Easter Sunday April 1, 2018
1 Corinthians 15:12-23
202, 201, 726 (alt. TLH 198), 200:1-2,6-8
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Christ Is Risen! He Is Risen, Indeed!
Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.
But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.
In the name of Jesus Christ, who lives, and was dead, and behold, is alive forevermore (Rev 1:18), grace and peace be with you all, dear fellow redeemed,
“When they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked…” Paul’s audience in Athens had been listening pretty intently to Paul’s sermon about Jesus up to that point. They enjoyed hearing about a God who created everything and how this God wanted all people to worship Him alone. But the moment this intellectual audience of philosophers heard about the resurrection from the dead, “some mocked.”
That really shouldn’t surprise us, should it? There have always been resurrection mockers. In Jesus’ day, the Sadducees rejected the resurrection from the dead. More recently, a survey of clergy in the Church of England found that 1/3 of their clergy do not believe in a resurrection from the dead. Clergy and scholars of the “Jesus Seminar,” (who tried to discover the true, “historical Jesus”) determined there wasn’t enough evidence to prove that Jesus had risen from the dead. In the largest Lutheran church body in America, one can find seminary professors and pastors that do believe that Jesus truly, bodily rose from the dead.
What do you think? Is there wiggle room in the Christian-faith when it comes to the resurrection and Easter? Can we agree to disagree on this topic? Paul addresses this question point blank in our text and he holds nothing back. And the truth could not be more glorious! When it comes to what happened on Easter, it is all or nothing. Paul will tell us what that means when it comes to the resurrection, our faith, and our forgiveness.
“Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some say among you that there is no resurrection from the dead?” When Paul did his mission work in Corinth he was clear about Easter. He preached that Christ had truly, bodily risen from the dead. But now the Corinthians were grappling with the concept of others rising from the dead. From a philosophical and scientific point of view, the resurrection seemed like foolishness, which is why some in Athens mocked. It seems impossible that something that has died and is decaying could come to life again. It seems that some in Corinth still held to those Greek philosophies from near-by Athens which rationally concluded that there was no resurrection from the dead.
Paul says that you can’t have it both ways. “If there is no resurrection from the dead, then Christ is not risen.” If the scientists, philosophers, and even some so-called theological “scholars” are going to reject the resurrection from the dead, then Jesus did not rise either.
It gets worse. “If the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen…then also those who have fallen asleep have perished.” If there is no resurrection from the dead, all who died believing in the risen Lord have perished eternally. That means that Job, who knew his Redeemer lived, has perished. It means that Abraham, who looked for a heavenly homeland, perished. The same is true of Moses and King David. If there is no resurrection, then all our brothers and sisters in Christ have also perished. You can’t have it both ways. It is all or nothing.
The Prophet Mohammad, the great prophet of the Muslims, was born, said he talked to god, and on June 8, 632 A.D., Mohammed died and was buried. Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, was born, said he talked to god, and on June 27, 1844, Joseph Smith died and was buried. Jesus of Nazareth, was also born, said He talked to God, and Good Friday, Jesus died and buried in the new tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.
The difference? Of those three, Jesus is the only one that said He would rise three days after His death. With His promise to rise Himself, He attached several promises to His followers. “Because I live, you will live also,” Jesus promised His followers (John 14:19). “I am the resurrection and the life,” He told weeping Martha, “He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.” (John 11:25) If Jesus rose from the dead, it would mean would mean that whoever lived and believed in Him really would not perish but have everlasting life. Jesus rising from the dead would mean that Jesus was who He said He was, the Son of God.
So, if there is no resurrection from the dead, what does that mean for our faith? Verse 14, “If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is also in vain.” Verse 17, “If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile.” If there is no resurrection, your faith and your Christian life is a waste. Our service today is a waste of time. If Christ is not risen, your offerings would be better spent on new clothes, than on spreading the Gospel. If Christ is not risen, our trust in Jesus, our Sunday School, our Catechism classes, our Bible Classes are all an exercise in futility. Our faith is all or nothing when it comes to the resurrection on Easter.
It gets worse. Verse 17, “If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” If there is no resurrection from the dead and Christ did not rise, then there was nothing “good” about Friday. His death was a travesty of injustice as an innocent man died for no good reason. If Christ did not rise, it means that His payment for sin on the cross was not sufficient and God the Father did not accept it. If Christ did not rise from the dead, we are still in our sins, without forgiveness and without any hope of heaven. Then our sins are not blotted out, they are not washed away, God still remembers them all, and you and I will have to suffer the eternal consequences for them. Our forgiveness is all or nothing when it comes to the resurrection on Easter.
When it comes to Easter, it is all or nothing. Either there is a resurrection from the dead or there isn’t. If there isn’t a resurrection from the dead, then Christ did not rise, and this life is all there is. You might as well do what the Greeks advised, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we DIE.” If Christ did not rise, then there is no hope, no brighter tomorrow.
“BUT NOW…” In verse 20 we find one of the most glorious transitions in all of Scripture. Having laid out the hopelessness of no resurrection, Paul says triumphantly, “But now Christ IS risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Christ really has risen from the dead! The angels from heaven said so. The confused disciples on the road to Emmaus, talked with Him and ate with Him. Thomas, who REFUSED to accept the eye witness account of 10 men, later saw the risen Lord. At one time, the risen Jesus was seen by over 500 of the disciples. Even Paul, a man who was violently opposed to Christ and an enemy of Easter, saw the risen Lord “as by one born out of due time.” (v.8)
Now, if Easter were on trial, and one by one you called all these eye witnesses to the witness stand to testify to what they saw, what would the conclusion of the jury be? HE IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN, INDEED! And because He has risen, that means ALL the other promises connected with Easter are true.
Christ is the firstfruits of the dead. When He returns on the Last Day, ALL the dead will rise. Those who belong to Christ, the believers, will not perish but have everlasting life. Job, Abraham, Moses, King David, your Christian spouse, your Christian children, and on and on—all will rise from the grave. Their bodies will be raised incorruptible and undefiled on the last day and we, too, shall rise!
Because Christ has risen, your faith in the risen Lord, in the resurrection from the dead, and the life of the world to come, is valid and certain. Jesus is exactly who He said He was, the Son of God. All of Jesus’ promises are “yes” and “amen.” He will be with us always. He will make all things work together for the good of His people.
Furthermore, His resurrection means ALL your sins are forgiven. The Father has accepted the payment His Son made on the cross for your sins. By raising Him from the dead, God announced to you and to the world that your sins are ALL forgiven. For Jesus was “delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.” (Romans 4:25)
When Jesus made His way to Jerusalem to die on the cross and told His disciples what was about to happen, do you remember how He always ended? “And the third day He will rise again.” (Mark 10:34) Because Christ has risen from the dead, that is how your journey ends as well. Yes, there will be crosses to bear. Our lives will continue to be one of repentance for our sins. Most of us will have to walk through the valley shadow of death ourselves. But Christ is risen! It’s all true! And because He is risen, your story ends the same as His. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ, all shall be made alive!” Thanks be to God for ALL He has given us in raising His Son from the dead. He is risen indeed! Hallelujah! Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.