Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. ” (1 Corinthians 15:1–8, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Christ is risen! He has risen indeed! Amen.
Christ IS risen! Did you hear it in the text? Saint Paul tells us the Christian faith in a nutshell. Christ died for our sins, he was buried, and he was raised on the third day. Actually a careful translation of the text could actually read he has been raised. Meaning he is raised and he is still alive (for those grammar buffs the verb is perfect passive). Jesus resurrection isn’t only a past event. It is a current event. What he did in his life, death, burial and resurrection is true even today, even for you, even for me! He stands risen. Jesus is alive even now. He HAS BEEN raised and still is raised. He was dead but now is alive. Christ died, he was buried, but Christ IS risen.
And it isn’t just wishful thinking either. Paul gives us a whole list of witnesses, reliable ones. When he penned it you could, with a little foot work, go and find people who saw Jesus alive after he was crucified, dead and buried. A group of five hundred people isn’t a group in a corner. Paul says, most of whom are still alive, inviting the inquiry. Why is this so important? Well, listen to what he says a paragraph later:
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. ” (1 Corinthians 15:12–19, ESV)
Everything we do here, everything we believe, teach and confess, everything we say, hangs on that thread. If the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a myth all of Christianity is a myth and untrue. Then we may as well go home and try to enjoy the spring weather. But Paul continues
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. ” (1 Corinthians 15:20, ESV)
It all links together. Jesus’ death on the cross for your sin means everything. It is punishment for your sin, your rebellion against God, your inability to do completely what the law requires, what God requires. Your selfish thoughts, deeds and actions. Your desire to have what God has given to your neighbor. Your self justification. Your excuses for not giving aid to those who need it. All of it against God’s perfect law. All of it deserving his punishment, eternal punishment. AND All of it paid for by Jesus Christ crucified. He is the answer to your sin. He is God given for you for forgiveness. That’s Jesus dead on the cross… for you.
But just as his crucifixion is everything, so is the resurrection. Jesus goes to his death for you willingly, giving himself in your place, but he also chooses to live again. He takes up his life again. He stands risen. No one before or since has ever done such a thing. It comes about just as he said.
I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” ” (John 10:14–18, ESV)
This is the resurrection. This is its meaning for you and me. Jesus’ resurrection sets everything in its place. It means everything. My and yours sin, done for on the cross. My and yours punishment done for in Jesus’ death. The resurrection of Jesus Christ makes everything he does and says true. He says he’ll die and rise again. He does it. He says our sins are forgiven. They are. He says death has no hold on us and we too will rise with him. It doesn’t. We will. He says my enemy Satan is vanquished. He is. He says we receive him in, with and under bread and wine, for the forgiveness of our sin. It is true. He says he puts his name on us with water. In Holy Baptism we are his. He says his Word, the Bible, is dependable and true in everything it says. It is. It is all proven by his resurrection. Christ IS risen!
This is the Gospel, the Good News of God. This is how you are being saved. Believe it. Trust it. Rejoice in it. Because Christ IS risen!
Oh, and don’t forget. Jesus also promises you will rise from your death. Listen to Jesus:
Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. ” (John 5:28–29, ESV)
And even more, through faith in him, you will share in a resurrection like his. That’s all a part of the forgiveness he won for you on the cross. Speaking of God’s promise to you in Holy Baptism Saint Paul says,
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. ” (Romans 6:5, ESV)
What it means is that the death we think is the big one is really the little one. Our body will die. We will be with Christ. Our body will decay. We will be rejoicing with our brothers and sisters in Christ, thanking him for his great mercy and forgiveness. And then, as promised, one day soon Jesus will come on the clouds with his holy angels and call us from our graves. Our bodies will rise again, and we will live forever, without sin, without suffering, without tears, in our completely human bodies. “The hour is coming”, Jesus says. And his word is true because Christ IS risen. This is why our funerals are different. We mourn because of separation. We mourn because our sin has brought us to death. But we also rejoice. Death isn’t forever. It is only the beginning of eternity, an eternity of rejoicing in what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. Amen.
Christ is risen! He has risen indeed! Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.