Daily Devotional: 1 Corinthians 15:54-55
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?"
On the Saturday after Jesus’s crucifixion, Matthew records the Pharisees and the chief priests going to Pilate to request a guard for the tomb. Matthew 27:63 records their request to Pilate, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ’He is risen from the dead,” and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” Pilate grants the Pharisees and chief priests this last act certifying the Roman execution of Jesus.
The fact that the Jewish leaders would come to Pilate on the sabbath shows how important the issue of guarding the tomb is. It is not enough that they have killed Jesus, they want to make sure he stays dead, even if they imagine his disciples stealing his body in order to perpetrate a fraud.
The Pharisees and the chief priests are unaware that their greatest fear has already been realized. Jesus’s death has signaled an end to the old religious order. The new people of God would no longer be identified with ethnic, tribal, or national heritage. Rather, the new people of God are identified with faith in Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God. The Jewish leaders’s ultimate aim of stopping Jesus by executing him is the very act that destroyed their religious system. His death tore the dividing wall between man and God (symbolized in the tearing of the Temple veil).
The death of Jesus is also the death of death itself. Paul quotes two Old Testament passages (Isaiah 25:8 and Hosea 13:14) in 1 Corinthians 15:54–55, where he indicates death has been conquered. The “sting of death” for sinners meant judgement under the law. This meant condemnation, and justly so. However, in Christ, death is conquered. The victory of Christ’s death and resurrection means that a Christian’s death is not the end. It will not lead to judgement. Rather, we too will be resurrected, raised to eternal life with God on high (1 Corinthians 15:52).
I just read that the US has the most deaths from the Coronavirus. Our current climate reminds us that death is still here. I pray that this time would not be wasted; as we gather in our homes to celebrate Resurrection Sunday tomorrow, let's pray that many who don’t yet know Christ would consider their own mortality, the certainty of death, and in turn look to Jesus who has conquered sin and death forever.
One day, death will no longer exist. Revelation 21:4 says “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Let us rejoice both in Christ’s death and resurrection!