1 Corinthians 15:3-4
For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
I. WHY DID CHRIST DIE?
1. Christ has bequeathed to us the invaluable legacy of a true ideal. We desire to know how to conduct ourselves, and our desire is satisfied by the ideal left by Christ.
(1) There was in Him a sincerity and simple-mindedness which were yoked with restrained and yet unmeasured power. It is needless to say that whenever this is realised in life its effect is overwhelming.
(2) There was in Him a noble-mindedness, a loftiness of tone which struck and moved. He touched the commonest things; whatever He touched He raised; He carried contentedly the atmosphere of eternity into the work and trials of time.
(3) And what rendered, what renders, such an one so entirely approachable? His extraordinary devotion to the human race.
2. Now to complete the picture was needed the tragedy of death. Given absolute human perfection in a world death-stricken, then not merely, as Plato said, must the good man suffer at the hands of sinners, but the ideal must be perfected by submission to the common doom of death.
(1) Why did He die? The deepest mystery of revelation is the mystery of atonement. Something within us tells us of the chasm between our personal acts and the fulfilment of a righteous law. That fulfilment is in the atoning sacrifice.
(2) Wily did He die? Certainly to complete that sympathetic tie that binds Him to us all.
II. WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF DEATH?
1. Well, clearly death is a fact; a fact of intimate and universal interest. In a world of infinite possibilities, and therefore of immeasurable uncertainties, one fact is certain, we shall die. Death is the consummation of the tragedy of change. All is changing — we ourselves among the many that people this mysterious life. Now, death is the crown of change. All other changes are as nothing compared with this. There is a tragic strain in every life when, taking account of so much that has been full of love, and joy, and happiness, we say, "It can never be again." That tragic strain is heard in its deepest chords, in its fullest, most heart-rending music, in the mystery of death.
3. Death in one sense is an unparalleled catastrophe. The ancients when they thought of it at all, they gazed shuddering at a world of gloom. The philosophic thinkers, the tragic poets of the ancient world, tell the same story by their unvarying strain of sadness; do what they would, it was an unparalleled catastrophe. We Christians feel, in a sense, the same. Did you ever take from your shelves a long-closed volume, and shake out from its pages unawares a letter, written by a dear dead hand? Why for a moment are you all unmanned? "Littera scripta manet," yes, "remains" but only to mock you. "Where is he?" "How does he feel to me?" "Shall we meet again?" Whatever answer comes, this is certain; what once was is not. Think one moment more. On your table you have the portrait of your wife, your child, your friend. Are they near you? You scarcely care to look at it. Why? Because that sweet presence is about the house. Absence comes, you love the portrait better, for absence is the first, faint, saddening image of the great "farewell" Let the grave divide. You cannot bear to part with that portrait now. It is all that you have left you of what was once so dear, so fair.
III. IF OUR CHRISTIANITY BE A GRAND REALITY, WE MUST VIEW EVEN THIS SADDENING SPECTACLE IN THE LIGHT" AND ATMOSPHERE OF THE NEW CREATION.
1. We are "in Christ," and Christ has died. Remembering this, I ask in an altogether happier temper, "What is the significance of death?"(1) Certainly death even "in Christ" is a punishment for sin. But as surely also, "in Christ," it takes a touch from the Passion, a power from the Precious Brood. "Right dear in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints."(2) Death "in Christ" is an escape from a world of trouble. We weep, and who can blame us? But for the dear one gone, we know it is blessed, "taken away from the evil to come."(3) Death in Christ is an accident in immortality. The great unity of life lasts on. And further, one of the bitterest pangs of life is the pang of the parting of friends. Now, death "in Christ" is the entrance to a land where partings are no more.
2. There always is, there always must be, something awful in the thought that I must die. For death has had a fatal affinity to the Prince of Darkness. True: but the Passion of Christ conquers by transforming all. "In Christ" it is still certainly awful, but it is blessed to die. If Christianity has made death more serious by revealing hidden facts of another life, has it not also — for this, too, we must remember — much to offer of compensating strength? To live in faith is to prepare to die. Christ by His death has given us a ground of confidence in His unflagging tenderness, and it is devotion to a person, it is faith in Jesus Christ which, as it conquers the world, so it subdues the grave.
Parallel VersesKJV: For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;