I Corinthians 15:1-19
Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas[Peter], and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.
But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
<<Let us pray>>
Living Jesus, On this day, this resurrection Sunday morning, may every word of my mouth be a thought from your Spirit, Lord. May the empty tomb stand as a reminder of the ways in which you take us: dead and empty in our sins and transform us into living, breathing, masterpieces of your grace and mercy. In your precious, holy name – Amen
You may be seated.
He is risen.
<c> He is risen, indeed
If it weren’t for the truth of the resurrection, I wouldn’t be here. Neither would you, for that matter, in all likelihood, considering that if it were not for the particular miracle of Easter morning, Paul would be remembered as Saul, a good Jewish rabbi who kicked those pesky Christ-following weirdos to the curb back in the day.
Because without the resurrection, Christ-followers are stupid.
Because without the resurrection, Christ-followers should be pitied.
Because without the resurrection, everything about what we do here: worship, offering, eating together, celebrating communion, EVERYTHING is foolishness.
Without a risen Christ, what do we celebrate? The death of another rebellious Jew in the age of the Roman empire? Probably not – I don’t know the names of too many other rabble-rousers from that period, do you? And anyway, why would it matter? Because he said nice things? Well, really, without the resurrection most of what he said is just…well…strange.
Many of his followers AT THE TIME thought so and quit following before the crucifixion because of it. He said to eat his body and drink his blood! What the..? That is simply NOT DONE.
He told us to be nice and to love our neighbors. But he also told us that he was doing his “father’s” work – meaning God. He also said that we should not worry, that we should live peaceably, and that the Holy Spirit – a comforter was going to come. He said he was going to die – but he also said he was going to be resurrected. So if he wasn’t – if he hadn’t been – everything else he said and did and was about becomes crazy talk from a guy who died a really horrible death.
James, Jesus’s very own brother, certainly seems to lend himself to the conclusion that the resurrection mattered. He didn’t believe Jesus while he was alive. In fact, he was kind of vocal about it. He went with his brothers and tired to get Jesus to slow his roll, to stop being ridiculous. What WOULD dad have thought? The crucifixion happens, and we know James was not among the disciples, because Paul specifically calls him out in our passage: “…After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”
James becomes the leader of the church in Jerusalem. James writes one of the epistles in the New Testament, but without the resurrection, James is barely even a footnote in the historical record of mankind.
Paul calls the resurrection the gospel – the good news. And that is what it is! The resurrection of Christ portends all of OUR resurrection hopes. It is the hope of every Christian in the world today – the hope of eternal life. The hope of a perfect body, celebrating the God who made us forever.
The resurrection is what defeats death.
The resurrection is what destroys sin.
The resurrection is what redeems and rescues and restores us.
Without the resurrection there is no good news.
Without the resurrection we are fools.
Without the resurrection none of this matters.
But there were hundreds who saw him.
And when Paul originally wrote this letter, in addition to himself, those hundreds and many of the apostles were still alive to tell the story of their encounters with a risen Christ.
Paul’s story of encountering Jesus on the road to Damascus is one he tells often in his letters – a reminder that he was one thing and meeting Jesus, the resurrected Jesus, changed him from the inside out.
That is the good news of the resurrection. The resurrected Jesus, the one who met Paul that day, is still the living Jesus we can encounter today. We sang “I serve a living savior, he’s in the world today” as part of our service today, and we did so because that resurrection, that livingness of our Jesus, is the most vital and important part of our faith. Without that miracle, Jesus is just the Jesus of the cross, the Jesus in a famous tomb, perhaps. The Jesus long forgotten by a world that has moved on from silly men with weird ideas of faith and life. The Jesus of a broken promise, a faithless God.
BUT THANKS BE TO GOD – we do not serve an unresurrected King – but a living Jesus. A Jesus who remains both fully God and fully man, a Jesus who sits next to God and intercedes for us. A Jesus who sent His Holy Spirit to empower us to love both our God and our neighbor. A RESURRECTED Jesus who offers us not only the beauty of a grace-filled now life, but the hope of an eternal one spent in his presence, thanking him for that grace.
This morning as we receive communion, we do so to remember that the road to the resurrection was paved with suffering, that it necessarily leads through a cross on Golgotha’s hill, but one that could not have ended there or we would not be here.
He is risen
<c> He is risen, indeed