“I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes— I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!“ (Job 19:25-27 NIV)
This remarkable passage in Job stands out as a significant confession of faith. During most of the book, he questions the justice of God for allowing him to suffer so much. He mourns the loss of his children. He is in so much pain that he wants to die. However, in the middle of his misery he makes this profound, prophetic statement that he will see his God, his redeemer. The question is, who is this redeemer, and how could Job expect to see God with his own eyes while he is alive on earth?
For me, finding the answer to that question began many years ago. As a young, Christian man I came to a point in my faith journey in which I needed to decide whether or not Jesus is really the only way to heaven. I had met many nice people who did not believe in Jesus, and a number of sincere religious folk who followed other belief systems. These experiences caused me to wonder how Jesus compares to the religious leaders and thinkers in the history of the world. I surveyed the teachings of Mohammed, Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha), the Hindu gurus, and various pagan religions, including the worldview of some Native American groups. I familiarized myself with the ideas of various philosophers such as Plato, Zeno, Confucius, and Immanuel Kant. I learned the basic tenets of modern atheists such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Bertrand Russell.
As I compared these various religious and philosophical leaders to Jesus, I found some similarities among them. Most of them experienced intense opposition from the communities in which they lived. They were charismatic leaders who nevertheless were known for their lives of solitude. All of them (except Sartre) taught people about justice, fairness, relationships, personal growth, the pathway of being a true human, etc… They expressed their ideas about what life is all about, and how to create a peaceful, orderly society. They claimed to show the world the way of truth.
However, something about Jesus stood in stark contrast to everyone else that I studied. He did not just claim to teach the truth. He claimed to BE the truth. He did not claim to show us the way of life. He claimed to BE the way. He did not represent himself as a great prophet or teacher, and his followers did not refer to him as such. He came not to help us live a better life. He came to die so that we might be free from death. He did not merely teach a set of truths. He came to redeem us because we cannot live according to the truth.
Jesus stands out from anyone who has ever lived in this world. Instead of teaching that the right path comes from following certain principles and disciplines, he taught that it comes from following him personally. Instead of teaching that certain rituals or good deeds will bring us to God, he taught that no one can come to the Father except through him.
By the end of my research, it became clear to me that no one in all of history can qualify to be the Redeemer of the world that Job described. No one, that is, except one. Only Jesus can be the world’s savior. Only Jesus loved sinners enough to shed his blood and die for them. Only Jesus could claim to be the way, the truth, and the life. Only Jesus could back up his claim by rising from the dead.
Therefore, those who believe in him can say with confidence, “I know that my Redeemer lives.” We can be encouraged by the fact that we do not have to say just the right words or demonstrate just the right behavior in order to have a relationship with God the Father. We can rest on the fact that the way of salvation does not rely on a religious system or a set of ideas. Rather, the way of salvation goes through the one who IS the truth.
James Ruark is a father of four adult daughters and has been married to his wife, Lori, for 27 years. He received his bachelor’s degree in history from Calvin College and his master’s degree in Christian Apologetics from Liberty University. He currently works as a social worker in Grand Rapids, Michigan and is an elder in his church.