Jump Start # 2796
1 Corinthians 15:56 “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law”
I got stung this morning. It’s the third time in a month and a half that I’ve been stung. It wasn’t a hornet or a bee. No, it was the sting of death. Another dear friend, Christian, family member passed away early this morning. This is the third close death in a month and a half and yet another funeral that I will preach. I’ve always heard that famous people die in “threes” but these folks were just good, common people that you would have loved.
Geraldine was 98 and just a few weeks short of her 99th birthday. Spirited, feisty, funny, sharp, she was connected to me on the family tree. Her grandmother and my great grandfather were brother and sister. She once told me that made us fifth cousins—but I always said that we were “kissin” cousins. Her long journey ended. She babysit our kids when they were small and later in life, it was our turn to take care of her. The Lord sent the angels this morning and Miss Geraldine passed through that doorway of death to the other side. She never married. Her branch of the family tree ends with her. Her sister never married. Her brother married but had no children. She was the last.
Death has a sting to it. And, stings hurt. That’s true of bee stings and that’s true of shots at the doctor’s office. Stings hurt. They do. Don’t make light of the fact that they shouldn’t because they do. And, in the passage, death hurts. It hurts because a book closes. A life is finished here. We won’t have the interaction we once had, not here. It’s insulting for someone to say that we shouldn’t cry at the death of a Christian. Jesus cried at the death of Lazarus and He knew what He was about to do. Tears represent memories, love and time together. Tears are part of the healing process. Grief is a journey and each person walks it at their own pace. Some do fine. Others don’t do so well. Be patient and don’t judge.
But here are a few thoughts:
First, stings hurt but they are not fatal. Now, don’t tell me about bee allergies and those kinds of things. I know. But in the language of our verse, the sting of death is not a destructive blow. It may take our breath and it may cause us to think about things, but it doesn’t destroy us. That is, if one is in Christ. There is a hope beyond death. There is the promise of the resurrection. There is that wonderful “Safe in the arms of Jesus” concept.
Second, stings go away. At the moment, stings can hurt so bad that you cry. But in time, it passes. Given the choice of being stung by a bee or having open heart surgery or a leg amputation, I’ll take the bee sting. Sure it hurts, but it passes and we forget about it. As a kid, I played a lot of baseball and most time I was out in left field. I got stung a few times out there. But all these years later, I couldn’t recall any of them specifically. That’s the way stings are. For the moment it hurts, but time passes, the pain fades and one is left with wonderful memories. The thing about stings, especially the sting of death is that one cannot fast forward past the pain part. It’s a journey.
Third, stings are forgotten in the victory of the resurrection with Christ. It’s much like a boxing match. There are many blows. Some hurt. Some bleed. But when the opponent falls and the victory belongs to you, everything else is overshadowed by the celebration of winning. So it is with us Christians. The journey can be rough. The stings can hurt. But once on the other side, none of that matters. It will all be lost in the sweet fellowship of being with the Lord.
Fourth, the sting of death, especially among Christians, is a reversal of how people feel. The one dying is not doing well. His body is shutting down. His breathing is shallow. He’s going. But once he crosses that doorway, as Lazarus experienced, he is comforted. He is feeling the best he has felt in years. And, at that moment there is an exchange in feelings. The one who dies feels great. The family now feels the sting and pain of death. The family hurts and the faithful dead is rejoicing.
There sure seems to have been a lot of families dealing with the sting of death this past year. I’m included among those. So many people have had loved ones die. And, what we can do is be sympathetic, loving and gentle with each other. There are many folks hurting. They have been stung. Your faith, your courage, your knowledge of Scriptures, your hope, your words can do so much to help those who are hurting.
Thank you for letting me share these thoughts.