How to Fear Death No More
My uncle John, my mother’s brother, was deathly allergic to bees in the days before we had readily available epinephrine shots. One hot summer day, as he and my grandfather were driving, windows down, in a pick-up truck making deliveries — a bee flew into the window of their vehicle. My uncle went into an immediate panic while my grandfather pulled over to the side of the road. Calmly, he reached over with his hand, captured the bee, and tried to crush it in his hand. Uncle John was fine momentarily until my grandpa opened his hand, and the bee flew out again. Instantly he went into another state of panic until my grandpa called out to him, “Look at my hand, John! That fellow left his stinger in it. He can’t harm you now.”
At the climax of his presentation on the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul shared a similar thought about the Lord Jesus’s resurrection.
“Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, 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.
Perhaps our greatest fear in this world is the unknown factors that attend to death. People may try to cope by joking about it, but many fear death with the same intensity that uncle John exhibited in fearing that bee. We know that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23a), but many do not know about the second half of that precious verse: “but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
For many, in this Easter season, Resurrection Sunday is only about another annual spring ritual — fresh clothes and nature renewed and brought back to life. Bunnies, chocolate, and Easter eggs are more evident to them than any sense of what Jesus accomplished in conquering the tomb and death on the third day after the cross.
Perhaps our greatest fear in this world is the unknown factors that attend to death
Paul looked to the end when the resurrection’s full benefits are realized for those who trust in Jesus. Because Jesus was raised, we will have the ultimate victory — victory over not just past sin, but future death. As he wrote:
For if the dead are not raised, then not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ only in this life, we are of all people most to be pitied. But now, Christ HAS BEEN raised…
But now, Christ has been raised, the “first fruit” (or the promise) of every resurrection that follows. Jesus took the sting of death on our behalf because death has “stung” Jesus, death’s stinger need not sting us! Jesus’ resurrection removed not only the worst aspects of death (separation from God and our loved ones) but also the power of the law of Moses as a condemning force in our lives (1 Corinthians 15:56). Jesus died for our sins and rose to guarantee that he was victorious over everything that defeats us as our earthly lives draw to a close.
All of this is worth celebrating! It is worthy of declaring our praise to God amid His people! The sting of death is removed from those who trust in Jesus.