Summary: For Easter. And for Jimmy and Mary.
This is submitted in honor and memory of good friend and faithful servant of the Lord, Jimmy Carter, pastor of Norwood, Colorado Baptist Church, called home Palm Sunday, 2005.
“But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’”
“There is a preacher of the old school, but he speaks as boldly as ever. He is not popular though the world is his parish, and he travels every part of the globe and speaks in every language. He visits the poor, calls upon the rich, preaches to people of every religion and no religion, and the subject of his sermon is always the same. He is an eloquent preacher, often stirring feelings which no other preacher could in bringing tears to eyes that never weep. His arguments none are able to refute, nor is there any heart that has remained unmoved by the force of his appeals. He shatters life with his message. Most people hate him; everyone fears him. His name? Death. Every tombstone is his pulpit. Every newspaper prints his text, and someday every one of you will be his sermon.” - David Cawston “Ready to Face the Music”
In that same sermon, Reverend Cawston told a story of two teenagers who were talking one day at school. One said, "Wouldn’t it be neat to know the time and the place that you were going to die?" His buddy said, "What good would that do?" The first one said, "I wouldn’t show up”.
What makes that story funny, ironically, is the universal knowledge of a truth that is not funny at all; that there is no such thing as avoiding death. Not that this fact keeps us from trying. In history and literature, from the arts to the market place, we can see evidence of mankind’s terrible fear of the inevitable, and his fruitless efforts to deny or delay it.
From Dorian Gray’s portrait, to Ponce de Leon’s fountain of youth, to the weekday morning television ads trying to sell you products that will make you look younger, feel younger, perform better, take away all the aches and pains of aging…
…you all know what I mean.
Sin entered into the world and death through sin, and ever since that very day the prospect of death has held men and women in a grip of fear so horrible that many people will get angry if you even try to discuss it in their presence. As though not thinking about it will somehow delay it.
But it is there, waiting like a bony fingered specter, pointing down at a tombstone with your name on it; and the only thing you can’t make out is the final date.
We know from two verses of scripture that should be very familiar to the Bible studying Christian, that sin and death are universal. I’m referring to Romans 3:23 and 6:23. Those two addresses should be easy to remember.
Romans 3:23 “…for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God”
Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
In these two statements alone, Paul has established that, 1. all have sinned. There is no one born of the flesh who can truthfully say otherwise. 2. All must die.
The Apostle establishes very thoroughly in the third chapter of Romans, the utter decadence of mankind as a result of sin.
In one of the three Italian made westerns that made Clint Eastwood famous, “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”, Eli Wallach’s character has been arrested and condemned to die by hanging. He is sitting astride a horse, hands tied behind his back, noose around his neck, as the executioner reads the list of charges against him for the public to hear.
There are other things going on in the movie, but as the camera goes to different people and the various events transpiring, all the while, in the background you can hear these charges being read. The list of this man’s crimes is so long that it takes about 10 minutes to read. It just goes on and on.
Chapter 3 of Romans is sort of like that. The list of man’s heinous sins and his depraved nature and his rebellion against God is so long, and so compelling, that men are left without excuse and without hope.
Verse 19 of that chapter reads, “Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God;”