This Christmas season I have challenged myself to think about how I experience Jesus in the day to day. In what I do, in what I see, in how I interact with others, in what I read. Even with the crazy upside down world we seem to live in right now, I do not want to miss this special season where we get to be reminded daily that Jesus lives. I have been working through the book “Holding onto Hope” by Nancy Guthrie this Fall with some women in my church. In this raw and honest testimony of the loss of her daughter Hope, Nancy walks us through the book of Job to discover what God says to us about suffering. The questions that come up are Why, Who, What, How and Where is God in all of it.
Recently as I met with my group, the study questions asked us to explore how Job’s life is a foreshadow of Jesus, a thought I had never considered.
As we read through Job’s story and compare that to Jesus’, we see that they both suffered because of no fault of their own. Job 1:1 points out that Job was blameless and righteous. Not that he was perfect, but that his faith in God and habit of repentance was credited to him as righteousness, just like Abraham. Jesus on the other hand, knew no sin, and actually lived the perfect life that earned us all the righteousness needed to be in a restored relationship with God. Jesus and Job both endured the heart breaking rejection by friends and family. In Job’s case, we are told that Job’s brothers and sisters would have nothing to do with him. His wife, in her grief, told him to curse God and die. He was like an abomination to all the people of the land because of the force of calamity that had come upon him. It was like he was a leprous man – if they came close to him perhaps his calamity would also befall on them. In his greatest time of need no one comes to his aide to offer help. Similarly, when Jesus was arrested and crucified, the disciples fled. They hid out, afraid that they would also be incited for blasphemy. Jesus died alone, with only two strangers hanging on crosses in his presence.
There is a bigger cosmic picture going on, a battle between God and Satan, in the background of each of these man’s stories. A purposeful battle that is guided by the sovereign hand of God, and where God comes out victorious over sin and death and evil. A battle that brings God’s people a greater understanding and knowledge of God. And more than that, this battle brings us into a relationship with God.
In chapter 42 of Job, we get to see a remarkable story of restoration. Job functions as a mediator for his friends, the ones who errantly tried to comfort Job by attempting to fix him with lengthy elocution and theological ponderings. As they sat with him, instead of just listening and grieving with him, they tried to find all the reasons why Job suffered. If you have gone through a great time of loss and suffering, you know that this is not what is needed for comfort! People talking AT you is the last thing you need. Making attempts to theologically sort out someone’s suffering is not what we are called to do in relationships. Rather, we are called to weep with those who weep, offer a listening ear, bring aid and food and help to meet physical needs. And so God is not pleased with their lack of compassion. These friends, in all their words and pontifications, missed what Job truly needed-physical healing, emotional support and spiritual restoration.
And God in his mercy, allows a way for these errant friends to be restored. They are told to bring offerings and sacrifices to Job so that he can bring them back into a right relationship with God, whom they have offended, and pray for them. This is a picture of Jesus! This is what Jesus does. He opens his arms wide to sinners and invites them to repentance. Yet, notice that there is a difference between Job’s friends and our call to repentance. We do not have to bring Jesus sacrifices. Rather, He became that sacrifice for us so that those who believe in Him may be fully restored in relationship to God. And he prays for us. Daily! He is our daily mediator and intercessor in heaven, deeply involved in our every moment of every day. And just as we see Job’s family and friends return to his table in chapter 42, Jesus welcomes sinners to his table. Even now, He prepares a table for us to feast with him. The wedding supper of the Lamb. When all things will be set right, just as we see God setting all things back to right for Job. No more tears, no more sadness. No more evil and sin and suffering. This is what baby Jesus came to do-to restore us to complete wholeness and relationship with God.