Text: 1 Corinthians 15:19-20
Theme: Christ Has Indeed Been Raised From The Dead!
If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
Do you know who Daniel Edwin Barker is? Daniel Barker was a Christian preacher for 19 years, until he left Christianity in 1984. Now, he and his wife Annie, are the co-presidents of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Back in 2003, Mr. Barker is quoted as saying, “During the 19 years I preached the Gospel, the resurrection of Jesus was the keystone of my ministry. Every Easter I affirmed the Apostle Paul’s admonition: ‘If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.’ But now I no longer believe it. Many bible scholars and ministers…reject the idea that Jesus bodily came back to life. So do 30% of born-again American Christians!”
And, sadly, that number is growing. Back in 2010, the research group, Barna, conducted a survey of adults asking them what Easter means to them. Here is one of the conclusions from that survey: “While a majority of Americans indicated some type of spiritual connection with Easter, the research also showed that a minority of adults directly linked Easter to the Christian faith’s belief in the resurrection of Christ. In all, only 42% of Americans said that the meaning of Easter was the resurrection of Jesus or that it signifies Christ death and return to life.” Did you catch it? This means that over half of the adults in our country, do NOT make a connection with Easter and the resurrection of Jesus! And the sad fact is that they are passing on their unbelief to their children!
I wish I could tell you that all this is just a bad April Fool’s Day joke. But, sadly, I can’t. A growing number of people believe that that the resurrection of Jesus is only a myth; a legend; a made up story! A growing number of people call you and me fools for being here this morning celebrating the resurrection of Jesus.
But, you and I know that the teaching of Jesus’ resurrection is one of THE key teachings in all of the Bible. If we empty the resurrection of Jesus of its meaning, and simply call it a “myth” or a “legend” or a “story” which may or may not have happen, then, as Paul says in our reading, “We are to be pitied more than all men.” Why? This is the question we want to spend some time answering this morning. By the grace of God, you and I know the Good News of the Gospel; the Good News that Jesus Christ lives! As you and I gather together on this Easter Sunday, we do so rejoicing in the wonderful Good News that CHRIST HAS INDEED BEEN RAISED FROM THE DEAD!
God’s Word before us tells you and me that, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” Why “pitied more than all men?” Because if Jesus did not rise from the dead, then you and I don’t have the forgiveness of our sins. If Jesus did not rise, then you and I are still dead in our trespasses and sins. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then you and I are living foolish, pointless lives. If Christ did not rise from the dead, then why put up with all the criticism and name calling for being a Christian? If Christ did not rise from the dead, then why not simply live just for today, and “eat, drink and be merry!” If we could only count on Jesus for this life, then Paul says we are to be “pitied more than all men.” Or as one author has written, “The Christian life is not worth living if the hope and promise of the resurrection are removed.”
But, the Good News you and I hear this morning is that “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead.” Because Jesus our Savior lives, our lives ARE worth living! You and I are able to put up with the criticisms. You and I are able to put up with the name calling. You and I are able to live lives which bring our Savior-God the glory and honor he alone deserves. You and I are able to live relying on him, loving him, honoring him, serving him and thanking him, because Jesus rose from the dead, and assures you and me that as we live out our lives here on this earth, we belong to him because of the forgiveness of sins that he won for you and me. Our living Savior’s makes you and me the promise that he is by our side each and every day.
Because we belong to Jesus, we not only live out our earthly lives for him and with him, but we also look forward to the time when we will live with him forever in heaven. Living side by side with the Savior is not something we could look forward to if he had not risen from the dead. God’s Word tells us that if Jesus did not rise “then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.” However, the Good News of the Gospel is that “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.”
The picture Paul is using here is that of a harvest. In the Old Testament, the “first-fruits” were always picked as an offering to the Lord. The picking of the first-fruits assured that the rest of the harvest would soon come. The point is that just as Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday, one day all the bodies which have been placed in the grave will also rise. When they do, the Bible teaches us that bodies of all believers will be made perfect, free from all sin and the effects of sin. Then soul and body will live forever in the perfection of heaven.
Another picture used in the Bible speaks about death as sleep. Just as we go to sleep at night looking forward to waking up to a bright, new day, our bodies will one day fall asleep in death, with the sure and certain hope of waking up when the risen Lord Jesus returns again in all his glory. The resurrection of Jesus means that not only do we live for him here and now, but we also look forward to living with our Savior forever in heaven.
There was another sad conclusion from the survey that was conducted by the Barna Group back in 2010. “Overall, only 31% of active churchgoers said they would definitely invite someone they know who does not usually attend a church to accompany them to a church service on Easter…those who celebrate Easter because of the resurrection of Christ are not particularly likely to invite non-churched friends to worship, suggesting that their personal beliefs about Jesus have not yet translated into a sense of urgency for having spiritual conversations with their acquaintances.”
Certainly, it is my prayer, that God the Holy Spirit fills the hearts of each and every one of us here this morning with a real sense of urgency to share the message of God’s Word with others. As you leave God’s house today, with the joy of Easter still burning in your hearts, find someone and share with them the Good News that “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!” Amen.