The Triumph Of The Resurrection
The Rev. Dr. Mark Holland, the executive director of Mainstream United Methodist Church, was asked, “Do you believe in the bodily resurrection?” His response was, “Yes. metaphorically. 1 Cor. 15:44 refers to something not bodily, but spiritual - '…it is raised a spiritual body.'” He went on to say, “The truth of the Gospel does not hinge on whether you and I read this literally or spiritually. Let’s just live into the mystery.”
Why do people go to such great lengths to disprove the resurrection of Jesus? Because the resurrection is the key to the Christian faith and if the opponents of Christianity can only prove that the key doesn’t fit, they have undoubtedly reason to show once and for all – Christianity is false. Paul had to deal with those who infiltrated the church in Corinth. Their goal was to confuse the followers of Jesus with their own doctrines – knowledge and not a resurrected Jesus was going to secure people lives. And then sadly, even the most faithful followers of Jesus started to doubt whether the resurrection in fact happened. Just a few Sundays back we dealt with two men who went back to Emmaus, because they didn't believe the report of the women about the resurrection. And then...how can we ever forget the doubting Thomas. It's like we can hear him say in John 20: 25, "Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe." Yes, the cross of Jesus was a reality. It was something so prominent that even His enemies had to acknowledge – “Truly, this man was the Son of God.” But to some, that’s where the Jesus story ended. Therefore Paul addressed some realities about the resurrection of Jesus to the Corinthians. He wanted to be so clear with his point in verse 19, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.
What are some crucial points the apostle raised for the church to the point of Christ’s return? First he addressed 1 Why Jesus' Resurrection Was Crucial.
Listen again to verses 14 and 17, “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith…. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” Without the resurrection everything of the bible, everything that was passed on from generation to generation was a big lie – a falsehood nothing else could ever match up to. Then all of Jesus’ teachings could be called into question, because it meant He lied. If He wasn’t raised, then He lied when He taught on more than one occasion that He would die and rise on the third day. If there was no resurrection, then He lied when He said He could forgive sins. Without the resurrection then, we couldn’t believe a word Jesus said. Paul reminded the believers in Corinth and all generations that without the resurrection of Jesus our faith is useless and we are still under condemnation for our sins. Useless in the Greek it is “mataiotes”, which when it’s translated means “rotten.” Can you just think of how people could have told us, “Your faith is rotten”, if it wasn't for the resurrection of our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ. “Rotten” means good for nothing and to rot away with everything on a landfill. And think of the reality, if Jesus wasn't resurrected we would have rotten away in condemnation. But praise to God, as a people of the resurrection, we again can sing of the triumph, “Christ is risen!”
St. Paul secondly shared a wonderful reality – 2 The Enemy has been Conquered. There was a victory when Jesus came from the tomb. The enemy, death, was defeated. Death was the last enemy – the one with the last say. Isn’t that what many believe? The last say is what we read on tomb stones – here lies buried so and so with the date when it all ended. And millions walk away from a tomb stone with the mindset, “Yes, you had the last say. No one can go against that.” But that just isn’t true my friends, there was One Who answered death – One Who took the sting out of death – Jesus. Therefore Paul cried out in verse 55, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” Commentaries tell us – Look at the humor in this verse. What Paul really did here was to mock death. He was saying, “O death, why are you like a bee that lost its sting! O death, you can’t touch us, for Jesus conquered you!” Victory is certain, my friends. It was secured in our Lord. It wasn’t secured when Jesus spoke the words from the cross, “It is finished!” He still had to go into the tomb. But from there, He broke free!
Paul says that in the resurrected of our Lord, 3 We have Victory for Now and Eternity. He wrote in verse 58, “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you.” How do you think can we make these words simpler? “Brothers, stand your ground. You don’t have to back away from anything!” You know, as Christians we quite often step aside and think, “Well, the victory will one day be ours. Now, we have to live with the reality – in this world we are aliens; in this world our enemies want to press the life out of us; in this life it’s better to live in secret as a follower of Jesus.” But then my friends, we have to remind ourselves, “…in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us.” Our victory over life and death is already ours. God wants us to walk out into the light of Jesus and live as conquerors. Do you feel like a victor with Jesus or do you feel it’s safer to hide in your own little corner? There is the ancient story of a shoemaker who stole people’s money and was sentenced to 5 years in prison. He took his trade with him to prison and day and night he tapped away. The day came for him to return to a free life, but he refused to leave his prison cell. He said, “I’ll come out when I feel ready for that.” We’ll he never came out; he died in his prison cell. Jesus brought us victory and quite often He wants to ask, “Why do you keep yourself bound in sin? Why don’t you live in the freedom I brought you?”
Paul talks about the resurrection of the dead and a spiritual body we all will receive. We will be victors with Jesus in His heavenly realms. To Timothy Paul affirmed that he was going to receive the crown of righteousness and not only he, but all who longed for the Lord's appearing. Eternal life my friends, is our ultimate destination. The here and now will cease, and all things will be made new; we will be citizens of a new heaven and new earth. Do you have a vision for that life? The Triumph Of The Resurrection secured our inheritance. Let's live each day as if that day is at hand.
Rev. Willem H. van de Wall