Passion week is a high and holy week. As we move through it, we worshipfully ponder the highlights and lowlights leading up to the most glorious weekend event ever. We think about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem with the crowd seeking a political messiah. We think about Jesus’ loving act of washing the disciples’ feet and the beautiful fulfillment bound up in the Passover and Lord’s Supper. We think about the garden scene when Jesus acquiesced to the Father’s will by receiving the cup of God’s wrath against sin. We think about the betrayal and trial and denial of Jesus. And, of course, we think about the laying down and taking up of Jesus’ life in the crucifixion and resurrection.
But do we think about the life-giving reality that even in Jesus’ death He was still conquering? In fact, in being defeated, he was gaining the victory.
This is why Paul begins 1 Corinthians 15 with a condensed version of the gospel:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, (v. 3-4)
and concludes it with the rhetorical question of victory in Christ:
Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? (v. 54-55)
I’ll tell you where death sting and victory are. Death’s sting has been blunted by the cross and absorbed in the body of Jesus. And its victory has been spoiled by the resurrection. Isaiah’s prophecy has come true, namely that he will swallow up death for all time. (25:8)
But Isaiah’s prophecy did not stop there. It immediately gave implications. What does this victory over death mean? Why does it matter?
And the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from all faces,
And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth;
For the LORD has spoken. (25:8)
Only God could script a story that secures the death of the Savior as the way that he saves from death. Only God could twist the plot so as to make the One who was defeated be the One who gains victory. Only God could complete the transaction wherein the reproaches of the sinners fall on the sinless One. Only God could orchestrate an event as excruciating and tear-inducing as the cross to be the way to take away tears.
The conclusion for us seems clear: our sin is gone and our mourning has been turned into joy. We now walk in the victory of Jesus over death, and we reckon ourselves dead to sin and fear. We proclaim with the psalmist that
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me. (Ps. 23:4)
Life sometimes seems like one long trek through the valley. But when walking through the valley, look to the hill on which Jesus died and remember that even in His death, Jesus was at work killing death and all its shadows. Take courage, death’s Defeater was raised again and is walking with you, so you have nothing to fear. Death is dead.