- Written by Pastor Shawn Nettleton Pastor Shawn Nettleton
- Created: April 24 2020 April 24 2020
Friends in Christ,
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
The Word of the Lord from 1 Corinthians 15:51–57:
Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 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. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 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.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
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.
“Dying with dignity” seems to be a popular phrase in our culture these days. It is typically used by those who advocate the freedom to die on one's own terms. One of the ideas behind this thought is our culture's perpetuation of the myth that death is natural, just part of the cycle of life. Winter gives way to spring, spring to summer, and summer to fall. So the young give way to age and the aged to death.
This myth is portrayed in memorable scene from the movie Forrest Gump starring Tom Hanks and Sally Fields. When Forrest's mother, played by Sally Fields, is dying at home of cancer she tells Forrest not be afraid. Why? Because as she says in her sweet voice, "Forrest, death is just part of life."
But nothing could be further from the truth! Death is the very opposite of life! Death is cruel. It is cold, it is heartless, and downright ugly. And for those who are not in Christ there is a horrible finality to death because “death nails life down. It is irrevocable. You cannot do a retake. You cannot play it over again. There are no second chances. Death renders a verdict.” 1
Death was not part of God's very good and perfect creation, but rather the result of sin. “The wages of sin is death,” St. Paul writes (Romans 6:23). Here in 1 Corinthians Paul again reminds us that “the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.” (15:56) That is, death gains its lethal power, its “sting,” because of sin. Furthermore, the law cannot rescue us from sin, but only pronounce its guilty death sentence.
If death is a natural part of life's cycle, then why do people go to such great lengths to avoid it? Death is part of life now because of sin, but death is always the enemy. St. Paul says, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death." (1 Corinthians 15:26) Death is the enemy because it separates what God created good. It separates body and soul. It separates husbands from wives, fathers from daughters, mothers from sons and vice versa. There is no “dying with dignity” because death is always the enemy!
We know all too well the horrible truth about death, its sting, and its power. But, Easter announces a greater truth and power that is unmatched—victory over death and the grave! Death has been swallowed up in victory! Christ Jesus chewed up death and spit it out! He is risen from the dead never to die again!
Sin, the law, and death have been undone by Christ's victorious resurrection from the dead. As Luther put it so well, “those tyrants and jailers have now been routed, and their place has been taken by Jesus Christ, the Lord of life, righteousness and every good blessing. He has snatched us poor and lost creatures from the jaws of hell, won us, made us free, and restored us to the Father's favor and grace.” 2
This is why St. Paul and those in Christ can now and forever mock and taunt death; “O death, where is your victory? O death where is your sting?” Death did not have the last word with Christ and now it cannot have the last word with you! Death will be swallowed up and destroyed forever on the Last Day when Christ gives to us glorious bodies like His, imperishable, immortal never to weep, hurt, grieve, sin or die again! What a glorious future! Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Almighty God, by the death and glorious resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ, You destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light. Grant to Your faithful people, rescued from the peril of everlasting death, perpetual gladness and eternal joy; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
The almighty and merciful Lord, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, bless and preserve you. Amen
Serving you in Christ,
Pastor Shawn Nettleton
- John T. Pless, "Mercy at Life's End: A Guide for Laity and Their Pastors," 3.
- Martin Luther, The Large Catechism, II, 30.
Rev. Shawn Nettleton is Senior Pastor at Saint John’s Lutheran Church. You can reach him in the church office, by email at nettleton@StJohnsFC.org or at 970-305-2420.