Imagine hearing this announcement when you show up for a church Easter celebration that includes a potluck.
“Thank you for bringing such wonderful food to the celebration today. Since the real significance of the food is the thought behind it, instead of eating the food today, we will parade by the tables in single file and admire it appreciatively. Feel free to snap a few photos and share them to your social media account. We want everyone to remember how good the food looked and how abundantly everyone provided. But no touching and no eating. The idea of the food is what is important.“
Are you laughing? Of course, the significance of food is eating it, not looking at it. Of course, intentions matter. Meaning and significance are important. But sometimes it makes a big difference whether something is real or not. It also matters whether an idea is true or not.
On Easter, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The Bible tells us that Jesus was crucified and died on a cross. His body was buried in a tomb where it remained for 3 days. But on the third day, the stone door of the tomb was rolled away and the tomb was empty because God raised Jesus from the dead (Mark 15-16; Matthew 27:32-28:10; Luke 23:26-24:12).
Paul argues in 1Corinthians 15 that the historical fact is Jesus rose from the dead, and it makes a difference that he did.
Paul wrote this letter to a group of people in Corinth who considered themselves sophisticated and enlightened. They thought it was foolish to believe that people would have life after death in a physical body. Paul argues, if they are right ant the resurrection is just a beautiful idea, then the gospel is useless.
1Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. -1Corinthians 15:1-5
- The crucial part of the gospel is that Christ died for our sins and was resurrected just as Scripture predicted.
- Paul insists this idea that Christ DIED for our sins is central to the gospel.
- And, that fact that he died FOR OUR SINS is central to the gospel.
- Sin is not this unfortunate circumstance that makes life unpleasant. Sin is wrong. It is evil.
- We have broken God’s law and we stand guilty before Him.
- Our Creator will judge us unless someone pleads for mercy on our behalf. That someone is Jesus Christ.
3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. -1Corinthians 15:3-8
- Many people saw Jesus alive in a physical body after many people save him dead and buried.
- Paul wrote this letter about 20 years after the resurrection. Many people who saw the risen Jesus were still alive and could verify his words.
- Paul preached the gospel to them because it is true, not because it’s a nice idea.
9For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. -1Corinthians 15:9-11
- If you don’t believe Paul because he wasn’t one of the original 12, then believe the other 11. They all preach the same gospel.
- It’s not just a nice idea to know that someone in history was raised from the dead once. It’s important for us to know that Jesus was raised from the dead.
12Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15We 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. -1Corinthians 15:12-15
- If people cannot be raised from the dead, then Jesus wasn’t raised either and the gospel is futile.
- But resurrection happened. Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, the Christ. Many people including the apostles knew him. They saw him, worked with him and followed him. Jesus the man lived, died, was buried. Then God raised him from the dead.
16For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. -1Corinthians 15:16-20
- If Jesus Christ was not raised, then his death didn’t atone for anyone. We are all still guilty and will be condemned on judgment day.
- God proved the death of Jesus atoned for our sins by raising him from the dead.
- The resurrection is central to the gospel because the forgiveness of our sins, the very salvation we are looking for, is tied to the resurrection.
- The reason we put our hope in the gospel is because it is true.
- The gospel is is not a “whatever works for you” story. If you believe the gospel and it turns out to be a lie, you’re a fool.
- But we know the gospel is true, in part because Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead.
- On Easter we celebrate an event that really happened and it makes a difference that it did.
Please listen to the podcast for more detail and explanation.
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