“A Conversation with our enemy, Death”
“Where, O death is your victory?” You once had such power. You once held us in bondage. You first entered the world when the serpent deceived our first parents. God said, “On the day that you eat of it you will surely die.” They ate, and they died.
Where is your sting, O death? You spread to all men because all sinned. You came to Adam’s son Abel by the hand of his brother Cain. You increased, and made men weep and lament and mourn. You were inescapable. Where, O death, is your sting?
God used you to cleanse the world of evil, and you claimed the lives of every living creature that was not on the ark with Noah and his family, but eventually you came to them too. “In Adam all died, because all sinned.” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the Law. You, O Death, were without mercy.
You came to the Israelites out in the wilderness, by the bite of fiery serpents. You clawed your way to Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, for their disobedience. You slithered through the streets of Egypt, striking down the firstborn of every living thing, both man and beast, but you could not touch the sons of God, whose doors were marked with the blood of the Passover lamb.
You came sweeping down upon the family and livestock of Job, but you could not sway him. For he confessed: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God.”
You came to the house of David, after he had sinned with Bathsheba, and you claimed the life of his first child. You caused great weeping and mourning. You brought David to his knees in repentance and despair, as you have done to so many throughout the history of the world, as you have done to us too.
Last of all, you came to the Son of God. Just another routine appointment, right? Just another son of Adam, ripe for the picking. On Good Friday, you thought you had won, you appeared victorious. On holy Saturday, you still were rejoicing. But you were wrong. You made a fatal miscalculation. You attacked Life Himself.
And now, O death, where is your victory? Where is your hold on us? Where is your bondage, and your sting? I will tell you where it is. It is no more. It is gone. “Death is swallowed up in victory!” O, you were a great enemy, O death. You were the worst of all our enemies. You had everyone fooled, even the disciples of Jesus.
The women had come to the tomb early that morning, expecting to find Jesus still there. Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. But they were deceived. Christ was not there. He had risen!
O, death, you are sunk. You are beaten. The head of the serpent has been crushed! Your hold on us is broken. When we see you now, when we are confronted by you, we are no longer afraid of you. In your face we will sing and chant and make a joyful noise. For you have been defeated. Christ has triumphed.
Now, through Him, the victory is ours. Job’s confession is also our confession: “I know that my Redeemer lives.” You may come to us too, but like Jesus, we too shall rise. The grave will not hold us. Death will not be the last word for us. Like Jesus, our Lord, we shall pass from death to life.
Because the blood of that paschal Lamb has marked the doors of our hearts. And let me remind you, O death, what the Scripture says: “The Blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin.” We are baptized, and our hearts have been sprinkled clean from an evil conscience. And not only that, but know this, O death: we receive this same cleansing blood at the Lord’s Table. It is a healing medicine, and Christ promises eternal life to all who receive it.
So go ahead, bare your teeth, show us your claws, make a loud noise. Try to frighten us. Try to cause us despair and heartache and pain. Take our loved ones as you please. Take us too. You do not frighten us. For Jesus is risen. Hear that proclamation. “The strife is o’er, the battle done, now is the victor’s triumph won.”
Christ has reconciled us to the Father by his death, and has given us the victory in Himself. In Baptism. In His Body and Blood. In the Holy Gospel. And let me just say one last thing to you, O death: your time is short. Soon you will be completely swallowed up in victory. Soon your Master will come again and send you away forever.
“It was a strange and dreadful strife, when life and death contended. But victory remained with life, the reign of death was ended. Holy Scripture plainly says that death is swallowed up by death. It’s sting is lost forever. Alleluia!”
In Jesus’ name,