14Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
Last week we saw that Jesus warned “the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars” that they would be cast into the lake that burns with fire. It is that first category that we studied last week – the cowardly. We said that cowardice is shown whenever we turn away from a good purpose in the face of opposition because of fear.
So today I want to explore one of the types of fear that drives us to be cowardly – the fear of death. Ever since Adam and Eve rebelled against God in the garden, death has been a part of human existence. While there have been a couple who have escaped its sting – Enoch and Elijah – most have faced the horrors of death. David cried out:
3The pains of death surrounded me, And the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me; I found trouble and sorrow. 4Then I called upon the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I implore You, deliver my soul!” (Ps 116:3-4)
Likewise, our Lord Jesus faced death. In the words of our text today, He partook of flesh and blood, He became incarnate, and then gave Himself over to death in order that He might conquer death. He sacrificed His life “that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.” Death had been the devil’s tool to keep the nations in darkness and ignorance. So Jesus broke the power of death in order that He might release mankind from the fear of death. Jesus died and rose again so that we might live in sure and certain hope of the resurrection. Jesus died and rose again so that we might proclaim, “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” (1 Cor 15:55). Jesus died and rose again so that we might not be afraid of death.
Brothers and sisters, this is a message our culture desperately needs to hear, is it not? Family, friends, and neighbors are living in fear of death. The Covid pandemic has exposed this fear. Many have no hope beyond this life; others have vague notions of life after death; many Christians have lost sight of the Christian hope of the resurrection. The fear of death has prompted some to use the power of the state to curtail our liberties; it has prompted others to surrender these liberties. Jesus has come to free us from such bondage by freeing us from the fear of death. Death has no hold on us for our Lord Jesus has gone before us and broken death’s jaws. He has risen triumphant from the dead as the first fruits of the resurrection, the guarantee that we too shall rise.
So what of you? Have you meditated deeply on the sure and certain hope of the resurrection? Remember that death is still an enemy. Death would try to frighten and debilitate us. But, brothers and sisters, death is a defeated foe. Christ is Risen! (He is Risen, indeed!) So let us remind one another of this hope, let us speak of it to our children, our friends and our family. Let us share with others the reason for the hope that is in us. Or have you been afraid? Afraid of their censure? Afraid of criticism? Afraid of shame? For the fear of death is not the only type of fear.
Reminded that Jesus has died and risen again in order to destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and to deliver us who through fear of death were all our lifetimes subject to bondage, let us confess that we often permit such fear to dominate our lives and govern our actions. Let us pray that He would make us a fearless people. And, as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess our sins to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.