O Death, Where Is Your Sting?: The Gospel of the Great 50 Days

In the story of the Christian year we find ourselves in the midst of an epic drama of past events and present realities leading to redemption and restoration. I love this painting by Zach Mayer, an artist and student at our church in Palm Bay, Florida. 

For me it evokes a visceral response and an acute awareness of the spiritual realities that form our faith. Zach demonstrates the depths of torture and separation that Jesus was willing to endure for us; but having risen from the depths of hell, with Paul we can now taunt our Adversary asking, "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" (I Corinthians 15:55)

For the next six weeks I'm going to be posting blogs as way for us to linger in and celebrate what is known as "Eastertide" or "The Great 50 Days." It is the season after the cross and the resurrection that takes us through narratives of the 40 days Jesus spent with the disciples, leading to his ascension to heaven and his sending of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost.

These events are what give shape and meaning to our faith as believers. They bring us face to face with the spiritual realities of a God who is for us: an Advocate (Jesus) who intercedes for us at the right hand of the Father; another Advocate (the Holy Spirit) who indwells us, who gives us power, who gives us words to pray, truth to recall and a presence that bears witness, one believer to another. 

Each week I will include a portion of Scripture from the Revised Common Lectionary as well as some brief reflections, a prayer, and a song to use during the week as personal, family or small group devotions. It is my prayer that as we walk this road of Eastertide we will draw ever closer to the One who died, rose, and ascended... to bring us from death to life.

JOHN 20:19-31 (NRSV)

Jesus Appears to the Disciples
19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Jesus and Thomas
24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be
with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

The Purpose of this Book
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.


(1) We Have an Advocate in the Holy Spirit

In this narrative John is giving us a window into the events just following Jesus' resurrection on Easter Sunday. We see Jesus "breathing on" the disciples and saying to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit." It appears that this is a kind of foretaste of the powerful outpouring of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost that will occur in the next 50 days.

In the Christian faith we worship a "triune" God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There is a beautiful, mysterious economy to the Trinity. Each plays a unique role, yet in their "three-ness" they remain One.

Like the disciples, we receive the Holy Spirit in our conversion and he is an advocate that plays a powerful, though sometimes unknown and unrealized role in our lives. The Holy Spirit is the breath of God, our Helper. He indwells us, guides us, and brings glory to Christ. (John 14, 16)

(2) Like Thomas, We Fluctuate Between Doubt and Faith

I love that we have this very human response from Thomas. I think Thomas gets a bad wrap! If we're really honest, we are like him in so many ways. I know in my own life I sometimes live with a lack of faith, wanting more tangible evidence before making a decision, taking a risky action, or offering my tithe to the church. I continue to learn how to walk by faith in what is unseen.

(3) We Still "Come to Believe"

Though I believe, I still pray like the father in Mark's Gospel, "I believe; help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24). This past year and a half has been one of the most profound seasons of my entire life. I have "come to believe" at deeper and deeper levels the true power and goodness of God. Though I've been a Christian most of my life, I realize how much I am still learning about my everlasting God!


Almighty and eternal God,
the strength of those who believe
and the hope of those who doubt,
may we, who have not seen, have faith
and receive the fullness of Christ’s blessing.
Breathe on us with your Spirit
that we may be at peace with you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.


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