April 20, 2019 A+D
St. Matthew 28: 1-7
Alleluia. Christ is risen . . .
The Old Testament records the Finger of God twice and also two writings engraved in stone. The first time the Finger appears is as that which sends the plagues upon Egypt. The second time is in the desert where it engraves the Law upon the tablets of stone. The Law is inscribed on both sides. There no more room to add any more. They are written in stone because they are meant to stand forever. That Law not only instructs us. It also threatens us who violate it with death.
This Finger of God doesn’t seem to be a very nice Finger if you’re either an Egyptian or a sinner.
The second stone engraving is older than both of those events and, in fairness, didn’t actually happen. Rather it is the wistful exclamation of the prophet Job. He exclaims:
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!
He wants engraved forever this sentence:
I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
Job was forced to face reality through suffering. He learned that he could not save himself, that he was not holy in himself, and he also learned to trust and wait on God. He believed that though all his kin were dead, that God Himself would be his kinsman and hi Redeemer who would buy him out of slavery to sin and free him from his sorrows. He believed not only that this Redeemer would live and stand upon the earth, literarily upon the “dusty earth,” but also that this Redeemer would bring him out of death, back from dust, so that he too would also stand upon the “dusty earth” and see his Redeemer with his own eyes.
The New Testament contains God’s Finger twice as well, and, if we stretch it, two more engraved stones. In the first place, Christ proclaims that He casts out demons by the Finger of God and that these exorcisms by God’s Finger are an indication that the Kingdom of God is present in Him. That is not a nice finger if you’re a demon. That is part of what this Finger does. It accuses sinners and drives off demons and Pharaohs.
So if this finger doesn’t seem nice, it is because you’re a friend of demons or worship Egyptian gods or are a sinner who wants to keep on sinning. If any of those things are the case, repent. Repent now before it is too late. God doesn’t write the Law to hem you in nor doe He send plagues for His amusement. He does these things, gives the Law, sends plagues and drives off demons, to liberate you from oppressors. Sin never delivers on its promises. It never satisfies. It always leaves a wake of hurt in its path. God’s Law written on stone is good and holy and was given in mercy.
The other New Testament occurrence is when Our Lord writes with His finger in the dirt. This He does when a woman caught in adultery has brought to Him and those who brought her are asking Jesus if she should be executed. Much speculation has ensued as to what He wrote, and I have a bit of my own. I think it is hardly a stretch to imagine that Finger writing again what it wrote long ago on the tablets, that is to say, Jesus writes the 10 commandments in the dirt. Dirt is powdered stone. That is what the Finger engraves. And what better way to both convict the sinful men that brought the woman and also show what has happened to the Law’s power and threat since Christ has become a Man to redeem us. If He who is immortal can make Himself mortal so also He can undo the Law’s curse and accusation by fulfilling them in our stead and change our reading of them so that they are not only accusation and threat but also the path of righteousness.
Our Lord never argues the woman’s innocence. She was not innocent. She was caught in the act. But He says to those who brought her to Him, “Let him who is without sin takn a piece of the broken tablets and brain the woman to death.” The point isn’t only that He is the only one without sin, though that is part of it. Who do they think they are? But if He writes the commandments then He wants to them to know that the tablets of stone have been ground to powder. They can’t be thrown. They were never meant to be weapons for use against one another. Now they are dust and have become the foundation of creation, even that which was made into Adam and to which Adam returns. For those with ears to hear, the words of the Law don’t accuse us anymore. They are blown away with the One who stands upon the dusty earth for us and become a pavement through the desert that leads to God.
The second engraved stone is the point of the service tonight. It is engraved by the angel’s butt cheeks who sits on the stone to keep it firmly in place that it would never again lie about its sealing power. Death is done. Jesus lives. The grave is open and the angel invites us in. He says: “Come and see the place where Christ, who was crucified for you, lay. Go into the tomb and see that He lives and lives for you. My flaming sword now bars stones and guards from graves and keeps them open.”
There is no writing on that stone to accuse you, but if you look closely, perhaps, you will discover that angel’s derriere was a kind of iron pen and has left a single sentence filled with lead:
I know that My Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth.
Whether that sentence was there or not, no matter what Jesus wrote in the dirt, the statement is true: Our Redeemer lives. The Law is fulfilled. The demons are cast out. There is no one to accuse us. Our Redeemer lives and is not in the grave.
Alleluia. Christ is risen . . .