Today, I had the honor of preaching at my grandmother's funeral. Below is the text of my sermon.
We’ve all got stories. Granny loved us—all of us. And she showed
that to us in a thousand little ways. And I do hope that as the
day moves on, we’ll share those stories with one another. We need
to remember them and we need to share them. That’s what we’re here
But we’re also here to mourn. And that’s one of my points
today—that that’s okay. Granny was here and now she isn’t and that
presents a problem for us. That is sad. And I’ve seen it on your
faces. And I’ve felt it.
It’s okay to mourn. It’s okay because God doesn’t leave us alone
in it. And that fact is my second point. So the first point is
that it’s okay to be sad about Granny’s passing, because death is
sad. And the second point is that there is hope in the face of
that sadness because God doesn't leave us alone. There is hope in
the good news about Jesus.
In our reading from first Corinthians, Paul asks, “Where, O
death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” So the
first thing that we can notice today is that death has a sting.
Death has a sting and it’s okay to recognize that fact. It’s
entirely normal and it’s completely human. And that fact doesn’t
change even though we understand that Granny is in a better place.
The sting of death is referenced all over the Bible. And so that
we can feel validated in what we’re feeling, let me just show you
three biblical examples.
In Deuteronomy 34, Moses dies. Moses had been the leader of
Israel for 40 years as they marched through the desert. So he dies
and it says that the people grieved and wept for him for thirty
days. Moses was political and religious leader and the people wept
But you also find a story where a man grieves for the loss of his
friend. In 2 Samuel, King Saul and his son Jonathan were killed in
battle. And David the next king, cries out because of the loss of
his friend. David writes, “I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother;
you were very dear to me.” David cries over the death of his
Finally you can find an example in the Bible of a situation just
like ours: the loss of a parent, and a grandparent. At the end of
Genesis 49, Jacob dies. At the beginning of Genesis 50, it says
that “Joseph threw himself upon his father and wept over him and
kissed him.” And then it goes on to say that he directed the
Egyptians to mourn with him for seventy days.
So all of that to say, you’re not alone in this. And the Bible
doesn’t simply tell us to “chin up and keep a stiff upper lip” as
though everything were all right. Because to be frank, things are
not all right. And our reading acknowledges that fact in the very
next verse. Paul writes “The sting of death is sin….”
The sting of death is sin. We have to figure out what this means.
Paul is saying, of course, that death stings the way it does
because of sin. To put it a slightly different way, the fact that
we feel the way we do about death points to a deeper reality about
the universe. And that deeper reality is that the universe is
tragically broken. In another place Paul writes, “sin entered the
world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way
death came to all men, because all sinned.”
It’s good that we feel bad about death, then, in the same way
that it’s good that it hurts if you injure your leg. If your leg
didn’t hurt, you wouldn't know you injured it. The fact that we
feel bad about death, points to the injury behind it, which is
sin. So what does that mean? Does it mean that we swear too much?
Well, maybe. But I think it’s really deeper than that.
Bear with me a moment. We notice at the very beginning of the
Bible, it starts with “In the beginning, God….” God exists and
nothing else. And then he says a word, and stuff other than God
starts to exist. The world is related to God, in the same way a
painting is related to an artist. The world is God’s. It’s his to
organize and govern and order. And the first thing he says is
“Have no other Gods but me.” “Love the Lord with all your heart.”
He says, “I am the Lord! I will not give my glory to another.”
But the second true fact about the universe is that every single
day, in my heart, I try to replace him. I behave as though I want
my will and not God’s. I make my comfort into my god. Or maybe
it’s money or success or the approval of my peers. But whatever it
is, I try to worship something other than God.
And that’s what Paul means when he says “death came to all men
because all sinned.” We all try every day to replace God with
something or someone else. And we know that the wages of sin is
death. So when we feel the pain of grief over death, it reminds us
that death is ultimately unnatural—death only exists because the
world is not working the way God designed it. Death exists because
mankind wants to take God’s job away from him.
So don’t feel ashamed about being sad. Feeling sad about the
death of a loved one is absolutely universal. And there is hope in
the middle of all of this because God hasn’t left you alone. Paul
says in the very next verse, “But thanks be to God! He gives us
the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”
God gives us victory through Jesus. The message of the Gospel is
that even though the kingdom and power and glory belongs to God
alone, and even though every day we try to replace God and worship
other things—despite all of this, God shows us how much he loves
us: Jesus died for us. He took that penalty that we
deserved—death. And for anyone who looks to Jesus in faith, he
grants them his own righteousness.
But it doesn’t stop there. In our reading it says that death is
swallowed up in victory. We can have hope in the face of death
because three days after Jesus died on the cross, he was raised.
It was on the cross that God launched a final blow against the
enemy called death. Elsewhere Paul writes, “God made him who had
no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the
righteousness of God.” On the cross Jesus took on our sin—the
cause of the world’s brokenness—and he crucified it. Then because
he was Jesus—God’s own son, perfect in every way—God raised him
from the dead. Sin’s curse was broken. And because he was raised,
we can be confident that we too will be raised, if we are found in
So it’s okay to mourn. It’s okay to mourn because the painfulness
of death helps us understand that death is unnatural. We read that
death is painful because of sin. And we find that the solution to
death and sin is Jesus Christ.
And so the key—the essential question—is what does it mean to be
found “in Jesus Christ?”
John 3:36 puts it this way, “Whoever believes in the Son has
eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for
God's wrath remains on him.” Jesus invites all who are weary and
burdened to come to him, and he will give them rest.
What does it mean to be “in Jesus Christ?” It means first that we
recognize our sinful brokenness—we confess that to God. We are
without hope except for His mercy. Then we receive and rest on him
alone for salvation—for rescue.
We all face the choice to continue walking our own way. We can
disagree with God’s verdict on us, and we can try to continue to
run our lives our own way. Or we can submit to Jesus as our ruler
and rely and rest on his death and resurrection. The first way
means that we’re still under death’s curse. But the second way
means that we are completely forgiven by God, and we’re given
If you choose the second way, you can ask with Paul, “Death,
where is your sting? Where is your victory?” If you receive and
rest in Jesus alone, then for you the sting of death is only
temporary, and death has no victory at all.
It’s okay to be sad in light of Granny’s passing. It’s okay to
mourn. Because the fact is that we can mourn like people who have
hope. Jesus defeated death on the cross. He was raised. And so we
can have confidence that if we trust in his forgiveness, we’ll be
I want you to know too, that if any of this strikes a chord in
your heart, I would like to talk to you about it—please talk to me
afterward. This truth has changed the world, and it has changed my life.
Date: 25 September 2012
Text: 1 Corinthians 15:50-58
Title: Death is swallowed up in victory
Location: Wells' Memorial Center, Plant City, FL
Event: Granny's Funeral