In Death, Victory

1 Corinthians 15:35-49 (NRSV)

But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” Fool! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And as for what you sow, you do not sow the body that is to be, but a bare seed, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. Not all flesh is alike, but there is one flesh for human beings, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. There are both heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one thing, and that of the earthly is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; indeed, star differs from star in glory.

So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the physical, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven.


Dead as a doornail. Dead as a dodo. Not only merely dead, but really most sincerely dead.

English writers have done a good job of describing death as an irreversible end, be it in a Shakespearean play or “The Wizard of Oz.” But even before there was an English language, there was the idea that death could be undone.

Actual reversals of death were rare events, of course, but where they are recorded, it is clear they occurred to signal the presence of God.

Take 1 Kings 17:8-24, for example. In the midst of drought and famine, God sent the prophet Elijah to find a widow and her son, locating them as the woman prepared to bake the last handful of flour and oil she had into bread. She planned that she and her son would share in this tiny meal and then die.

Once the widow showed Elijah a little hospitality, however, the jar of meal and the jug of oil always had enough in them to sustain the three, even though there was no food in the land for such a poor collection of people. By the hand of God, death had been delayed.

Death still came, however. In a perplexing turn of events, the boy became ill, and “there was no breath left in him.” The mother was convinced that in the presence of a prophet, her sins had somehow become more glaring, causing the death of her boy.

Elijah took the boy upstairs, however, and through intense prayer convinced God to restore him to life. When he carried the boy down to his mother, she said, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.”

God is revealed in life, not death.

Centuries later, Jesus performed a similar miracle for a similar widow, raising her son from his funeral bier. There was one major difference in Jesus’ approach, though. Elijah prayed fervently to God; Jesus spoke as God, saying, “Young man, I say to you, rise!”

In this and other death-reversing miracles, Jesus gave a preview of coming attractions. In dying on the cross, he atoned for our sins, that root cause of death.

And in his resurrection—his defeat of death—he made it clear that when we follow him, we have nothing to fear. Not even our own temporary, transitory deaths.

Death is not final. We all shall rise from it, look at our renewed bodies, see our risen loved ones, and see the one who makes the miracle possible. Our joy will be greater than that of a widow finding her only son restored to life.

As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:55, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

Lord, may the resurrection to come exist firmly in our minds, shaping how we live until such time as we experience this holy transformation. Amen.

He Is Risen!

By Chuck Griffin

Depending on which gospel you read, the resurrection story is told in slightly different ways. The core facts are the same, however: Jesus was definitely dead, crucified on a cross.

Then he was and is clearly alive, fully recognizable and yet transformed in a way that should still astound us.

We often rely on the gospel of John during Holy Week and Easter, if for no other reason than the precise detail provided there regarding both the crucifixion and the resurrection. Mary Magdalene, a woman who had been healed by Jesus and became his follower, finds the stone rolled away from Jesus’ tomb.

She goes for help, returning with Peter and a disciple described as “the one whom Jesus loved.” The men see the carefully discarded burial linens and leave the tomb. Mary stays and sees the risen Jesus, mistaking him at first for a gardener before speaking with him. When she runs back to the disciples, she announces, “I have seen the Lord.”

Just as angels indicated at Jesus’ birth that the world was changing because God had come to live among humanity, Mary was saying that nothing will ever be the same now that Jesus has defeated death.

The Greek verb we translate as “announce” was used very specifically in Jesus’ day, indicating that previously unknown news was being delivered. Mary Magdalene was the first to deliver the Good News about Jesus Christ and his world-transforming resurrection.

And indeed, nothing is the same. Before Jesus, death was a frightening uncertainty, at best a descent into a shadowy existence. After Jesus, death is meaningless for those who follow Christ.

We don’t seek death—we certainly don’t relish what might accompany the dying process—but faithful Christians intuitively know they have nothing to fear. How can we fear what Christ has crushed? How can we be anxious about facing Father God when we know the resurrected Son will stand by us and say, “I have made this one holy!”

And more than just the afterlife is changed. This life now is changed.

In making us holy through the cleansing action of the cross, God can dwell in us. He gives us his Spirit to sustain us until all creation is set right in the general resurrection, the complete remaking of heaven and earth. (If you don’t know that part of the story, take hope—it is where history is headed.)

The joy of eternity with God begins now, not in our passing. Easter is a reminder that the resurrection happened in this world, impacting living people, including us today.

The resurrection is a story worth hearing again and again. Nothing can match it; certainly nothing can embellish the story that makes eternity possible. I pray you have the opportunity to celebrate this great story in some way today.

Lord, thank you for salvation and eternal life! May the hope of Easter fill our hearts each day. Amen.

We See You!

Mark 3:7-12 (NLT)

Jesus went out to the lake with his disciples, and a large crowd followed him. They came from all over Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, from east of the Jordan River, and even from as far north as Tyre and Sidon. The news about his miracles had spread far and wide, and vast numbers of people came to see him.

Jesus instructed his disciples to have a boat ready so the crowd would not crush him. He had healed many people that day, so all the sick people eagerly pushed forward to touch him. And whenever those possessed by evil spirits caught sight of him, the spirits would throw them to the ground in front of him shrieking, “You are the Son of God!” But Jesus sternly commanded the spirits not to reveal who he was.


The religious phrase “Great Awakening” has been borrowed by some who badly abused it in secular settings the last couple of years. Today’s text reminds us of what it means for people to leap to their feet and respond to the clear presence of God.

Jesus’ ministry, of course, was the ultimate Great Awakening, as he first revealed an expanded understanding of God’s plan and then, in his crucifixion, resurrection, ascension and sending of the Holy Spirit, made an ongoing, living connection to God possible.

Any later Great Awakening simply was or will be a revival, a renewed understanding of what has come before. As in Jesus’ day, when such an event happens, people more easily recognize miracles past and present. They may travel great distances to hear what God has to say, even though these truths have long been available to them in God’s word.

I particularly like the idea that the spiritual world in contention with God trembles at the idea of such moments that lead to movements. Unseen evil beings trouble us all the time. Why should they not be troubled, too?

Hear the Good News: Jesus Christ is Lord! The evil in this world is in retreat and the brokenness of creation is being healed. It is a truth established for you and for me. It is simultaneously personal and global; it will change our lives forever.

Lord, may we see such an Awakening in our day, to the benefit of our families, friends, neighbors, enemies, and of course, ourselves.

Death of the Son

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

Psalm 9:1-14

So, right up front, I might as well tell you what I’m doing wrong. I’m taking an obscure, hard-to-translate heading on a psalm and likely stretching it into far more than was intended.

The least controversial way to translate Psalm 9’s heading is, “To the chief musician upon Muth-labben,” which avoids all problems in translating the Hebrew phrase “Muth-labben.”

I studied a little Hebrew in seminary, but let’s just say I never wanted to make a living working in biblical languages. I have enormous respect for those who choose this path. But as best as I can tell, even the experts have trouble agreeing on the translation of this particular psalm title.

I will not bore you with all the possibilities, but my favorite, the one chosen by the New Living Translation, is, “To be sung to the tune, ‘Death of the Son.’ “

That translation begs other questions. Whose son? Being considered a psalm of David, Absalom, perhaps? Again, it’s impossible to answer for sure.

Just for the fun of it, let’s stick with “Death of the Son” as the title and then really Christianize the psalm. We will look at it like people who believe Jesus Christ is somehow present in every page of the Bible, Old Testament or New Testament.

What follows Psalm 9’s heading is unrestrained praise for God. This is the God who fills us with joy!

We also hear of the God who restores us at the judgment, sending our sin-aligned enemies staggering away mortally wounded.

The nations are all rebuked for unholiness. All is set right, and God is understood to be astonishingly loving, the one who shelters and restores the oppressed and hopeless.

Regardless of the psalmist’s intent, I think of the God who came among us in flesh and died for our sins, making resurrection and restoration possible. I think of Jesus Christ, the cross, and a stone rolled away from a tomb.

It’s enough to make me wonder if “Death of the Son” was a joyous tune.

Lord, help us begin our week immersed in the idea that Jesus Christ died for our sins, and in the hope that death brings. Amen.

Bedtime Meditation

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

Psalm 63:6-8
I lie awake thinking of you,
    meditating on you through the night.
Because you are my helper,
    I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you;
    your strong right hand holds me securely.

Let’s continue with our meditation on Psalm 63, along the lines of what we did yesterday.

Where do we find our minds going as we drift toward sleep, or even as we sleep? There has been a lot of talk about difficulty sleeping and about “Covid-19 dreams,” those nighttime expressions of our heightened anxiety.

I’ve had my struggles at night. In the midst of the pandemic, I moved from one church appointment to another. As you might expect, I couldn’t say goodbye to the former church people the way I wanted, and I have not been able to say hello to the new church people the way I want.

I’ve had this recurring dream where I’m in the sanctuary at my new appointment. As I walk into the narthex, I see a set of stairs that don’t exist in real life, and I go up them. Upstairs, I find I’m in the sanctuary of my former church.

You don’t have to be a psychologist to figure that one out. It’s not a scary dream, just startlingly vivid, but clearly I’m lacking a sense of complete transition.

That dream is nothing compared with what a lot of you are experiencing. Maybe you have illness in your immediate family, or perhaps your ability to make a living has been impaired. The situation is enough to keep you awake at night.

Try this—I will try it too. Read just a little Scripture before falling asleep. Read something positive, like one of the resurrection stories in the gospels, or something else that gives you joy.

As you fall asleep, think about the goodness of God. Think of the great gift of salvation we have been given.

God is our helper. God does give us joy. And God will carry us through the night.

Lord, as we sleep, may we encounter you and grow in our understanding of your love. Amen.

Get Real

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

Matthew 22:23-33 (NLT)

That same day Jesus was approached by some Sadducees—religious leaders who say there is no resurrection from the dead. They posed this question: “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies without children, his brother should marry the widow and have a child who will carry on the brother’s name.’ Well, suppose there were seven brothers. The oldest one married and then died without children, so his brother married the widow. But the second brother also died, and the third brother married her. This continued with all seven of them. Last of all, the woman also died. So tell us, whose wife will she be in the resurrection? For all seven were married to her.”

Jesus replied, “Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God. For when the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage. In this respect they will be like the angels in heaven.

“But now, as to whether there will be a resurrection of the dead—haven’t you ever read about this in the Scriptures? Long after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had died, God said, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ So he is the God of the living, not the dead.”

When the crowds heard him, they were astounded at his teaching.


If you’re a cynic, you have to be careful when you’re near Christ. You may find yourself confronted with the grittiness of your world view.

Just ask the Sadducees, a party within the Jewish religious-political structure in Jesus’ day. What made the Sadducees unique was their belief that there was no afterlife, and that in particular God would never raise people from the dead.

The Sadducees enjoyed publicly making fun of Jesus’ teachings about resurrection and an afterlife with God. They did so in what sounds like a riddle, one designed to expose what they considered the silliness of the resurrection.

The riddle also opened the door to some off-color humor at Jesus’ expense. It relied on the image of a pitiful woman passing from the arms of one brother to another. The riddle was rooted in the Jewish tradition that if a man were to die childless, his brother was to marry the widow and impregnate her so the dead brother would have an heir.

All seven brothers tried, and all seven brothers died, the riddle went. Finally, the woman died, too. “So tell us, whose wife will she be in the resurrection?” the Pharisees asked Jesus. “For all seven were married to her.”

When I imagine this ribald theological challenge, I see the Sadducees snickering, or at least suppressing a smirk. Any Jews standing nearby may have laughed out loud.

In modern terms, Jesus’ response can be boiled down to two words: “Get real.” He ignored the intricacies of the Sadducees’ earthy riddle. Instead, he affirmed the resurrection and tried to help them see that their theology was as coarse as their humor.

Jesus wanted them to see the glory and hope God offers us through Jesus Christ. “For when the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage. In this respect they will be like the angels in heaven,” he said.

We are reminded that we are so much more than what day-to-day life reveals to us. Jesus went on to prove his assertions by dying on the cross for our sins and then rising from the dead transformed, demonstrating that the power of sin and death had been defeated.

God promises us the same resurrection experience if only we believe in the effectiveness of Jesus’ work on the cross to save us. In fact, all of creation will be reworked to fit God’s view of how things should be.

Such belief does more than give us a future. It gives us a present we can interpret with hope and optimism rather than cynicism.

Even where we see pain and death, we can say, “I know the ugliness of this world is temporary. I know God hates what I’m seeing even more than I do, and that he’s provided a way out.”

The world may remain gritty, but knowing the situation is temporary changes everything.

Lord, may today bring us a special experience of your very present, resurrection-rooted kingdom. Amen.

Finish with Flourish

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

Philippians 3:13-14:1 (NLT)

No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. But we must hold on to the progress we have already made.

Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth. But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stay true to the Lord. I love you and long to see you, dear friends, for you are my joy and the crown I receive for my work.


Yesterday’s devotional focused on the big ending, the “last days,” the end of time—and those who don’t live as if it is coming. Today’s Bible passage invites us to think about our own personal finish.

Paul’s message is aimed squarely at those who already have accepted Christ and are (or should be) seeking holy “perfection,” something Paul said he had not achieved himself. Salvation through Jesus Christ is given freely, but it’s evident in Paul’s writings and in other epistles that some Holy Spirit-inspired striving is to be a continuing part of the Christian life.

I think of the effort we make as the thank-you notes to God we write with our lives. The more we live and love as Jesus did, the nicer the notes become through the years.

And certainly, we don’t want to slip backward in our beliefs or behavior. What we understood early in our faith walk is just as true now: Jesus Christ is Lord. His teachings and the teachings that continued to flow through his early followers remain true, passed to us through Scripture.

We may grow spiritually, but we never grow out of following and espousing core Christian truths. They are the stones upon which we build, not clay to be molded into new shapes.

Even in Paul’s day, people in the church sometimes believed they had become so worldly wise over the years that they could move beyond the basic idea that Jesus Christ died for our sins, and that as our savior he has certain expectations for our lives.

Sadly, they had actually fallen from their early, supernaturally inspired faith, posing a danger to newer Christians around them.

Finish well. Others are watching. And never forget, the finish line is the beginning of a greater experience.

Lord, may we always trust in the Christian truths first revealed to us, and may we never reach an age where we say, “I am done growing in Christ.” Amen.

Renewed and Ready

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (NLT)

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.


Just prior to these words in 2 Corinthians, Paul has been laying out what is sometimes called his “doctrine of reconciliation,” where he says that Christ’s selfless sacrifice on the cross for all people transmits a powerful kind of love.

This love is so powerful that believers find themselves transformed, made into people they could not have been otherwise. I see it as an early stage of resurrection, a beginning of the transformation we are to receive in full one day.

With the transformation comes a shift in perspective. Thanks to the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we see the big picture of what God is doing. Jesus came for all the world! It should astonish each of us individually that God cares enough to draw us into his plan.

Our astonishment should be so great that we joyously take on the task of helping others understand what God is doing. “Come back to God!” we should cry to others, in whatever manner we believe to be most effective.

Are we at least thinking about how we lovingly make this offer to those around us? Once we’ve thought about this awhile, are we willing to act?

Do we trust that the new people we have become have a new kind of power—do we trust that we have nothing to fear?

The vitality of Christ’s kingdom around us depends on how we answer these questions.

Lord, renew our sense of wonder about what has been done for us, and may others see you in us. Amen.


✟ To subscribe to LifeTalk devotionals, enter your email address in the box found on any page of the Methodist Life website. ✟