Texts: Job 19:23-27; Mark 16:1-8
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.Job 19:23-26, English Standard Version
These words of the prophet Job, where he expresses his confident hope in Christ’s resurrection, serve as our text this fine Easter day. Today is the day that our Lord triumphed over death and the grave for us. Though He died, yet He lives. Because He lives, we shall live also. The empty tomb we celebrate today shows us that Christ, not death nor the devil, gets the final say.
The book of Job is not always high on the list of books of the Bible that we love to read. That’s partly because of its length and partly because a large portion of it is poetic. These mark it harder for us moderns to dive into it than, say, Luke or Acts. Most us, however, do have some familiarity with Job – especially the opening chapters. In just the first chapter, Job, who was a righteous and faithful man, lost to death his seven sons and three daughters. Job was also a wealthy man and, at the same time, lost all his sheep, camels, oxen and donkeys, and his beloved servants. In just a short course of time, Job lost everything that he had and loved. They all died. The temptation for Job throughout the book is to doubt God’s goodness and allow death and the devil to have the final say. Job’s friends and even his wife pester him to believe this.
It’s a temptation we share, as well; to think that death is the final authority. All around us, for over a month now, we’ve seen fear and panic and anxiety. The Lord has worked good changes in some; but to use our Lord’s words, the world is filled with “fear and foreboding” about what is going on. Every day we hear about the number of infections and deaths, and we can fall into a line of thinking that puts death at the top of the food chain. We begin thinking that we’re all going to die and there’s nothing we can do but wait and accept our fate.
The women had accepted it when they went to the tomb. After all, it had been three days since they saw, with their own eyes, Jesus die on the cross. The reason they went to the tomb was to perform one last act of love for their master. They were going to anoint His body with oil and spices to cover the stench of death’s decay. Jesus’ promised resurrection wasn’t on their minds. What was, was the large stone blocking the entrance to the tomb. They had accepted Jesus’ death – that death would claim Him just as it does everyone else – and now only worried about how to get to His dead body.
When they got to the tomb, though, what did they find? They found that the stone had been rolled away. Going into the tomb, they found that it was empty, save for a young man sitting on the right side – an angel. The angel said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; He is not here.” (Mk. 16:6) In other words, their ideas about who had the final say in all things were incorrect. It is true, Jesus did die. The death He died, He died as the once-for-all-time payment for our sins. But death could not hold Him, and it didn’t get the final say. The empty grave shows that it belongs to Jesus. He did battle with death and the devil for us, and burst forth triumphantly from the grave.
Job, for his part, was a prophet. By His grace, the Holy Spirit gave Job to see Christ’s resurrection and the great blessing that comes through it. You see, when Christ rose from the dead, He took away death’s fearsome fangs and claws. Death no longer has the power to enslave because Christ tripped the snare; but He didn’t do it just for Himself. The Scriptures say that those who are joined to Christ by Baptism and by faith are joined to His death and resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus means the resurrection of those who believe in Jesus, such as Job. Job knew that, that even after everything else wastes away, at the end of it all, Christ gets the final say. And, what does He say? To us, He says, “Life.”
This is what we celebrate today, even in a pandemic. God is on our side, what can death do to us? Jesus did die, this is true. He died on the cross as the payment for our transgressions. But, today, He rose. His resurrection shows that our sins are paid for and that death no longer gets the last word. That belongs to Jesus who, by His death and resurrection, makes our death but the gateway to eternal life in Him. By His resurrection, Jesus removes death’s sting. It is still bad, it is still the punishment of our sin, but we no longer need fear it. In fact, this is what we’ve already said in the Psalm, “I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord. The Lord has disciplined me severely, but has not given me over to death.” (118:17-18)
The empty tomb shows that our Lord, not death, gets the final say. After three days, He burst forth from that dreadful prison and left its bars shattered for those who are in Him. When He returns, He will give eternal life to mortal bodies and we will live with Him forever. Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed. Alleluia!