So Why Resurrection?
Text: 1 Corinthians 15: 3-23
Proposition: The significance of the resurrection of Jesus is that it certified that His death had been sufficient to pay for our sin and that it is our prototype.
Introduction: It was just after the wedding in Cana had taken place that Jesus went into the Temple and drove out the money changers with a cord of whips. When the Jews asked Him by what sign or miracle would he base His authority to do this on, Jesus makes this strange reply, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” (Jn 2:19) The Jews response was, ‘It took 46 years to build this Temple and you say that in three days you could raise it up, that would be a miracle indeed.’ The author who records these words is the apostle John and he puts an editorial comment in here saying, “But He was speaking about the temple of His body.” Jesus makes His first statement that the authority of Who He is as the Son of God will rest upon the reality of His resurrection!
Three years later, it’s Sunday morning and the empty tomb, the discarded stone that had sealed it, the blood soaked grave clothes, the morning encounters with the risen Jesus, the breaking of bread at Emmaus, the upper room show down with Thomas …these are the things that can only be if the temple has been rebuilt, the temple of Jesus body. All of Christianity and the faith, hope and love it expresses rests on the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. And not only that, this resurrection must not just be the same body come back to life, it must be a body that has been transformed into a body that can never experience death again. Let me put it like this, had the Romans once again managed to lay their hands on this resurrected Jesus, had the Pharisees once again arrested the risen Christ they could not have killed Him no matter how hard they might have tried. You cannot pierce with a spear a Jesus who can pass through walls! The details of the women coming to the tomb at daybreak, of the angel they saw and of their encounters with Christ are well known to you so let me direct you to a less familiar passage. Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 15:3-23.
I. The Witness of the Truth Is That Jesus Rose From the Dead.
Paul says that of first importance for every person to know is that Jesus died for our sins according to all that the Scriptures foretold and that His death completely atones or covers the cost of our sin. The proof of His death was in the details of His burial, close witnesses that would have dearly loved to have Him alive. Hostile witnesses that earnestly needed to ensure He was dead, centurions and Pharisees. As factual as His death is, so is what happened after three days, His resurrection. If proof is what is needed then proof is what is provided. An empty tomb is the first proof, Roman soldiers who guarded the tomb till morning then abandoned their post because of the appearance of an angel (Matt.28:11-15) are a second proof that the disciples weren’t involved. A stone weighing over a ton and half was moved, but not just a little bit to squeeze a person out, it was rolled away, taken up from the track it would roll in and was laying to the side. Witnesses see Him, touch Him, Mary, Peter, the twelve, over five hundred at one place and then even the most hostile of witnesses, the one who killed Christians and burned churches, Saul of Tarsus. And not just Saul but also Jesus brother James becomes a believer when he sees the risen Christ. The evidence of people who were so sure of what they had seen that they were willing to lay their lives down for it is even more compelling. The resurrection of Jesus has abundant proof. At the time of this letter being written Paul says that there were still hundreds of people alive who could testify to that fact. One writer put it this way, ‘If the Bible was secular literature there would not be a moments hesitation to accept the claims it makes based on the proof it supplies.’ The resurrection has been called ‘God’s Receipt’, the debt of man’s sin was paid and the receipt showing that the payment is complete is this resurrection of Jesus.
But the problem here is not that the Corinthians didn’t believe in the historical facts of the resurrection of Jesus, it was that they had serious doubts about their own resurrection. They wondered why God would be so interested in bodies that were prone to sickness and aging that He would raise those very bodies from the dead. They wondered why there even needed to be bodies since the soul was lasting and the essence of who were are is more in the soul than in the body. Why should God resurrect us? That was their question and perhaps it’s your question this Sunday morning too. You firmly believe in the resurrection of Jesus, the evidence is there, but my resurrection… perhaps there’s some doubts.
II. The Resurrection of Jesus is the Foundation of Your Hope.
Have a look at verse 12, “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?” In other words we all have come to believe that Jesus was in fact raised from the dead yet there remains this doubt about whether this will happen to us as well. Then Paul makes this rather startling statement, “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen.” Paul’s intent here is to say that the resurrection of Jesus was the prototype for our resurrection. If you deny the possibility of your own resurrection then you are saying the prototype was also an impossibility. He links our resurrection to that of Jesus so tightly that to deny one is to deny the other. It’s like the way a string of dominos fall, once the first one is knocked down they all are unable to stand. Take down the resurrection of Jesus and all preaching is empty, if preaching falls then so does our faith which rests against the preaching. Romans 10:9, 10 said that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the preaching of the word of God. Preaching falls and then faith falls then our witness of what we said was true falls and as that falls it takes down the assurance of my salvation, I would still be in my sins. If that’s the case then it would also be true for every other person who has died before me, they are utterly lost. If all this is true then we are the most hopeless of all people on earth. So it all does hinge on the resurrection of Jesus. So why resurrection?
III. God’s Intent in Christ’s Resurrection and Ours Is Unhindered Glory.
Look what Paul says in verse 20, “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” It’s an interesting phrase. The Feast of First Fruits was held on the day after the first Sabbath after Passover, Sunday. The Feast of First Fruits is held to give thanks to God for the abundant harvest yet to come as a sheave of early grain is lifted up and waved to the Lord. But the Jews would be familiar with all that so Paul says that Jesus resurrection is the first fruits of all resurrections of those have their faith in Christ. Just as certainly as we have inherited death through Adam so we will inherit eternal life and resurrection through Jesus Christ. So Paul then makes this statement, “But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming.” There’s a passage in Matthew that is rarely referred to that relates to the plural ‘firstfruits’. At the moment of Christ’s death the curtain in the Temple was torn in two signifying the entrance to God was now through the torn curtain of Christs body. Then in Matthew 27:52,53, it makes this out of sequence statement, “ and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” ‘Firstfruits’, it’s already begun.
So why resurrection? We know that in Jesus case it was to demonstrate that the sins price was paid in full. That’s true but there’s also more. In verses 35 to 43 Paul makes the point that when Jesus was raised from the dead His body was changed from mortal to immortal. Our resurrected body is not just this same body infused with new life. It’s utterly changed in nature, without sin, dynamic as a new creation made by God. Just as a seed goes into the ground looking like one thing and comes up out of the ground looking and being altogether different so will our resurrection bodies be. Paul writes in verses 42,43 and 49, “So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.” “ And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.” The answer to the question, ‘So why resurrection?’, is so that we will bear the image of the heavenly Man, even Jesus Christ. It means that we are meant for relationship with God, an unhindered relationship that sin has always interrupted. It means that God will always be God but now we will know Him more clearly than ever before, we will worship Him ever more dearly than ever before, we will serve Him ever more willingly than before and we will glorify Him ever more wondrously than ever before. All that God ever intended to do in His relationship with this created being called mankind will now take its next steps forward.
Paul’s closing words to all of us are: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”