You Are Totally Undefeated!

April 12, 2009
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
Matthew 28:1-10

1. The hymn, "Tatakai Owarite [The Battle Is Done]" (Psalm one hundred and forty-six) was just sung by the choir. It is one of the exemplary hymns sung at Easter. "The fight is over." Of course, it is Jesus Christ who won it. Whom did he defeat? "The very ruler over life defeated the final foe death, hallelujah!" [The choir] sung that he defeated death, the final foe (the last enemy). The scripture passage read today had these words, "You are searching for Jesus who had been crucified, but he is not here," (verses five and six). "You are searching for Jesus who had been crucified" -- Are you searching for the loser Jesus who had been defeated by death? No, he is not such a person. "He is not here" -- He is not in the grave. He is no longer in the grave as [some] person defeated by death. That was the message that day, amid the light of that morning, announced to those women who came to visit the tomb.

2. We are told that same gospel. We have believed the gospel. We believe in that kind of Christ. As our king, we believe in the Christ, who defeated death and was no longer in the tomb. We believe in the one who defeated death and lives even now. We worship each week on Sundays, the first day of the week, which is the day of the resurrection. In this way then, the church has believed and continued worshipping for two thousand years.

The Last Enemy "Death"

3. Probably what first comes to mind with the words, "to defeat the enemy," is the image of "war." But, more subdued, I think it might serve better to think of a sport's competition and not war because even Paul uses the image of a contest in speaking about the life of the believer. If we compare our lives to some kind of sport's game, what kind of situation would we all now be in? Heading for a win, we will rack up the points smoothly. We will proceed at full speed towards a win. We can probably compare the current situations of some folks like that. They are sure hoping for the game to keep proceeding that way and for their lives to proceed under the current trend.

4. But, we know better. In a long life, [we] don't just have times when [we] smoothly carry off the game, so to speak. There are times we lose points. We end up losing points in a big way. We can't change the flow in a streak losing points. [We] have times like that. Impatience and irritation pop up. Though still in the game, our desire to stay in it is lost. We want to give it up. Even though we haven't lost yet, we are hit by a sense of defeat. I know we really do have times like that. Times we experience huge frustration. Times we cave in to the temptation of sin. Times we make mistakes that can never be undone. Etc., etc. (Et cetera, et cetera).

5. So we add a point, lose a point, get intoxicated with confidence for victory, get irritated by a feeling of defeat, and repeating it over and over, the game proceeds. Now, what kind of situation is it [for you], I wonder? As many as two hundred persons are here and the game situations for each one will be different. However, the scriptures declare a truth to us, it can speak to each member, each of us, and speak on a common basis, which is, that whatever your game situation may be right now, the enemy has a dreadful substitute player. We call that bad dude's name "Death." [He's] "the final foe," which was sung in the hymn just shortly ago. The scripture calls that thing "the last enemy." Sooner or later it always comes on the scene. It shows up for the game. That sub named "Death" comes on the scene in various forms. For example, in unexpected illness. Or in an accident. In an injury. Or maybe not to you but in the bereavement of a close loved one. "Death" enters into the game of human life in ways like that.

6. And we know that when it rears its ugly face, things go south fast. As a matter of fact, I know several folks in between physical examinations whose fight stance in life took an abrupt about-face change. Their way of life was completely changed. Even though it looked like they had been going along full speed ahead towards victory, raking up the points smoothly until that moment, at one stroke the turn of events is for the worst just as that thing with the name of "Death" shows up on the field. And as long as it is there, ultimately, we won't win no matter what. We've seen that reality and still do.

The Friend And Supporter Stronger Than Death

7. Well, "Death" is that dreadful enemy. That dreadful substitute player is ever present as the enemy. That is an undeniable truth. And another evident truth is that this one [I'm calling] the substitute player shows up on the field and first flexes [his] power. By just existing this herculean one called the substitute player takes over the very game itself. We truly understand that. That bad dude always shows up at the end. It may be in different forms, but he always shows up. When he does, we aren't winning any more. So what do we usually do? We keep it a kind of secret. But, just keeping the player named "Death" in the background is not a real solution, is it?

8. Therefore, what we truly need is not to not look at it, not to not think about it. That's not what [we need], rather [we need] to have a much stronger friend than that foul fiend. And there is such a friend, the Bible teaches us. That is what happened in the resurrection which today's gospel reading tells us about. We have a Friend who has already gotten the victory over death. Jesus Christ, indeed, is [our] strongest supporter, whom God has given to us in the game of our lives which are governed by death.

9. Just ago I said, "No matter how smoothly we rake up the points, just as death shows up on the field, things will simply go about-face." This statement can also be made in regard to Jesus Christ. No matter how much [your] life seems to keep losing points, no matter how [your] life seems to move full speed ahead toward defeat, he can overturn it. If "Death" comes on the scene, and though you think "I'm losing points on a grand scale and things are so bad already," Jesus can come from behind in that situation and turn it around with a home run. Do you know the situation where we can see this the best? -- At a baptism performed on the bed of affliction. Even if you have been stricken hard by the appearance of death for so long, during baptism when Someone stronger than death appears, a grand slam happens there. Defeat is no longer possible. Death is ultimately not in control, but life. It is eternal life.

10. Please recall the passage of scripture for today. Jesus' disciples do not appear in this scene at all; because they have forsaken Jesus and fled. At this hour they must surely be stricken by a sense of defeat. There was no turning back; it was unrecoverable. Defeat definitely looked to be a done deal. They would have to spend the rest of their lives as losers. Before long they would be beaten by the [same] power of death that had killed Jesus on the cross, and they would only die as losers in the truest sense.

11. But, it so happened that good news was announced to them. The resurrected Christ said the following to those women, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee! They will meet me there." Just as it was announced to them, they did meet Christ. After overcoming death, Christ came back into their lives again and the grand slam, the huge reversal, took place. They could not be defeated any more. Come what may, they cannot ever lose; for, even though death has appeared, they will not be defeated.

12. We know the walk of the disciples after that. We know the walk of the church that was born after that. We know that because many people kept telling forth the gospel unafraid of death, unafraid of persecution, the church exists even in this country. For that very reason there is even a church [here] in Shimokitazawa. All of it tells the story eloquently of how Christ overcame death and has certainly come to be with us, and this same Christ has and is being passed on to us as well. We know that he is our friend and supporter.

13. I would like to say that four persons will be baptized later. Today all [of them] will be joined fast to the strong supporter that God has given us, to the savior who beat death, came back to life from the dead, and lives for ever. Since they are connected together [in Christ], now, even if the turn of events at one stroke is for the worst, even if a painful battle continues, there is no need to be afraid. You are totally undefeated. Even though "Death" has come on the scene in some form or other at the end, there is no need to be afraid; because Jesus is stronger than death. You are totally undefeated.