Reader: “Christ has been raised from the dead.”
Response: “He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.”
Scripture: I Corinthians 15:12-20
But tell me this—since we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead? For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world. But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.
Reader: “The word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
In Paul’s day, as in ours, there were those who had a tough time getting their heads around the fact that Jesus rose bodily from the grave. The Greeks believed in the immortality of the soul, but a physical body being raised from the dead was much harder for them to accept. So Paul presents his argument for a bodily, physical resurrection in this portion of his letter. He works backwards in his logic. He starts with a physical body; Greeks and doubters must accept that an earthly body is matter in the form of flesh. If we accept the premise that it is impossible for a body to rise from the dead, then the claim of Christ’s resurrection is clearly not true. Following along, presuming we are perpetuating a lie, then the atoning work on the cross on our behalf never happened and we are still in our sins. In addition, the torn curtain in the Temple was God’s mistake since he affirmed something that never happened. What is more pathetic, is that we are suffering as complete fools for believing something that never happened. When we die that’s it and we’ll receive a very rude awakening . . . so to speak! It reminds me of Pascal’s wager, namely humans betting their lives on the existence of God. In a nutshell: 1) If we believe in the existence of God and he exists, when we die, we enjoy the benefits of heaven. 2) If we believe in the existence of God and he doesn’t exist and we die, we’ve lost nothing. 3) If we don’t believe in the existence of God and he does exist and we die, we lose everything for all eternity. 4) If we don’t believe in the existence of God and he doesn’t exist and we die, we’ve lost nothing. In light of eternity, number three is not worth our arrogance. Not the same, but a little bit of the same logic. The last sentence you read is about us! A little Jewish background here. One of the seven principal Jewish feasts was the Feast of Firstfruits which began two days after Passover and the day after the Sabbath, which is Sunday, the first day of the week. A stock of barley (it ripens before wheat) was pulled from the field pointing to the wheat harvest some seven weeks later at Pentecost. This stock was symbolic of the full harvest to come. God always owned the firstfruits, hence the beginning of every harvest went to him, similar to God owning all the first born men or animals. (Think of the Exodus.) Of the seven times firstfruits are mentioned in the New Testament, (worded here, “first of the great harvest”), these last two sentences are the most significant. Christ, as the Firstfruit, leads the way in resurrection, to be followed by his believers, and then all who have died. For these words speak of the certainty of a future bodily resurrection for all who believe as well as for those who don’t believe and at final Judgment, some to eternal life in the presence of God and others to eternal life apart from God. Bottom line, we are guaranteed now of our future resurrection body which will be fundamentally different from the body we live in now. (Yes!) Our bodies will be glorious, immortal, material, and spiritual similar to Christ’s own resurrection body. Can you imagine?
Music: “I Can Only Imagine” Mercy Me
In this song we have pictures of loved ones who have gone before, but what strikes me is the power of the text which centers on the overwhelming reality of being in the presence of Christ himself.
Lord Jesus Christ, my Creator and Savior of my soul and body, I bow before you in overwhelming gratitude and wonder. Your word says you knit me together in my mother’s womb and saw me before I was even born. You recorded every day and every moment of my life before there was even one. The mystery is that you have never recorded an end to my life. You know that I will dwell with you eternally because of what you have done on the behalf of me and all of your children. I look forward, though I cannot imagine how this would be, to thanking you face to face in my unimaginable resurrection body and bowing before you in perfect worship. . . . my words fail, but you know my speechless heart. ―Daniel Sharp