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April/May 2019

Good Friday Easter Job and the Bear

Most everyone likes Easter, even people who do not celebrate the religious feast and embrace its meaning. I mean, what’s not to like? It’s springtime, days are longer, nights are shorter, flowers are emerging, birds are singing, and if you happen to do an image search for “Easter,” on Google, you’ll get 45 pictures of colorful eggs and bunnies, before you get your first image of the resurrected Jesus. That particular icon is found on the Wikipedia page for “Easter.” And, as you might expect, that religious icon includes some images of death, and reminders of Good Friday.

So much for the colors and bunnies.

Yet we understand that to speak of “the resurrection,” we do need to at least reference dying. Most Christian churches have a cross either on top of their steeple, or somewhere embedded in their architecture or Windows. For Christians Good Friday and the cross is a necessity. There is no receipt of payment, unless the payment has first been made. Easter is God’s receipt or proof of payment for our debt, paid on Good Friday.

According to the Judeo-Christian scriptures, God is far more associated with life than death. His most sacred name in the Old Testament references being, and the source of all life. Death has always been sort of in the back seat… But we have all heard of “backseat drivers.” They are irritating.

Death is more than irritating; it is -- according to the New Testament -- “the last enemy.” I have seen my daughter die, actually held her in my arms at the moment she died. It’s deeply painful, even to think about it now, years removed from that event. But together, we would regularly speak of the resurrection, and with a body as burdened as hers was from acute cerebral palsy, the hope of restoration always brought her joy.

Scripture calls the resurrection “the firstfruits,” an allusion to the fact that Jesus rose on a little known Jewish Festival called “Yom HaBikkurim,” the day of first-fruits; it must mean that more fruit is coming!

Despite the fact that we live often times with relative peace, and occasional joy, there is that haunting “shadow of death,” that seems to hang around, casting its imposing shadow here and there, sometimes quite close. We don’t like to talk about it, and yet it is a daily reality.

The book of Job one of the most ancient of Old Testament writings, spends its entire time talking about suffering and death… wrestling with why a loving God would permit suffering, and in most cases even something worse, death? It seems as though the answer that God gave to Job is twofold: you don’t see what I see; and, death is not the end for the faithful.

To prove the first point, God pointed Job to the stars. Even the ancients were aware of the constellations, and the one called “The Bear,” in our nomenclature “Ursa Major,” and a portion of the Big Dipper. God said to Job: “Can you lead forth a constellation in its season, And guide the Bear with her satellites?” (Job 38:32 NASB). The word “satellites,” is actually a substitute for the original more poetic “cubs,” referencing the points of light around the bear. I believe God was saying more than just: “Job, are you able to do what I can do?” I believe He was giving us a clue to something bigger. Because although Ursa Major includes stars which are relatively close to our earth, it also includes points of light which are not stars at all, but are in fact galaxies. Hundreds of millions of stars which appear as a single point of light to the naked eye.

Indeed, we don’t see it all. Recently we were for the first time ever, able to witness our first black hole. Yet still the widely accepted theoretical dark energy and dark matter so far eludes us. We may one day discover those too, but we cannot see past death’s door. Like the point of light which is actually millions of stars, Scripture tells us that God created “the visible and invisible,” including spirits, and bodies. In Christ we see both the unseen God, and visible man.

As Job wrestled with his own terrible fortune – the death of all of his children, the loss of all of his wealth, and bodily suffering so bad that he wished he had not been conceived. In the midst of that suffering God pulled back the curtain for Job, and let him see something beyond the grave. The resurrection.

In his agony Job would cry out: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God…” (Job 19:25b & 26). Isaiah, the same prophet who described anguish, suffering and death of the Messiah in his 53rd chapter, would also have the resurrection revealed, “And on this mountain [Jerusalem] He will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples, even the veil which is stretched over all nations. He will swallow up death for all time” (Isaiah 25:7, 8a). I guess we didn’t see that coming… Or did we?

In Christ's Love,