“Death Has Been Swallowed Up” – 1 Corinthians 15:54
The Resurrection of our Lord – April 1, 2018
First time in over 60 years – Easter and April Fools’ Day coincide.
History of April Fools’ Day… murky – some think back to hilarity and joy after spring equinox in Julian calendar (first day of new year); others, 1600’s when use of Gregorian calendar switched New Year to January 1 and some were fooled; still others, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales with the line the 32nd of March = April 1 (a joke); only in Europe and North America.
Just a day for pulling tricks and pranks on friends, family, students, the public – before noon!
1998 – Burger King introduced “Left-handed Whopper” (rotated 180°)
1998 – Alabama state officials announced they were rounding pi off to Biblical number of 3
1975 – Australian TV announced switch to metric time: 100 seconds to a minute, 100 minutes to an hour, and 20 days in a month.
1957 – BBC segment on show called Panorama about the Swiss Spaghetti harvest.
I remember… early 1980’s – Mount Blackstrap volcano prank… explain.
Being fooled – being blinded to the truth, not apprehending the truth with your eyes / ears / mind. (Brendan’s little “magic” tricks & puppets doing their own thing.)
What does April Fools’ have to do with Easter? NOTHING!!
Unless we consider that God pulled a prank on Satan. After all, He did it before noon!!
What was evident to the eyes / ears / minds?
– Jesus arrested, tried, beaten & died.
– The Jewish religious leaders had finally gotten rid of this trouble maker.
– God had abandoned Jesus – “My God…”
– the devil must have thought, “I couldn’t defeat Jesus with my temptations in the desert, but now I have bested Him and conquered Him through these weak and naïve humans. Nothing can stop me now. I am the king of this world.”
– The disciples were dispersed and disheartened – “we had hoped…”
Matthew’s account – Jewish religious leaders asked Pilate to make tomb secure. (Jesus had claimed He would rise.) … VERY LARGE stone, seal around the stone to secure it, Roman guard! No way thieves could break in from outside and steal the body and deceive…
God’s prank was to break out from the inside. All the women thought about on their way was the VERY LARGE stone, and how they would get in to anoint Jesus’ body with the ointments and spices. They considered the stone only from the outside.
We often face the same predicament – we see troubles from the earth side, from the impossible side. Whether it’s a marriage going off the rails, a sickness overwhelming us like a huge wave, a work issue that we just can’t resolve, a financial burden that seems crushing, or faith doubts that we can’t understand and get past. It’s like all we’re seeing is the VERY LARGE stone… from the outside! Just like April Fools’ pranks, we are not apprehending the truth with our eyes / ears / minds / hearts / faith. And that leaves us rather hopeless.
Not seeing spiritual truth is sin… being blinded to the things of God, or being resistant to the things of God, being rebellious toward the things of God. Any one of those things is being foolish… April Fool, May Fool, June, July or August Fool – thinking that God doesn’t exist, thinking that God doesn’t care, thinking that God can’t or won’t do anything to help us, thinking that God was defeated by death. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1 that “the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” Paul could just as soon have written, “the foolishness of God is wiser than the devil’s wisdom.” Yes, the devil must have been laughing gleefully when Jesus said “It is finished,” and when He breathed His last. In the devil’s mind the battle was over, the war was won, all human beings would belong to him, would worship him. But the devil didn’t anticipate in the least God’s prank. Paul would write about it in his great resurrection chapter – 1 Corinthians 15: “Death has been swallowed up in victory!”
In the Old Testament of the Bible there are several passages which depict the imagery of death as an insatiable monster feeding on its victims.
Psalm 49 – “[Those who trust in themselves] are destined for the grave, and death will feed on them.”
Psalm 69 – “[Do not let] the pit close its mouth over me.”
Proverbs 1 talks about sinners saying, “Let’s swallow them alive, like the grave…”
Proverbs 27 says that “death and destruction are never satisfied.”
Isaiah 5 speaks about “the grave [enlarging] its appetite, and [opening] its mouth without limit.”
But Paul’s comment (quoting from Isaiah 25) is that death – the great swallower – has itself been swallowed up in the victory of Jesus over the grave. He follows that up with God’s taunt, based on Hosea 13 – “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” With respect to Jesus, death has no sting, death achieves no victory. Why? Paul gives the answer two verses later: “God gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Yes, the victory was evident…
– in the stone rolled away from the tomb
– in the defeated tomb guards
– in the empty grave clothes
– in the simple words of the resurrection angel: “He is not here; He is risen, just as he said.”
– in the multiple appearances of the risen Christ to the women, to Mary Magdalene, to the disciples, to Thomas, to the Emmaus Road disciples, to Peter, to Paul.
On that first Easter Sunday morning, even if it wasn’t April Fools’ Day, the devil was fooled, deceived and defeated, for Jesus triumphantly came back alive. Yes, thanks be to God for the victory in Jesus:
– the victory over sin – conquering sin’s power to sting us, to make us guilty, to condemn us, and instead… separating us from our sins as far as the east is from the west – what wondrous love that is!!
– the victory over death – swallowing up that great swallower, rolling away the VERY LARGE stone of our graves, and opening to us and for us the very doors of heaven, and life, with Him, forever!
– the victory over the devil – fooling the one who fools us and deceives us and tempts us and who would lead us away from God, defeating him and all the powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil so that, with Jesus, we may STAND – strong, secure, steadfast!!
Back to 1 Corinthians 1 for a final remark and comment from Paul: “The message of the cross is foolishness… Christ crucified is foolishness” on this April Fools’ Day. Oh, and I didn’t tell you that the Greek word for foolish is mwroV – which is where we get our English word ‘moron.’ That’s what many would say… many of Paul’s day, and many of our day. They would say “you can’t trick me,” “that can’t be,” “Jesus dying for me doesn’t make any sense,” “you’ve got to be a moron to believe that stuff,” and “there is no such thing as life after death, not for Jesus, not for me.” But Paul says that that message of Christ crucified is foolishness only to those who deny its power to save them. But for those who believe, for those who are saved, the cross and the Easter Sunday empty tomb are the power of God, the means of God to save them. No foolin’!!
Yes, thanks be to God… for Jesus’ victory, the victory that we celebrate again this Easter. And thanks be to God… for He gives US the victory! Jesus’ victory is transferred to every one of us who is called by His name – Christian; to every one who believes in His name – Jesus; to every one who calls on His name – Saviour! Death has been swallowed, Christ is alive! Hallelujah!! Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Hallelujah!! Amen.