“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:55–57)
God made music for this. He gave us voices to sing this truth. Pitch and cadence, rhythm and rhyme, melody and harmony — he wired the world, and created humanity, to break into song together over the victory that is almost too good for words.
Almost. We will try. We must. We will play strings and pound drums. We will sing with gusto. We will write new songs. This news is too great for whispers. This truth, too magnificent for indoor voices. This message, too astonishing to keep our cool. And when it seems that our hearts are beginning to burst for joy, here we find why he gave us music. He made us for this song: Jesus is alive.
He Is Not Here
The women who came early Sunday morning to his tomb were the first to find out. They had suffered the longest days and nights of their lives Friday and Saturday. They had seen his agony and ignominy. They saw his blood pour out. They witnessed the weight of the curse on him. They saw the sky go dark. They heard his cry of abandonment, then his prayer, and then his final breath.
For two days, they had sobbed their eyes dry and mourned their voices raw. Now the Sabbath had passed, and their grief continued as they brought spices to anoint his body. They felt the ground shake (Matthew 28:2). They found the stone rolled away, but not his body (Luke 24:2). Confusion and numbness. Then everything changed with that word from the angel: “He is not here, but has risen” (Luke 24:6).
Fear and Great Joy
This was news beyond simple response. We’re told, “they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy” (Matthew 28:8). Fear and great joy.
They fear because of the raw power of resurrection. Nothing but the power of God himself is on display. God himself. The sheer strength that is shown in triumphing over the final enemy is enough to make the most courageous shake. Omnipotent power has been unleashed, and it has shattered the seemingly impenetrable skull of death itself.
And the women have great joy because this power is on their side. Better, they are on his side. The one whom they loved is alive. More alive than they had ever dreamed. The one they trusted and followed, and believed in, not only has been shown to be true, but he is alive — alive to hear and see and touch and talk. He is alive to know and enjoy. Forever.
Sadness Comes Untrue
Now Joy has triumphed over sorrow. Day has gained its dominion over night. Light has thrashed against the darkness and won. Christ, through death, has destroyed the one who had the power of death (Hebrews 2:14). Death is swallowed up in victory (1 Corinthians 15:54).
It is too great for mere speech. There must be song. Indeed there is. We join the chorus with the prophet Hosea and the apostle Paul:
“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55)
Christ has been raised. Day no longer fades to black, but night is awakening to the brightness. Darkness is not suffocating the light, but the sun is chasing away the shadows. Sin is not winning, but death is swallowed up in victory.
The fierce song of the resurrection doesn’t ignore the lament of our pain. Easter Sunday’s triumph doesn’t minimize our losses on Good Friday. It bids our burdens stand as they are, in all their weight, with all their barbs, in all their threats. And this risen Christ, with the brilliance of indestructible life in his eyes, says, “These too I will swallow up in victory. These too will serve your joy. These too, even these, I soon will make an occasion for your everlasting glory. I have overcome, and those who are with me are more than conquerors.”
He is alive. How can we not sing?