Otto Rahm, Hiob (1951)
It's Resurrection Week at Christ Lutheran! It's not Easter but we hear different stories about life beyond death this Sunday.
This week in worship we hear a brief passage from the Book of Job, including the famous lines: "For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see on my side." It's been a challenging passage for modern scholars in particular, who tend not to embrace the Christian theological interpretation of the "redeemer" being Jesus and "in my flesh I shall see God" referring to the resurrection of the dead.
I try to take Biblical scholarship seriously but I don't really follow the scholars here. Job is a poetic dialogue--a fable--about a man pushed beyond all endurance. He refuses to accept that his sufferings are just, and when his useless friends keep insisting that Job has done something wicked to merit his sufferings, Job insists that he has a go'el, here translated "redeemer," who will vindicate him before God even if his no-good friends won't do it. The word apparently refers to a family member, next of kin, or close friend (today we might say "power of attorney") who could "redeem" a person from captivity or redeem the property of a deceased person. Job is so outrageously wronged, so utterly abused, that he won't let the inevitability of death, the obvious hostility of God, or the failure of his friends to come to his defense deter his insistence that he will be redeemed or vindicated, somehow, by someone. Maybe even God, who has (as Job sees it) acted as his enemy, will in the end appear at Job's side to redeem Job from God's own hand. Job doesn't seem to be talking about an endless sunshine-and-rainbows Heaven, but he does seem to insist that God will raise him up from the grave if only to hear the case for Job's innocence.
You can get to some weird places thinking about God, to be sure. Job is not voicing a promise from God to raise the dead. But he's combining the reality of God and the reality of justice to insist that, if both God and justice are real, even death can't prevent justice from somehow being done. The world is what it is, but it will just have to give way. The dust will have to yield up its dead and skin be fastened again to muscle and bone so that accounts can be settled.
In the Gospel, Jesus is saying something related but different. Some Sadducees, a group that rejected the oral tradition held by the Pharisees and who denied the resurrection of the dead, pose a stumper to Jesus: If a woman has been married to seven brothers in turn, each after the last dies, whose wife will she be in the resurrection? Jesus denies the premise of the question--that there is marriage in the resurrection--but goes on to say something more compelling and powerful: the dead must be raised because God introduced himself to Moses as "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob," and yet God is God of the living and not the dead. Here it's not Job's frantic and furious demand for justice, but the power of God's faithfulness that requires us to imagine life beyond death. God's faithfulness to Abraham didn't end when Abraham breathed his last. The world is what it is, but it will just have to give way.
I don't know where I'll end up with all of this, but I hope you'll come and hear these striking passages with me on Sunday.
God's Work. Our hands.