June 9, 1992
The sunlight catches the silken strands of a spider’s weaving. It was not there last week but sometime during the nights and days since I last looked in my garden, a small brown creature created a beautiful design — beautiful but a trap for the unwary. Once entangled in the web, other insects cannot escape the spider’s sting of death. Their lot is cast.
Spider’s webs are a wonderful metaphor. From the philosophy of Charlotte’s Web, to poems of conversations between spiders and flies, we have a greater perception of certain slices of life.
The Bible, rich in imagery and figures of speech, also uses this metaphor — but only part of it — the relationship to life found in the sting of death. Paul is writing to the church in Corinth, Greece. He tells them how vital the truth of Christ’s resurrection is to living the Christian life. For one thing, it removes the threat of dying. Verse 55 of chapter 15 asks the rhetorical question: “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades (grave), where is your victory?”
With that, Paul triumphantly proclaims the grave can only claim its victims for a short while — Christ rose from the dead, proving there is life after death — so death has lost its sting.
Death’s sting, at least on this side of dying, is fear. Most of us, most of the time, do not want to die. Fear of death is expressed in many ways, from re-labeling it with euphemisms to spending millions of dollars in life-prolonging research. We fear partly because we like life and do not want it to end, partly because of the process of dying, and certainly because of the uncertainty of what will happen after death. Is there a judgment? Or nothing?
The good news is that God the Son participated in human life — and in death — that “... through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:14-15).
Death is like that spider’s web — - and it catches all of us. Paul explains that “... the sting of death is sin...” Put another way, death is the result of sin and since all sin (Romans 3:23), no one can avoid its web. So sin (falling short of the righteousness of God) strikes the killing blow.
The Bible does not liken Satan to the spider but he could fit that role because he held “the power of death” however, notice that Christ has “destroyed him who had the power of death... the devil.”
When Jesus came, He could have decreed death out of the picture but He did not choose to circumvent dying. Instead, He destroyed its control over us by robbing the spider, the web, and the sting of their power. This He did by surrendering to the web, just as we eventually must, but with one big difference: since death’s sting is sin, that sting could not touch Him — He was sinless so the only way He could die was by willingly allowing our sin to be put on Him (2 Cor.5:21). That was all the spider was waiting for.
But death could not hold Jesus; it had no power over Him personally. By the power of the Holy Spirit, He conquered the web and the sting, broke the dominion of Satan, and walked out of the tomb.
Because of what Jesus did, sin and death cannot hold those who trust Him. The pain of death is overcome — it is the Christian’s transition to heaven, not to be feared. Furthermore, the present pain and sorrow of sin is forgiven, even conquered in Christ — it’s domination is broken. Both still seek to frighten the unwary into bondage and fear of dying, but Christ has put both sin and death under His feet. Death is no longer our biggest enemy.
Perhaps the real enemy now is unwary unbelief.