Monday, April 01, 2024

1 Corinthians 15:1-23; The Festival of the Resurrection of Our Lord, Jesus Christ; March 31, 2024;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;

Χριστός ἀνέστη – Christ is Risen, He is risen indeed!

Paul lays out the Christian faith carefully and completely, almost Creed like.
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.” (1 Corinthians 15:1–2, ESV)
He says, in which you stand, and if you hold fast, that’s faith. Faith from preaching. He goes on to say exactly what that faith is… what that faith is grounded on what is of first importance.
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 15:3–8, ESV)
Notice he doesn’t expect a leap of faith. It is faith founded on a fact. Jesus was dead. The Romans didn’t leave anything to chance. If a criminal was sentenced to crucifixion, they carried it out with deadly precision. Paul says that Jesus died on the cross and was buried. But that he also rose on the third day. With the added detail, in accordance with the Scriptures. It was no accident. God had planned it from the very beginning. He had in mind you and me and all sinful people. We all suffer from sin. Jesus’ death and resurrection are the solution.

He goes on to give more details. Jesus appeared after his resurrection. And not only to a select few. That would be simple enough to account for. There were those, Peter, James, and all the apostles. But he appeared to five hundred at once. There was no keeping it secret. Five hundred witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection are astounding. It was five hundred people that could attest to the resurrection, say they saw Jesus, and could describe it in detail. Paul challenges his readers to check it out. You can ask around; these folks are available! In a court of law, five hundred witnesses are overkill. They won’t ask more than a handful to testify to establish the truth. Paul establishes the truth of the resurrection through, not only his eyewitness account, but an overwhelming number of people. There is no supposition here. Paul is stating a reality that Jesus did, physically, in time, rise from the dead. No leap of faith, no metaphors, no “spiritual resurrection”, only a real physical resurrection of Jesus Christ. Your faith is founded on a fact that most of the world ignores and refuses to believe.

But Paul says even more. If Jesus is proclaimed as crucified, dead, and buried, how can people say there is no resurrection of the dead? Do you see what he is doing here? Jesus’ resurrection is a promise. He didn’t only rise for himself. He promises resurrection to you. The proof is in the pudding. Jesus rose he can and will raise you. When you put your faith in Jesus’ actions at the cross and the grave, you place it firmly in the hands of someone who has done it.

Paul makes the case stronger.
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.
There is no Christianity, without the resurrection. He uses the word “vain” κενός in Greek. It means “empty”; “without content”. If preaching is without content, your faith is also without content. You may as well go home and do something else with your life. He makes it plainer.
If our preaching is in vain, and our faith is in vain, we are lying. Misrepresenting God. That is to say that God has said or done something he didn’t do. That’s called blasphemy!
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.

He uses another even stronger word. Μάταιος. It means meaningless because it is deceptive, and ineffectual. Deceptive for the lie, and ineffectual because your sins remain. And the dead in Christ who have been deceived by the lie are also lost.
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.” (1 Corinthians 15:16–18, ESV)
As for those who say, “It doesn’t really matter if Christ was raised from the dead. It’s what it means to those who believe.” Paul answers.
If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:19, ESV)
It isn’t that his resurrection means nothing for this life. It indeed means everything. His death and resurrection are freedom from sin, death, and hell. But if it isn’t real all the evil that the world does to Christians is worse. It hadn’t happened yet, but all the disciples but John were martyred, they died for their faith. No one would die for what they knew to be a lie. All Christians who die for the faith then deserve only pity.
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:20, ESV)
But in fact… Paul leans on the truth of the matter. Jesus has been raised. Firstfruits is the first of its kind. Because of Jesus all will rise from death. It is as sure as his rising. You and I, your neighbors, your friends, your family, all the dead will rise. Jesus defeats death for everyone. For those who believe an unbelievable blessing awaits. For those who do not... eternal punishment.

Paul talks about how this is so. Death came into the world by one man, Adam. Through his rejection of God, came sin. With sin came the curse of death. Through Jesus all will be made alive. Forgiveness accomplished on the cross by his suffering for sinners.
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. (1 Corinthians 15:22–26, ESV)
It is why we are Christian. It is why we are here. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. Death destroyed. Death done in. Death and all its awful consequences cast into the dark pit of the tomb.

For us death is a constant companion. It stands in the open in our lives. We try to ignore it, but we can’t. Death strikes expected and unexpected. It takes young and old. Healthy and unhealthy. Workers on a bridge, those alone, those in public. Cancer, accident, murder, it is all the same. Death is the one core principle of human existence. It is the one common experience age to age, place to place. No one gets out of life alive. It is our number one enemy.

This is the wonder of Jesus. He performs many miracles. But the resurrection is his greatest. Every other one points to it. Healings, blind people see, and the dead are raised. He answers the greatest problem we have. Paul says, The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

That enemy has his power in sin. It is sin that pushes death. We constantly sin and deserve only death. But that is answered in Jesus. His cross is the punishment your sin deserves. He takes it on himself into death. He dies your death to sin. He buried it in his grave.

And every day, your sinful nature drags you back there. He drags that slimy thing from the pit and puts it on you like a royal robe. And the consequences continue. Every day through repentance and faith, Jesus strips the sin from you again and casts in back where it belongs.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8–9, ESV)
His resurrection is the vindication of God, that what he has done is true and real for you. This is the conquering of death. This is the destroying of death. The enemy is vanquished.

It is true, that you will still die (unless Jesus returns first). There are still consequences for sin. Families break down; Couples divorce; Children go astray; Friends become unfriendly; you will die. We still live in a veil of tears of our own making.

The truth of the resurrection is the answer to it all. After your eyes close in death, on the last day, you will open your eyes and see Jesus. You will see everything clearly without a veil. Jesus will take you by the hand and raise you to your feet. And you will stand in your perfect body and see him with your perfect eyes. It won’t be the same sin drenched earth, but a new heaven and a new earth, free from sin’s hold. Alleluia will be your voice, as you gather with all the faithful of Christ.

It does matter that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was a real event in history. All that we believe depends on it. Amen.

Χριστός ἀνέστη – Christ is Risen, He is risen indeed!

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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