Summary: How does Jesus take the sting out of death? Life is still hard and losing a loved one is sad. How does Easter help? No matter what you're going through Easter doesn't change. Christ is still and always will be risen from the dead!
This Easter is unlike any that I’ve ever experienced and I’m guessing that I’m not alone in feeling that way. This is a rather strange Easter morning. The church is empty. Your normal family gatherings have likely been cancelled or postponed. You likely watching this worship service by yourself, with your family and certainly with less than 10 people. It’s just strange? But as I thought about what Easter was going to be like this year, it also made me think that maybe THIS Easter is actually more reflective of what that first Easter Sunday must have been like, nearly 2000 year ago, especially for Jesus’ followers. Just think about it!
Jesus’ followers were isolated, hiding behind locked doors in fear. How could they not be after seeing what had happened to Jesus just three days earlier when he was executed by crucifixion. Life had certainly not gone at they had planned. Just once week ago when they entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, Jesus was being hailed as a king and the people couldn’t seem to get enough of him. Where were the crowd now? Where was Jesus? He was dead. That first Easter morning was initially one of isolation, confusion, sadness and fear – disciples of Jesus who probably felt a little defeated.
Maybe you feel somewhat of the same way this Easter morning. Things certainly have not gone as we planned. You might feel isolated not able to spend this day with family members and friends, wondering when you will next get to see, no less touch them. The death count continues to climb and the thoughts of when or if we’ll see an outbreak in our community continue to linger. What the next week or next month is going to bring is anyone’s guess. Yes, we too might feel like those disciples on that first Easter morning confused, afraid, uncertain – a little bit defeated.
But as the sun rose on that first Easter Sunday, there was breaking news. If the disciples had cell phones, they would have been blowing up! Some of the women who were at Jesus’ crucifixion on Friday had returned to the cemetery where they saw Jesus’ lifeless body placed. But when they got to Jesus’ tomb, it was open. And not only was it open, it was empty! That’s when an angel calmly explained, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay” (Matthew 28:5,6). Understandably, the news was a bit overwhelming. Mary Magdalene starts sobbing and is comforted by the living Jesus. The other women immediately head back to tell the disciples and are also met by the living Jesus. Throughout the day Jesus makes multiple appearances to his disciples, and confirms that he really is alive. Jesus had defeated death!
Now you might be thinking, “Good for Jesus! He came back to life! Good for his followers, they got back their teacher and their friend. They could see him again! But I’ve never met Jesus, and while I’m sure he was a nice guy, whether he’s dead alive, what does that really have to do with me?” It has everything to do with you! In fact, it is ONLY BECAUSE OF YOU that Jesus died and rose from the dead! That’s what the section from 1 Corinthians 15 that you heard read just a few moments ago reminds us of. These verses show us the direct connection between Jesus rising from the dead and you.
To see that connection let’s begin by looking at verse 56 where we read, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law” (1 Corinthians 15:56). It might help to work our way backwards through this verse: “the power of sin is the law.” What does that mean? We might naturally feel bad about doing certain things like breaking a promise, or losing our temper, or taking something that does not belong to us. But as we read through the Bible it shows us that we sin a whole lot more than what were first aware of. We see that God holds us accountable not only for the words we say or the actions we commit, but also for our thoughts and our attitudes. The Bible shows us that we are far from perfect with the mountain of sin growing ever larger daily. But not only does the Bible show us the quantity of sin, it also shows us the price of sin.
You might think of it like going to the store. You see something that you want to buy, but it doesn’t have a price tag on it. You know it isn’t free, that you’re going to have to pay something for it, so you find one of those scanner things or you ask one of the checkout people for the price. You see the price and if its’ more than you want to or can pay, what do you do? You put the item back on the shelf and walk away. Here’s the problem with sin: you can’t put it back on the shelf. Once you’ve sinned, you’ve sinned. You can’t take back the words, undo the actions, rewind the thoughts. And the price for sin is high. The Bible tells us, “The one who sins is the one who will die” (Ezekiel 18:20). Death is the result of sin and at death payment for sin is collected. When your life comes to an end, either you possess what is required to live with God, or you don’t have what is required and you will be separated from him for eternity. That’s the problem. The Bible tells us, “The ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough” (Psalm 49:8). Ouch! That stings! How do we get rid of that sting? Remember what this verse says, “The sting of death is sin.” We need to get rid of our sin. Again, we run into a problem because there is not a single one of us that is without sin!