“Because I live, you also will live.” - John 14:19 & “Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” - 1 Corinthians 15:57
America has become a sports-crazed nation. We crave the vicarious thrill of watching other people celebrate a great victory and a hard-won championship with all the accolades and benefits that come from it. Among those benefits are financial rewards to the tune of tens of millions of dollars for a single season of athletics, a large (gaudy!) championship ring that can serve as the focal point of boasting to all one’s friends, and the fame of being recognized as one of the most skillful in the history of the sport. All these treasures and others are lavished on the victors of such a championship. Having watched sports for many years, I wonder why the fans go so crazy when their team wins it all. Do those spectators get any of these spoils? Will the MVP of the championship game let you take his trophy or his SUV home to keep? Will he give you a cut of his share of the winnings? Will he let you stand next to him when Sports Illustrated takes that cover shot? “To the victor goes the spoils!” And these victors will keep the spoils completely for themselves.
In all human history, there has been no greater conquest than that won by Jesus Christ the moment He came alive and walked through the walls of the tomb he borrowed from Joseph of Arimathea. Death stood as an undefeated foe, mocking everything we humans ever did, claiming to turn all our victories into long-forgotten dust. The uncertainty of Death’s timing and of what follows its coming makes it all the more fearsome an opponent. For good reason did the author to Hebrews characterize us as those who “all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Heb. 2:15). Why not? We were helpless before the power of Death, and hope for victory was impossible. But Jesus claimed to have total power over Death: “No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father” (John 10:18). Death had no power over Jesus except that temporary power He gave it in order to accomplish His goal.
And what was that goal? What was the purpose of Christ’s temporary submission to the bonds of Death? Simply the redemption of His sheep, the salvation of their souls: “I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:15). It was only for their benefit that He came to earth, that He was subjected to toilsome labor and humiliating ridicule, that He was threatened with hatred and screamed at in anger. It was for His sheep that He stood before Pilate as a condemned criminal, for His sheep that He was flogged, for His sheep that He carried the cross, and for His sheep that He died on the cross.
"He [Jesus] wins the victor’s wreath and triumphantly places it on the head of each one of His people."
And it was for His sheep that He was raised to life again! The great victory Christ won by emptying Joseph’s tomb, He won for all who believe in Him. He wins the victor’s wreath and triumphantly places it on the head of each one of His people. “Because I live, you also will live!” This is the incalculable generosity of the Victor who gives the spoils to us. Of course, Jesus gets the “Name that is above every name,” (Phil. 2:9), and of course all glory, laud, and honor will be accorded to Him for eternity for what He did. But the Son of God would have been every bit as worthy of worship had He never died at Calvary. The greatest spoils of this victory go to us who have been raised from an eternity in hell to an eternity in God’s very presence. To the victor went the spoils and He gave them to us! May His name be praised forever!