Death thought it had won. It saw its chance. It swallowed the man. And yet the man it swallowed was God. Death had won, it thought. Its sting fierce, its victory seemingly clear.
Death thought it had won. The earth went dark. The women wept. The cross stood, while the condemned man slumped; defeated, dead. Death had done what it always does. Death had swallowed him up. Case closed. Nothing more to do or see. Dead people stay dead. That’s just what they do.
Death thought it had won, and so it turned its attention elsewhere. Death has a busy job. It has a world of people just waiting to die. Death turned its attention elsewhere, undefeated since the fall, and with no intention of seeing that change.
Death thought it had won. It had swallowed this man up, and yet this man now gave it indigestion. Had death bitten off more than it could chew? Were death’s eyes bigger than its stomach? Death thought of Jonah and the great fish. Would death have to spit this man up?
Death would not spit this man up. This man would burst death’s belly. This man would kill death, kill death dead. And that is what Christ did. Death swallowed him up, but death could not hold him. Death had taken the man, but he could not contain God.
Christ has burst death’s belly. Death is dead. Death, which swallowed up Christ, is now in turn swallowed up by God. Rejoice, you sinners, for you are now saints. Rejoice, you dead, for you live. Death is no more, precisely because Christ is. He is and was and will be forever.
Isaiah calls, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation” (Isa. 25:9). Behold your God. You need wait no more. Be glad. Rejoice in his salvation. He is risen! He is risen indeed!
Something like this requires a celebration. The LORD of hosts has set the table. Here is “a feast of rich food, of well-aged wine” (Isa. 25:6). The Lord feeds you and the Lord is the food. What he gave on the cross, what burst death’s belly, this he gives to you, with forgiveness, life, and salvation.
The veil is lifted, no longer to hang over your head. The covering is gone. Death is swallowed up forever. So rejoice! He is risen! He is risen indeed! And “he will wipe away tears from all faces,” including yours, including mine (Isa. 25:8).
Your reproach is gone. Your accuser is silent. Your sins are buried. Nothing stands against you. Only Christ stands now, and he is for you, more for you than you could ever know, for you like nothing else that has ever loved you. Your reproach is gone. You are his brother, his sister, friend.
He has spoken. His resurrection has rendered your verdict. You are pardoned, blameless, set free. God doesn’t lie, and his Word is never empty, although his tomb is. He has spoken, and what he has spoken is life, for his Word is life, having brought all that lives into being. Hear him. Live by your ears.
He is risen! Death swallowed him up, but he has burst death’s belly. Death is dead. Christ is not. And Christ is for you, and Christ is your life, and Christ is your Word, and Christ is your feast. Death swallowed him up, but death has in turn been swallowed up by God. He lives, and you live, and we live. Amen.