Death's Death
Friday of Epiphany 2
19 January 2018
Death is death's death. Christ and death met in mortal combat as two warriors pitted against each other in a life and death struggle in the arena. It does not appear to be a fair fight. One of the combatants holds all the weapons. He has the power of death and strength against mere flesh and blood, which he had long ago defeated on Eden's fair field. No mortal man has withstood his furious charge. The other has come naked onto the field of battle. He bears not a sword (Mt 26:51-52). He does not shout defiance to pump up his courage (Is 42:2). He has no experience with mortality (Rm 5:21); never having done any to death. He knows only life. None of the fell weapons of death does He covet. Unguarded Life stands challenged by death. The outcome is never thought to be in doubt. The odds makers don't even bother to make book on this fight. None would lay money that the naked Life could withstand death's charge. No mortal man ever has.
Stretching out His arms, He received death's worst blows. See the wounded hands and side. In the agony of death He embraced His enemy and turned death against him. The naked and undefended man accepted death into His own person. But He is not a mere mortal. He is immortal God of very God. Death can sink its spear deep within Him, but that spear holding fast the enemy makes him vulnerable to the immortal life, which cannot die. Near the end of the movie Rob Roy, Rob Roy, played by Liam Neeson, is beaten onto his back by a superior swordsman, who hesitates to kill him to enjoy his triumph over him. In an unusual move, Neeson's character grasps the end of his enemy's sword and is able to kill him while the man gloated. The man's joy at seeing Rob Roy in his power was the undoing of this wicked man. In the same way, Christ has defeated gloating death, using death itself as His weapon.
Death's undoing was the death of God's Son on the cross of Calvary. Death brought the wound to His side. His side swallowed up death in life. Death was killed by His dying for all. Death worked all its fearsome power on Him. It did not win. Life did.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Martin Luther
"'Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil' (Heb 2:14). Death as well as sin are the works of the devil. Therefore in Rev 9:11 the devil is called 'the angel of the bottomless pit.' In Greek it is 'destroyer.' In Latin it is Exterminans. God's proper work, on the other hand, is 'life, peace, joy,' and the other fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22). Yet in this the Lord 'exalted His holy One' (Ps 4:3) and destroyed the devil, not by a work of God but by a work of the devil himself. For this is the most glorious kind of victory, namely, to pierce the adversary with his own weapon and to slay him with his own sword, as we sing (in the Victimae Paschali), he fell prostrate on his own darts. For in this way God promotes and completes His work by means of an alien deed, and by His wonderful wisdom He compels the devil to work through death nothing else than life, so that in this way, while he acts most of all against the work of God, he acts for the work of God and against his own work with his own deed. For thus he worked death in Christ, but Christ completely swallowed up death in Himself through the immortality of His divinity and rose again in glory."
"Therefore just as in 'the Author of salvation' (Heb 2:10), in 'the Holy of Holies' (Heb 10:19) in Christ, our Head, death and all the works of the devil have been destroyed, so it will have to happen in each of His members. For just as Christ was at once a mortal and an immortal Person, He was indeed subject to death by reason of His humanity; but because His whole Person could not be slain, it happened that death failed, and the devil succumbed in slaying Him. Thus death was swallowed up and devoured in life. In this way the curse was swallowed and conquered in the blessing, sorrow in joy, and the other evils in the highest good. Thus now, too, it pleases our most gracious God to destroy death and the works of the devil in us through Christ.
"We Christians should learn this, in order that we may die joyfully. For just as it is impossible for Christ, the Victor over death, to die again (Rm 6:9), so it is impossible for one who believes in Him to die; as Christ says in Jn 11:25-26: 'He who believes in Me shall never die. And though he dies, he shall live.' Whatever becomes alive with God is immortal. Also Ps 23:4: 'Even though I walk in the valley,' that is, in the midst of the shadow of death, 'I shall fear no evil, for you are with me.' For just as Christ, by reason of His union with immortal divinity, overcame death by dying, so the Christian, by reason of his union with the immortal Christ (This union comes about through faith in Him) also overcomes death by dying. In this way God destroys the devil through the devil himself and accomplishes His own work by means of an alien work. This is what the world does not grasp, as Hab 1:5 says: 'Look...For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.'
"Therefore Chrysostom says about this passage:'Here he points out something wonderful, namely, that the devil was overcome by that through which he had power. The weapons, that is, death, which were his strength against the world; through these weapons Christ struck him. See what a great blessing death has worked. Why do you tremble? Why do you fear death? It is no longer terrible, but it has been trodden underfoot. It has been despised.' Further on he says: 'For death is no longer bitter, because it does not differ from sleep.' Therefore, the apostle Paul also proclaims the resurrection of Christ everywhere with great joy, because through it the Law, sin, death, hell, the devil, the world, and the flesh have all been overcome for all who believe in Him and call upon Him. Thus 1Co 15:57 states: 'But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.' 'Gives us,' he says. He did not keep it for Himself alone. And 1Thess 4:13-14 says: 'But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.' And in Hos 13:14 we read: 'I will ransom them from the power of hell. I will redeem them from death. O death, where are your plagues? O hell, where is your sting?'"

Martin Luther, Lectures on Hebrews, 2.14
John 11:17-45

Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you."  Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" She said to him, "Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world."
When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, "The Teacher is here and is calling for you." And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Lord, come and see." Jesus wept. So the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?" Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, "Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days." Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?" So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me." When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out." The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go." Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him. (ESV)
Lord Christ, You have defeated death that we might never fear its sting. Send Your Spirit to us so that we might live in the quiet confidence that death cannot defeat us. Amen.
For all those who are doing medical research, that doctors and other health professionals would be wise in the use of their gifts and that relief would be brought to those who suffering and dying
For those who are grieving the loss of loved ones, especially the family of Richard Lewer, who passed away Wednesday, that they might grieve as those who believe in the resurrection of the flesh and the life of the world to come
For the work of Concordia University Texas, that the Lord would bless those who serve and learn there 
Art: DAVID, Gerard  Triptych of Jean Des Trompes (1505)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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