For quite some time now I have puzzled over and thought about the Ressurection of the dead and the particular passage in Corinthians I want to look at today and this week I have been thinking about posting on this topic when it came up in life three times today! We talked about Corinthians 15 in my Corinthians and Thessalonians class, We talked about the resurrection of the dead in my Medeival Philosophy class and even now just returning from my liturgical service we talked about the resurrection of a wounded Jesus. Therefore I am going to put my two cents in on a blog post since today we are deviating from James just for the day. So if you may turn with me to 1 Corinthians 15 in your bible and if you do not have a bible you can see the pericope that we will be studying here.
First a little bit of context for these verses: This takes place in the middle (close to end) of the first letter we have from Paul to the Corinthians. Interesting fact I learned in class: 1 Corinthians is actually older than the gospels and closer to the time of Jesus’ actual death and resurrection! He has sent this letter and it is likely that it was being dictated over the whole of the church concerning things such as marriage, spiritual gifts, and now the resurrection of the dead. Keep in mind while you read the epistle that this is a response letter. In such that what he addresses in the epistle are either things that he has heard about the church in Corinth or something that the church has asked in a letter to him. Whether he heard grumblings of an argument considering the resurrection or if someone asked we may never know as we do not have the original letters from the churches. However Paul thought it was pertinent to talk about this issue. Some of the Christians were arguing that there was no resurrection of the body after death and this put some concerning results on Christianity. You can hear it best from Paul himself.
“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.” 1Cor 12-14.
Pretty strong words: If Christ is not risen your faith is useless. He goes further on to say that if Christ is not risen then we have done a horrible thing for we have said that God raised Christ from the dead and if God did not raise him then we have lied and we should be pitied. If Christ has not raised then all those men who had given their life for their faith are perished and have no hope of resurrection.
After Paul lets them in on the scope of damage that this idea of no resurrection does to the Christian faith he goes on to tell that Christ has been raised that he is the first fruits and that the last death will be of death itself. He goes on to talk about some eschatology themes but the question I wanted to raise is this: What if Christ is not risen? Have you ever really thought of that? If not I would encourage you to think on it a bit (not to the detriment of your faith of course) but if he is not raised what does that mean in your life? It is this question that has led many into Atheism and back as they struggle through trying to prove whether or not Christ has risen. It is not as hard to believe in a prophet who came and taught us good values, it is not even that hard to believe in there only being one God of the universe but the stumbling block comes to many when it comes to resurrection of the dead.
I myself have reconciled this idea with how the early church reacted to his resurrection and the boom of Christianity that spread directly after his resurrection. If you recall at the time of Christ’s arrest all the disciples scattered. Peter in fact denied that the knew Christ three times. These men were scared for their lives and the verses in John 20 show their fear directly before Christ appears to them.
“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
They were afraid and hiding from the Jewish leaders. Jesus appears somehow breaking into the fourth dimension or something as he gets in their locked room and tells them to have peace. How powerful is that phrase? They are locked as the Jewish leaders are out on a witch-hunt for them and Jesus tells them to have peace. Is he talking about their current situation or is it possible that he is speaking to their inner turmoil of faith or lack of it? Is he perhaps speaking to their souls to have peace and know that Jesus is who he said he was and that he has risen?
If Christ is not raised how do you figure out these disciples who are scared to death the one minute but then next are out spreading the word. Jesus appeared to more than 500 people before he ascended into heaven and these people were out spreading the word to their family and friends and Christianity was spreading like fire. Now these are first-hand witnesses of the risen Christ and they are preaching without fear. How to you reconcile the disciples afraid for their life and Peter and John being called before the Sanhedrin and told to stop preaching in Jesus’s name and their bold refusal? Even to their martyrdom they preach in Jesus’s name.
This is something that they were not willing to do when Jesus was alive and with them but after experiencing the risen Lord they do freely and happily! How can you explain that?
Well some say that it was a story that was made up by the Disciples: Don’t you think that out of the 500 eye-witnesses that someone would go back on their story or reveal the plot when threatened with death all for the sake of a story? The only explanation is experiencing a risen Lord.
How do you explain Saul who is one minute persecuting Christians and the next proclaiming Jesus’s name however he can? The only explanation is that Saul really did see Jesus.
Can we ever know for certain whether Jesus was raised from the dead? No we can’t until the day of our death I would assume. But that is where faith comes in and takes its part. If you have trouble thinking about a risen Lord pray about it ask God to increase your faith. Don’t think that he will turn away or forsake you remember Thomas who doubted and said that “unless I touch the wounds on his hands and put my fingers in his side I will not believe.” Jesus appeared to Thomas and granted this that he might have faith. But remember what Jesus told Thomas after he had touched his wounds. “Do you believe because you have seen? Blessed are those who have not seen but yet believe.”
Christ has risen from the grave! I am convinced that throughout history and its impact and influence on the world is a direct result of the early church leaders experiencing first hand the risen Lord. For myself I am content to believe and pray without ceasing that I might see my Lord by his own will and grow to follow him more day by day.
May God Bless You This Week,