Defanged Death
Wednesday of Easter 7
1 June 2017
Curled up in the fetal position, he whimpered in the corner of his cell. He appeared not a bit the vicious killer he is. It often happens that the vicious, emboldened by intimidating weapons, are reduced to cowardly jelly when disarmed. The bully, when crushed, is a coward. So it is with death. When death has power over us, he is a raging vicious enemy intent upon our ruin. But when defanged by Christ, who is death's death, he becomes a whimpering coward confined in the cell of Christ's creating. When the holy cross is set before his face, he retreats like a vampire whose power is drained from him by the sign of Christ's death.
 
How richly the Bible's life tapestry portrays the constantly interpenetrating pictures of Christ's victory over death. "Death is swallowed up in victory" (1Co 15:54). Christ is the victory that swallows death and overcomes the world. While death, that stinging serpent, has his jaws wide open to inject death's venom into the veins of the eternal Son of God, and just as he will strike with death against life, the eternal Son swallows the deadly serpent whole, vanquishing him by the cross. Christ becomes death's death.
 
The swallowing also goes the other way. Death attempts to swallow the Son of God, but in so doing assures a spectacular failure highlighted by the resurrection of Christ on Easter. Christ stands astride the gravestone, for death cannot digest Him; its jaws cracked by the emerging Lord of life, its fangs snapped off by the indestructible Christ. Both Christ's swallowing death and being swallowed by death mean that death has no power over us. This is the warp and woof of the Bible's life tapestry. While, like Christ, we feel death, yet it does not gain the ultimate victory.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther
 
"Note how powerfully St. Paul speaks of death on the basis of Scripture. He pictures death as entirely swallowed up and devoured (1Co 15:54-55), with nothing remaining of him who himself devoured and swallowed up all men on earth. We hear furthermore that He Himself will be a poison to death and a pestilence to hell, which will consume all the poison with which the devil killed and destroyed people. For this poison is nothing else than the curse which has passed on to the whole world. It was blown and beaten into us by the devil, and we must all die from it. That is the drink he offered Adam and we all partook of with Adam when we were born. It has coursed through our body and all its members, and it also manifests itself externally by all sorts of distress and sorrow. However, Scripture discloses a saving medicine and a precious antidote, given us by God in the Word, in which He assures us that He will kill death in return and that He also gives the devil a drink with which he will have to drink himself to death forever. He himself will have to devour his poison, curse, sin, hell, and death which he attached to nature, while we will be saved from these eternally by believing and adhering to the Seed.
 
"'I Myself will do that,' He says; 'I will be your death and your pestilence.' He applies these ugly words, death and pestilence, to Himself; and yet they are so immeasurably comforting. For note what and whom He refers to with these words. He is not a foe of nature. No, He shows that He wishes to help nature and subdue its enemy, death and devil. He has compassion on our misery, for He sees that we are now drowned by the devil's poison and by death and are so submerged in it that we cannot free ourselves. He wants to wreak vengeance on him as on His own foe, who poisoned and spoiled His work. Therefore this is a real divine antidote, not taken from a physician's pharmacy but prepared by heaven and given to us through Christ's resurrection. It will be harmless for us, but it will kill and ruin only him who gave and served us this poison.
 
"And now, when we begin to believe the article of Christ, the potion is already mixed and drunk which eliminates the poison that he injected into my heart and conscience and also into my body. Now we are saved from the curse, and the same poison which we have in us is now poured out for the devil, so that he has to eat death by us. Thus we have drunk a saving medicine in Baptism and the Sacrament, which expels and removes our poison. This does not kill me but the very enemy who intended to kill me with it. You see, that is why God employs such figurative language and calls Himself a poison, not a poison for us poor people who once were cumbered with death and pestilence, but a poison against the poison of death and hell. Now we who feel such poison and plague can take comfort from that, assured that God befriends us so greatly that He completely removes these from our body and soul and feeds these to devil and death, that his belly is torn open by them."

Martin Luther, Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15, 54-55
Revelation 20:1-6

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while. Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years. (ESV)
Prayer
Lord Christ, Your Word has told us that the mortal puts on immortality. The saying shall come to pass : "Death is swallowed up in victory." Your victory has placed mockery of death upon our lips, for it can have no victory when You are victor. Death no longer has a sting when You have been death's death. By faith, grant us ever to see this life beyond and eagerly expect this perfect life with You. Amen.
 
For newborn Natnael, child of Ganet and Solomon Abiye, who is gravely ill, that the Lord would bring the miracle of healing to this child of God

For the Cantor Call Committee of Memorial Lutheran Church, that the Lord of the church, who gives His people a new song, would lead their deliberations and give them wisdom

For the Concordia University System and its schools, that God the Lord would bless those who teach and those who learn
 
For the District Presidents of the LCMS, that they would be endowed with wisdom and strengthen from God
 
For all church musicians, that they would have joy as they lead God's people in the Word
Art: GAROFALO,  Ascension of Christ (1510-1520)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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