Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston, Iowa
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.” (1 Corinthians 15:20–28, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. This is the simplest yet most important of Christian creeds. If fact, our whole faith rides on it. A few passages before this Paul makes it very clear.
And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:14, ESV)
And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:17, ESV)
It is that simple, we stake everything on Jesus' resurrection. If Jesus' bones are still buried somewhere in Palestine we may as well go home and go to bed because nothing we do here means anything at all. As foolish as the crucifixion of Jesus is to the world, that is that God died on the cross, the resurrection is the miracle that seals the deal for them. When skeptics look at you when you claim to be a Christian they think you are naive, or crazy, or uneducated, or... anything but rational. That's because people don't raise from the dead. There's a whole cemetery full of the proof for that. And yet, here we are confessing, "I believe in the resurrection of the body." Here we are listening to preaching that claims Jesus' resurrection. Here we are claiming that not only did the resurrection happen but it proves that Jesus' death (that is God's death) on the cross means the forgiveness of our sins. But, it would seem, it is a house of cards built on an irrational belief. Or so the skeptics say.
And yet, over the centuries many skeptics who have undertaken the task of proving Jesus dead and buried forever, have come to believe that he is not dead and decomposed. The proof is here in the historical accounts. The Gospels are an accurate record of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. But reading them and studying them isn't just an academic or historical exercise. We know that the record of the Good News of Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again has God's power of changing the hardest of hearts, the most skeptical of skeptics. It is wholly because in this book (the bible) God speaks the truth. And the truth works miracles.
And that brings us to "But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead." Paul is telling you and me what is so important about the resurrection of Jesus. The power of the resurrection isn't in it's proof. The power of the resurrection is in what it means. Jesus' resurrection is the miracle of miracles. Because Jesus really did rise from the grave, because he was dead and is now alive death is undone. You see, any old miracle worker and do any old miracle. But it doesn't mean a thing for you because no miracle can stack up to the promise of eternal life, that is the result of Jesus' resurrection from the dead. That's what Paul means by firstfruits. Jesus is rose from the dead and Jesus promises the same for you. Saint Peter calls this a living hope.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” (1 Peter 1:3, ESV)
Living hope has a double meaning. The hope that we have isn't some pious wish but a solid promise. A living hope, that we will be living forever because Jesus himself died but now he lives. Without this promise of living there is only death. Death with no resurrection takes away everything you have. It separates you from the people you love. It ends all hope. Death is the destiny of all the sons and daughters of Adam. Death is the result of sin.
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—” (Romans 5:12, ESV)
It really doesn't matter that Adam's sin caused death to come into the world. Your sin, by itself, brings you death. It is the ultimate problem of everyone. People die; old people; young people; rich people; poor people. All people hate death. All people want there to be a solution for death. Jesus' great miracle is the miracle of solving the death problem. He is the firstfruits. His promise to you is that you will be made alive.
Now get out your hymnal and turn to p 278. Read the Remembrance of Baptism together with me. Where is says [name] speak your name. Where it says [his/her] say "my".
In Holy Baptism [name] was clothed with the robe of Christ's righteousness that covered all [his/her] sin. St. Paul says, "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?"
We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.
St. Paul says,
But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.
You see, we die with a living hope. The promise of resurrection. The solution to the big problem. Paul calls it the last enemy. And every day that enemy seems to have his way. Year after year we lay our loved ones in the ground. We gather in this building and confess our faith in the firstfruits. We mourn, and rightly so, because the enemy has struck a blow. And you and I are next. In Adam we all die. But God has more in store for the dead.
Then comes the end. The Apostle says. The word end is teloj. "It means the purpose or goal of an event viewed in terms of its result." The result of death, the result of his resurrection, the result of his coming again is just this.
Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:51–57, ESV)
Dear Christians, Jesus Christ is, in fact, risen from the dead. Your life in Christ means exactly this. Christ, the firstfruits of the dead, promises you resurrection. In him you have a living hope, that is a true and certain promise of living forever. Your enemy death has been destroyed. And even though he will seem to win by taking you, in Holy Baptism, Jesus death and resurrection guarantees your death and resurrection. There is nothing more sure and certain.
Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
 Ludwig Wittgenstein, p. 9. Tractatus Logico-Theologicus. Dr. John Warwick Mongomery.