Once again, the ancient proclamation is heard, “Christ is Risen!” and the one true holy catholic church replies with one voice, “He is risen indeed! Alleluia!”
These are the words of celebration and the affirmation of victory! The risen Christ is victorious over all His enemies. By His resurrection, He openly displayed His power over Satan, sin, death, and the grave. But it is important for us to realize that this victory is not only His, but it is also ours as well. His victory is our victory. His resurrection is the promise of our resurrection.
During this Easter Season we need to reflect upon the fact that we share in the glorious heritage of the redeemed of Christ. We stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of God from every age, nation, kindred, and tongue. You and I are a part of the body of the holy catholic church, the body of Christ.
The message of the resurrection is not only the victory of Christ, it is our victory as well. It is the very fiber of the Gospel. It is the greatest fact in human history; because He lives we also live! Our sins are forgiven, our lives are changed, and our Lord Christ is our Living Saviour!
Writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul penned these words for us in I Corinthians 15:50-58 – “I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 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. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 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.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
As I considered the glorious victory of Christ and the importance of His resurrection for us, I wondered what words of wisdom and encouragement Martin Luther would bestow to us? Therefore, I surveyed some of his writings and gleaned from them his thoughts on the meaning of Christ’s victory, from his commentary on I Corinthians 15 first published in 1523:
“Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” is a common saying. St. Paul is able to speak about this article at such length because his heart is filled with it and he is so convinced of it that he regards all else as nothing by comparison. If his heart were not filled to overflowing with such thoughts, these words would never occur to him … because Christ is risen and [He] gives us His resurrection against our sin, death, and hell, we must advance to where we also learn to say: “O death, where is thy sting? ” “That is the victory by which death is to be swallowed up, so that we need fear death no longer or remain in it. For the heart is already saturated by the Gospel ... the victory gained by Christ is already present, and through Gospel, Baptism, and faith it has become our victory. “On the Last Day, when we have taken off the old, terrestrial, perishable garment and put on a new celestial one, we can destroy him completely with this victory. Then we will remain in life forever; then we will behold and perceive life as we now behold and feel the reverse.…
“Then we will really begin to glory joyfully and defiantly and say and sing: ‘O death, where is thy sting? O hell, where is thy victory?’ That is really snapping one’s fingers at death and hell and saying: ‘Dear death, do not bite me, but show your anger with me and kill me. I defy death and hell and challenge them to touch a hair on my head! Where are you now, you vile man-eaters? … I defy you to pursue me further!’ For death has already been drowned and swallowed up entirely on Christ’s body, with not as much as a speck of death’s dust remaining on Him. Now we who believe in Him share in this when the hour comes in which we see and feel how death and hell are entirely swallowed up and exterminated. At present, however, we await the hour, assured that this will surely come to pass and that we can already defiantly rely on Christ by faith over against sin, death, and hell.”
The words of Martin Luther regarding the present reality of our victory over Satan, sin, death, and the grave give us a clearer understanding of the Apostle’s words, “O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?”
Easter is truly a time of celebration for the Christian. It is the fulfillment of a promise made by the Almighty God in time, space, and history. A promise that is revealed in these words: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). This year let us celebrate the eternal life that is already ours as we celebrate the Resurrection of our Saviour and our Lord!
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