1 Corinthians 15 / Easter Sunday / 08 April 2012 / Holy Trinity – Hacienda Heights, CA
Christ is risen! Alleluia!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
The resurrection of Jesus is both a matter of fact and a matter of faith.
It is a matter of fact in that it is a fact of history. A pivotal fact of history. It is the fulcrum around which all of human history pivots and has its ultimate meaning. It is a matter of fact as any other fact of history from the Ming Dynasty to the Greco-Roman empire. The tomb of Jesus is empty. The body of Jesus is risen. That is a matter of fact.
It is a matter of faith in that the entirety of what we believe rests on the fact that Christ was put to death for our sins and raised for our justification. We don’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead, we believe because Jesus rose from the dead.
Here are the facts.
Fact: Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. He was buried. He was raised from the dead on the third day according to the Scriptures.
Fact: The tomb was empty. The burial linens were folded and neat. The guards were bribed to say the disciples had stolen the body.
Fact: Jesus was seen by Mary Magdalene, by Peter and the Eleven, by Thomas who confessed “My Lord and my God,” by two disciples on the Emmaus road, by seven disciples who ate fish with Him, by over 500 brothers at one time, by James and all the apostles, and by Paul on the road to Damascus.
Fact: These were credible eyewitnesses. Sane, sober, rational people who did not initially believe that Jesus had risen from the dead even though He had told them this would happen. They had everything to lose and nothing to gain from their testimony. Many lost their lives professing the fact of Jesus’ resurrection.
Fact: The people in power, the religious authorities, the Roman rulers, Pontius Pilate, the chief priests and scribes had a vested interest in a dead Jesus. They had the means and the ability to produce the corpse of Jesus and parade it through the streets of Jerusalem on Sunday night and Monday morning. But they did not. Why not? Because there was no corpse. Jesus had risen from the dead, jsut as He had said.
But what if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead? What if it’s all made up, a myth, a fantasty, a lie? What if there are bones of Jesus buried in some tomb outside Jerusalem? Does it matter? Isn’t His life still inspiring? Aren’t His teachings still relevant and meaningful for our lives? Isn’t just important that we believe Jesus rose from the dead, kind of like believing in the Easter bunny or Santa Claus or the tooth fairy?
Well, here are some facts if Christ isn’t raised.
If Christ isn’t raised then our preaching is empty and so is your faith. Our preaching is nothing more than a blast of religious hot air and your faith is based on nothing. If Christ isn’t raised than Christianity is like a soufflé or a meringue – a little fluff and a lot of empty air.
If Christ isn’t raised, then the New Testament is a lie, the apostles are liars, and every Christian preacher for the last two thousand years including the two standing in front of you are first class liars who are grossly misrepresenting God and deserve to be ignored if not run out of town. We are charlatans, thieves, scoundrels, which is pretty much what society thinks of preachers these days, and it would be completely true if Jesus Christ were not raised.
If Christ isn’t raised, your faith is futile, worthless, a waste of time. You are wasting your precious time being here this morning. You are wasting your time reading your Bible and praying and worshipping. And you are kidding yourselves if you think you are right with God, because if Christ isn’t raised then the promises of God for forgiveness in Jesus’ name are worthless and you remain in your sins.
If Christ isn’t raised, then we all are back to square one when it comes to God. We need to start working to perfect ourselves. We need to get on our path to enlightenment and climb the spiritual ladder to God. We need to balance our karma, atone for our sins, make amends, fix ourselves, and work on our holiness because there is no mercy, no forgiveness, no grace if Christ is not raised from the dead.
The Scriptures are clear. He was put death for our sins and raised for our justification. If Christ isn’t raised, then we are not justified before God and there is no justification for us.
If Christ isn’t raised, then those who have died believing Christ, trusting His promise of forgiveness, life, and salvation are lost. They’ve perished. In fact, if Christ isn’t raised then we have no concrete proof that there is anything resembling bodily life beyond the grave. If Christ isn’t raised then we have as much evidence for the resurrection as we have for reincarnation. If Christ isn’t raised, then we have nothing whatsoever to say about the dead except that they are gone.
But someone will still say, “But even if Christ isn’t raised from the dead, being a Christian makes me feel better, it helps me cope with my problems, it gives me strength and courage to face life’s problems.” That’s nice. The apostle Paul says that if for this life only we have hope in Christ, if all that Jesus is good for is a little inspiration to get us through the day like a cup of strong tea or coffee, then we are the most pitiful group of people who have ever walked the face of the earth.
But the fact is that Christ has been raised from the dead. And this fact is the ground of our faith.
Because Christ is raised from the dead we believe that we too shall rise with new and improved bodies. Jesus is the “first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep,” He is the first harvest of the resurrection. There is more to come, and you and I are the more to come on the Last Day.
Because Christ is raised from the dead, we believe that there is genuine bodily life after death. We don’t just go on as spirits or memories or energy or what have you. We rise with bodies to live with God eternally. Because of sin, flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. Our bodies are not suited for eternal life. They wear out, they get sick, they break down. But what is buried in weakness will be raised in power. What is buried in dishonor will be raised in glory. What is buried a physical body will be raised a spiritual body designed for eternal life with God.
Because Christ is raised from the dead, we believe that we are justified before God. His sacrifice is acceptable. His “it is finished” from the cross holds. His word is true, His promises are certain. When He says, “Whoever lives and believes in me will never die forever,” this is as certain as Jesus risen from the dead is certain.
Because Christ is raised from the dead, we know that Death has lost its power. “The sting of Death is Sin, and the power of Sin is the Law.” Sin is the condition, the Law is the poison, Death is the result. The wages of Sin is Death. Christ took the sting. He succumbed to the poison. He was killed by the Law that always accuses and kills the sinner. Christ became the sinner for us, for all of humanity. And now in the resurrection, He is the cure, the antidote, the medicine, the anti-serum to the sting of Death.
Because Christ is raised from the dead, we know the destiny of our humanity. “As in Adam all die, so in Christ will all be made alive.” Death is not the last word; life is the last word because Christ is the last Word. We are born to die, this is true. And in Christ, we die to live. This is true too, because Christ is risen from the dead.
“Listen, I tell you a mystery, a secret hidden for the ages but revealed on this glorious first day of the week. 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.” The perishable shall become imperishable. The mortal shall become immortal. Death will be swallowed up in victory.
And we are sure of this, and we believe this, and we live and hope and die trusting this, because Christ is risen from the dead.
Christ is risen! Alleluia!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
In the name of Jesus,