Where, O Death, is Your Victory…
“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). This is a joyful cry lifted up by Paul in his own prophetic exclamation of joy at the victory that was won by Jesus on the cross. Because of Jesus’ self-giving and selfless act on the cross we have been freed from our former slavery to both sin and death. Because he is the resurrection and the life, eternal life is ours; if we believe and openly live our belief.
Those of you who know and love Handel’s Messiah will recognize the words of Paul’s 1st Letter to the Corinthians in his text for his great and joyous musical oratorio, the Hallelujah Chorus. They are heard in the third part of the choral work where he lifts up his great Hallelujah in joyful praise of the gift of the resurrection on the Last Day. He writes, and the chorus sings, “The trumpets shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption and this mortal must put on immortality…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, who giveth us the victory through Lord Jesus Christ.” If you have not listened to the Hallelujah Chorus for a while, go to it and you will hear the joy that belongs to these prophetic words from Paul.
We Christians are called to live our lives in light of this promised resurrection. We no longer live in the darkness of despair. Jesus is the reason for our hope as we sojourn through this life. Yes, we know ourselves to be weak and vulnerable to both sin and death. But we do not despair. Rather, we take joy in knowing that Jesus Christ is Lord, that he is the Messiah who came among us, who suffered and died on the cross in order to free us from the slavery of sin and death forever. This is why we can live our faith in joy. Those who believe no longer fear death. It has no sting, because Jesus Christ has won the victory. He is our champion, our protector, and our reason for joy.
We believe that at the resurrection on the Last Day, when the final trumpet sounds, our corruptible bodies will be raised up and clothed in incorruptibility. “We shall not fall asleep, but we shall be changed, in an instant, in the blink of an eye” (verses 51-52). We will be raised body and soul, but we will be changed. We will no longer be mortal, but immortal. because, “Death is swallowed up in victory” by Jesus Christ, our savior and our king. This is why Paul can challenge us, as well as the Corinthians, to, “be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (verse 58). We have no reason to fear, not even the fear death. What, then, can stop us from living joyfully in the Lord all the days of our lives?
Lord, We thank you for the great and loving gift of your resurrection and its promise to us. We praise you for your great glory and call on you to strengthen us in faith, hope, and love, so that we can live our lives fearlessly in service to you and to our neighbors, knowing that you have already won the victory over sin and death. In your name we pray, Jesus. Amen!
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