1 Corinthians 15:51-57
51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” Too often we think of death in wrong ways. We think that death is a state or a category or a condition. But v. 55 of that Epistle Lesson says that death is an enemy, a person who can be talked to and, most importantly, an enemy who can be questioned.
Imagine encountering death. When you or someone you love dies and you cross paths with death, you need to only ask death one simple question: “O death, where is your sting?”
Death might try to answer you with a pale, menacing, frightening voice, “My sting is your sin. I sting because you sin. If you didn’t have sin, I would have no sting. But I sting everyone because all have sinned. I am the wages and payment of sin (Ro. 6:23). And I will sting you because your sin is my sting.”
But you can simply respond, “I know all of that, death. I know that my sin has put me under your thumb. I know that the Bible says, ‘The wages of sin is death.’ So, what you say is true. But, death, I didn’t ask you, ‘What is your sting?’ I asked you, ‘Where is your sting?’ So, death, where is it, where is your sting?”
And death might smile and respond, “You simple Christian, have you forgotten how powerful my sting is? It is more powerful than the most poisonous snake or spider or jellyfish. My sting is the most powerful sting imaginable. My sting burns forever because the power of my sting is fueled by the Law. Yes, God’s eternal Law that abides forever, and you have broken that Law over and over.”
But you can look back at death and say, “I know my sin is no small sting. I know my sin is against the God who created me and loves me. I know the penalty of my sin is everlasting death, and I feel it in my conscience. I also know that the Law is not ever going to go away. I know that God’s Commandments are eternal. In fact, the Law was what made me scared of you. Because of the good and righteous Law, I know what you can do to me. I know that your sting is my sin, and I know that the power behind that sting is the Law. But, death, you still have not answered my question. Where is your sting?”
At this point, death is uncomfortable and a little fidgety, but he musters as much gusto as possible and says, “Well, you are face-to-face with me, aren’t you?”
“Yes, I am, but the sting of death is not death. The sting of death is sin. So, I ask you again, ‘Death, where is your sting?’”
Finally, death hangs his head. “I have used it, and I have lost it. But I’ll get it back again.”
And you can smile in his face, “Yes, death, you used your sting, didn’t you? You should have used your sting on me. The sting would have stuck on me. But you didn’t. Instead, death, you used your sting on my Savior, my God, and my Lord. You used your sting on Jesus, didn’t you? You had Jesus pinned tightly on the cross, and you stuck Him with your stinger and buried it into Him. Death, you were a fool that day. You stung God Himself. You stung Jesus who is the Resurrection and the Life (Jn. 11:25). But when you went to the tomb to find your stinger and get it back, Jesus wasn’t there. And guess what, death, Christ has taken my sin as He hung on the cross. And, death, you will not ever get your sting back. Never. That empty tomb means that your sting is lost forever. Death, I don’t fear you any longer.”
And having no other answer, death now turns around and walks away from you.
Dear saints, this is why we celebrate every Easter and every Sunday. Every Sunday, we celebrate what Christ has done in absorbing the sting of death so that death no longer has his sting.
And the day is coming when Christ will return. On that day, the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable. The day is coming when your perishable body will put on the imperishable and your mortal body will put on immortality.
Yes, death can and does buzz around now for a while. But death is like a bee that has used its stinger and soon dies.
Dear saints, “Death is swallowed up in victory.” Yes, the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the Law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. So now, Christian, you need have no fear of death. Jesus has conquered the bitter tyrant of death. And He has connected you to that victory. You do not need to fear and watch out for death hiding behind a corner to pounce on you. Instead, Christian, you continue to look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.
Because Christ is risen, death is overthrown. Christ is risen and life reigns. Christ is risen, and dear saint, you are safely anchored in Christ who has given you the victory, now and forever.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.