A Sermon by Fr. John A. Peck
The Book of Tobit is an astonishing book. It is a part of the Septuagint Old Testament, and therefore only in Orthodox and Roman Catholic Bibles. Until 1929, it was included in Protestant Bibles (in the section called “apocrypha” or “hidden things.” I don’t know why they thought it was hidden.) It is a very Christian book. Most of you probably have never read it, so let me summarize.
In a nutshell, it’s about a man named Tobit, and his son Tobias. Tobit is a righteous man, who apart from his other work, labors to take care of the poor and needy. He even leaves his dinner, hot on the table, to go and bury the dead whom no one else cares about. That’s righteousness. One day, in an interesting way, he suddenly goes blind (How? read it for yourself, I can’t spoil everything). Tobit, old and blind, wants to find a good wife for his son before he dies.
Sent by God, the Archangel Raphael appears, and posing as a distant relative, agrees to take Tobias to find a wife. He takes him to a woman who has been married seven times, but on the wedding night of each marriage, a powerful demon appears and kills the groom, leaving the new bride a virgin maid. No one will marry her now, and it’s not hard to understand why. Tobias arrives, and bravely announces that he will marry her. When the demon appears, Tobias forces the demon to flee, and takes her back home. Raphael dramatically reveals himself as an angelic visitor, and they live happily ever after. Whew. That’s the condensed version. It’s a fun read, though, so please don’t take my word for it.
What does this have to do with redemption and salvation from a Christian perspective? Why did the early Christian teachers and Fathers hold this book in such high esteem? They certainly considered it important enough to be in the Bible. Why is it even in the Bible at all?
Let have a look at this situation.
A loving Father, sends his only Son, accompanied by a holy Spirit, to rescue a helpless Bride held captive by an evil spirit who fills her life with hopelessness and death. This Son defeats the evil spirit, saves the Bride, and takes her back to live with Him in the Father’s house.
This is the story of the Incarnation, isn’t it? It’s the story of Christ, and one that every one of us who attended Sunday School knows deep in the depths of his heart.
There’s more than that, though. This story is actually referenced once in the New Testament. Nonsense, you say?
Remember when the Sadducees (they did not believe in the Resurrection) came to Jesus posing him a conundrum about the Resurrection, hoping to trick Him, and humiliate Him? Y’know, the “let’s make him look stupid,” kind of questions that they often tried to catch him with.
They ask Jesus,
“Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?” (Matt. 22:25-28)
This is a reference to the seven dead grooms in the Book of Tobit. Unfortunately for the Sadducees, they didn’t understand the story.
Jesus tells them as much.
“You know neither the Scriptures, nor the power of God.” (Matt. 22:29)
In other words, they didn’t get it. They missed the point. They just wanted to make the belief in the Resurrection look foolish and unreasonable. Little did they know who they were talking to – the living Resurrection Himself.
The Book of Tobit is a powerful telling of, and a typological foreshadowing of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, sent by the Father, accompanied the power of the Holy Spirit, to rescue humanity from the devil, and take us back with Him to His Father’s House.
What a powerful prophecy! What a great story!
I love a happy ending.