1 Cor 15:55-57 Paul says:
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
You gotta love Paul. In the whole of scripture, I don’t remember another apostle, disciple, man or woman or even angel with the nerve to call out death like this. Scripture tells us that death is the last enemy that God will throw into the Lake of fire; not Lucifer, not his demons mind you, Death. Wild stuff, right? This is spoken almost like death is personified. Is Death an actual being like Lucifer? I don’t know, but I do know that Paul’s statement is a precursor to some epic end-game eschatology. This is death, the fundamental constant of our universe, battling God for the eternity of His own children and the Life Giver wins! That is Easter my friend; the beginning of Death’s end! O, the lake of fire hasn’t swallowed it yet, but Paul says, with all the swagger that a God follower can muster, “Death…where is your sting?”
Now, maybe it’s just me, but I couldn’t help but wonder if Paul was acting a little too big for his britches, calling out death like this. Maybe it’s the way that Paul asked the question. He said it like he’d just rolled up the sleeves of his robe and pushed the stone away with his own bare hands. I mean, death, and the grave? This is big league stuff. It seems a bit above even Paul’s pay grade or any mortal’s, for that matter. But then the question hit me. Was it? Was Paul really acting too big for his britches or do I just need to try on a bigger size? Could a mortal man speak so boldly to his grave? Do we dare to follow the apostle’s example? If that man knows the Life Giver, then Easter says…YES! A mortal man can speak that boldly to his grave because an immortal God-man walked out of His grave. Jesus was human, but not mortal. You see, Paul knew this. Not only in the, “I’ve got faith” kind of knowing. No, Paul knew, because the risen Son of God had already appeared to him, post tomb. That’s right. There are so many places in scripture where Paul beautifully and powerfully declares his faith, but this is not one of them. This is an eyewitness account of a man so excited about resurrection power, that he’s practically beside himself. Can you imagine, Paul, the apostle, hunched over his parchments, tears rimming his eyes as he scribbles, furiously his challenge to death itself. Paul, the one who told us that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. Now, can you imagine the apostle’s shock when seeing “that power” at work on Easter? I love it! When Paul gets excited, the metaphors start rolling and Paul is letting them fly! This is a man whose God had just validated His own gospel by walking out of His own tomb. If there ever was any doubt in Paul’s mind, Easter is the day that doubt vanished. Death had finally bitten off more than it could chew. Jesus was something that death had never wrestled before. He who knew no sin, was the power behind the Gospel! Jesus is the Death Killer, and Easter was that battle!
And so Paul’s question scrawls across the page of our bibles, still as potent for the grave today, as it was the day the ink was still drying on the scroll:
“DEATH WHERE IS YOUR STING?”
And like Paul, we can don the big britches of holy joy, knowing that when our Savior, the Son of the living God, triumphantly walked out of His tomb, it was as good as us walking out of ours!
We are an Easter people! We celebrate our future, and that is how I want to worship this Easter Sunday. Like a 3-day miracle has just changed the fundamental constant of the universe into nothing more than a door to everlasting life. That is Easter! That is our God!
Let’s come Sunday, emboldened with some of Paul’s swagger, bold in the Spirit and in power!