishing me for my sin?” But then how could that be? “I know my Redeemer lives!” I know my sin has been paid for. How can I pay for the sin that have already been paid for? The apostle said it like this, “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”
Jesus’ death and resurrection has done all that needed to be done. There are no more sins for which to pay. So if Job had thought that God was punishing him further, what an insult to the Redeemer. Don’t you go insult your Redeemer either by thinking that God has to punish you to make you right with God. That’s what Jesus did for you.
Now that doesn’t mean that we won’t have problems. It’s a sinful world in which we live. While God does allow us to go through hurt for reasons known to him, understand this: his motive is not because he is getting even with you but love is behind it all. Sometimes he might be grabbing us by the ear to get our attention when aren’t paying attention. Thank God, we need that. Yes, Easter changes our perspective on suffering.
Easter also changes our perspective on what is to come including death itself. Even when we suffer here, eventually it will end. When Job was in the middle of his suffering, he said “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon 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.”
There are a couple of noteworthy thoughts in that passage. “And in the end he will stand upon the earth.” Actually “in the end” could be translated “in the west.” The west is where the sun sets. The earth, the universe and all the people who live within have an end. Our lives are like a day. Time goes by quickly.
The other thing to remember is that if God chooses for us to suffer for a short time, or our entire lifetime, or any span of time in between, suffering will come to an end. Then the fun and joy begins. The apostle says, “I consider that our present sufferings will not be worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us.” The good times are ahead. That’s a guarantee because “our Redeemer lives.”
In the history of MessiahLutheranChurch, there have been three full time pastors. I looked back on the parish register that records all the important events for members like baptisms, confirmations, marriages, funerals. Pastor Ewing, the first pastor of MessiahLutheranChurch, conducted two funerals including that of an infant who did not survive but a day or two. Pastor Zell served here for better than ten years and had one funeral in those years. I found out I am the grim reaper. I have been here since 2002. I was surprised to find that I have done eleven. We have had three deaths since December. Job says, “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.”
Somewhere in theMiddle Eastthere is a cave that is known only to God and bats and rats and snakes where the remains of Job could be found. Yet while he was alive Job knew that on the Last Day our all powerful God will put together individually his remains into bodies of flesh and bone again. The remains of those fourteen people whose funerals were conducted by Messiah pastors will be among them.
Job knew that in his flesh he would see God with his very own eyes and be with the Lord again as both body and soul were reunited. This is not a pious thought or wish. This is the promise of Christ who raised the daughter of Jairus, the son of a widowed mother in a city called Nain and the body of his good friend Lazarus. This is the Jesus who was raised himself and promised, “Because I live, you will live also.”
Job concludes, “How my heart earns within me!” My 86 year old grandmother yearned to be with Ed, my grandfather and with the Lord Jesus Christ. One of the privileges of being a pastor is to minister to people and praise God for the wonderful faith he has created by his Spirit in the hearts of his people. Sure it hurts when our loved one dies. There is a hole in our hearts. That hole never really heals. We miss them, but we won’t always be away from them. Why? Because we know our Redeemer lives! That fact changes our perspective on things – our perspective on suffering and trials; our perspective on death itself.
He is risen!
He is risen indeed!