For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power.
But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Corinthians 15. 56&57)
Were the hosts of heaven holding their breath? The son of God has put himself forward as the chosen champion; the one who will dare all against an implacable foe for the sake of an otherwise hopeless cause – a humanity under God’s judgement.
As the sky darkened that Sabbath eve, it was as if a curtain was being drawn between the watching eyes and the two protagonists. The final glimpse of Christ our elect warrior, is as he breathes his last, and enters the theatre of death for us. Then the stage appears to fall silent and empty, and we know no more.
All seemed lost as the sun set that night. All the long hours of Saturday, the bewildered disciples hid, nursing their grief and loss, profoundly confused and stunned by what they had experienced. How they must have been tormented by the memory of their failure to stand by him at his trial, by the soul-searing knowledge of their own weakness and all the appalling “If only..” thoughts which haunt those prematurely bereaved. Did they recall anything of what Jesus had taught them on the road to Jerusalem a few weeks earlier? Did his words return with the weight of fulfilled prophecy behind them? He had told them that he would be handed over to suffer and die.
Did they remember the other thing he had told them would happen…. that after three days, he would rise again? What did they make of those words during the long hours after his body had been taken to the tomb, as time crawled by and all the savour and vigour drained from life ?
And then, in the early light of Sunday, the women came tearing from the tomb, gasping out that the body was gone, and an angel had told them the Christ was risen! Did they dismiss it as feminine hysteria, grief-deluded wishful thinking? Or did Jesus’ friends finally begin to realise that – along with everything else he had told them – this was also true?
Surely, heaven must have exploded with the song of triumph as the son of God surged forth, presenting himself before the Father to receive the victor’s crown. This was what had been planned for, agonised for, laboured for – the great divine conspiracy to deliver captive humanity from the slavery of sin and death. And now, it had been fully achieved, as Paul tells us :- “For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again, death no longer has mastery over him.” (Romans 6.9)
In his great love for us, God did not leave us in any doubt about the nature of that victory, so that the word which came to the women, to the disciples, and above all the absence of the dead body of the Lord all proclaimed the victory won. The warrior had conquered, succeeding in his battle beyond all that they had dreamt – not a small political triumph over an occupying power, but an eternal, universal defeat of the power of evil to cut humanity off from God.
We shall never know what our champion faced for us, what agonies he claimed the privilege of bearing for our sake. We can only wonder at his courage and worship him for the love which drove him. He fought the fight for us. He gives us the prize, his victory is ours. And as we see his transformed, resurrected body, we get a glimpse of the incredible future in store for all of us who believe.
This too is for us, this new life beyond the grave. How bright is the light that shines on us on Easter Sunday morning; what glad tidings we hear, of the death of the power of sin in our lives. The past has no power over us now. The victory of our champion sets us free to live in bright hope, with steady courage and a confident step. God grant that we may indeed live in that victory!
No guilt in life, no fear in death, this is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from his hand:
Till he returns or calls me home, here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.
(Stuart Townend & Keth Getty, 2001)