Summary: Jesus is completely victorious over sin and death
Are you a winner or a loser? We all want to be winners, don’t we? At the end of the game, we want to be on the side with 14 runs, like the White Sox had last night, instead of the team with 3 runs, like the Indians.
Nike had a slogan a couple of years ago that reflected this attitude: "second place is first loser." Other slogans: "winning isn’t everything, but losing is nothing." / "Whoever said, ’It’s not whether you win or lose that counts,’ probably lost."
Is that a good thing? Well, it depends on what’s at stake. If you’re highly competitive about everything, it’s probably not real healthy. If winning a game of Scrabble is a life-or-death issue for you, there may be a problem. If everything in your life is a competition; if you’re constantly comparing yourself to others, that’s probably not healthy.
You know people like this: you mention that you’ve been suffering from a cold; they tell you about the time they had to be hospitalized for pneumonia. Your son makes the honor roll; theirs is going to Harvard. You buy a minivan, they buy a 31-foot Ford Excursion land yacht urban assault vehicle with a sunroof and a tow hitch that weighs 7,000 pounds and eats Hondas for breakfast. You go to Florida for vacation; they go to Italy. Maybe you have family members like this, for whom everything in life is a contest. They’re the ones who send out those awful Christmas letters every year.
But there are areas where winning really is everything; where a wholehearted dedication to coming out on top is both healthy and necessary. One of these areas is war. As General Douglas MacArthur said, "In war there is no substitute for victory."
What I’d like to do this morning is to consider some aspects of the life of Jesus Christ that will help us to make this distinction - between those things that are important and critical and worth fighting for, and those things that are relatively unimportant. We need to look to Christ as our example in this, First, because He, better than anyone else who ever lived, had a clear understanding of what is important and what is not. And Second, because the world we live in doesn’t do a good job of making these distinctions.
As we look at Christ, we will see that he was not only a winner, but that in the areas where it truly mattered, He was and is an absolute victor, the champion of champions. We will see that in Christ, we are on the winning side in the only contest that matters. We will find that, no matter how things may look right now, when all is said and done, we will be holding the most valuable trophy of all.
We’re going to look at two areas in which Christ is victorious: In his battle with death and in his battle with sin.
1. Christ is victorious over death
"For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death." - 1 Corinthians 15:25-26 (NIV)
"For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed . . . then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory." "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" . . . But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." - 1 Corinthians 15:52-57 (NIV)
It may seem strange to speak of death as an enemy to be destroyed, but that is what it is. All men have an innate fear of death.
* They may see death as the end, as the simple cessation of life, a mere extinguishing of the spark of life. And even so, they fear the darkness, the emptiness, the nothingness, the not-being of death. The thought of their own annihilation terrifies them. When the time of their death seems far away, they can put it out of their minds and give little thought to it. But as they grow old or sick and death comes near, the prospect of their death does not bring them joy or peace, but fear and anxiety. Most would give anything; all of their life savings, anything, for just a few more hours or days of life.
* They may fear death because they anticipate a judgment, a reckoning. They sense that there will be an accounting for the things they have done, and they are fearful that the outcome of the judgment will not be good.
* Or they may not have a clear expectation of what may come after death, whether nothingness, judgement, or something else. But this very uncertainty fills them with dread, as they prepare to walk through a doorway not knowing whether the other side will be happy and beautiful, or whether it will be fearsome and horrible.