One of the most important passages in the Bible is found in 1 Corinthians 15:12-28. Paul writes, “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. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.”
Entering April, we see that Easter is approaching. It is the MOST important day of the Christian calendar, even more important than Christmas, because it is the time of the year we commemorate the fulfilment of Jesus’ mission. As much as we celebrate the birth, the Incarnation of Jesus, the death and resurrection are where the effects of His Incarnation are realized.
I was having coffee with a Muslim friend a couple of weeks ago and she mentioned she was taking some holidays that would coincide with Easter in order to get an extra stat holiday in. Unfortunately, she got her days mixed up and thought Easter was this past weekend rather than in three weeks. Her conclusion? She should have consulted her Christian friend what the dates of Easter were. She had gone with last year’s date.
Easter does not fall on the same date year to year. Have you ever wondered why? Easter always falls on the first Sunday following the first full moon of the spring equinox, so while the day of the week, Sunday, stays the same, the date can vary by almost 6 weeks. This year Easter falls on April 21.
Today is April Fool’s Day. We do not really know where it came from. One theory is that it came into being when the Julian calendar, which placed the new year around the March equinox, was replaced with the Gregorian calendar, which placed the new year January 1. People who did not know about the change or refused to accept it and continued to celebrate the new year in the spring were called April fools. Most of us have played April Fool’s jokes on others, or have had these jokes played on us.
But what if history’s worst fooling turned out to be that we were counting on for salvation that didn’t exist? Most fair historians will admit that Jesus did exist. Some even admit He was put to death on a Roman cross. However, the resurrection of Jesus is doubted by many. If Jesus really did rise from the dead it places Him far above all other people who have ever lived. It also establishes Christianity as the only path to God.
The resurrection defies logic and reason. Some people suggest someone may have stolen the body of Jesus and that would explain the empty tomb. Others have suggested Jesus never really died on the cross, but was just unconscious and woke up 3 days later. This is what the Muslims believe about the resurrection of Jesus.
There is not another doctrine of our faith that is so vital to us than the resurrection. Our faith stands or falls based on the truth of the resurrection. If Jesus is still dead, then we are all April Fools!
Paul wrote a letter to the church in Corinth. Some people in that church began to doubt the resurrection. Paul wanted to assure them Jesus was indeed alive and believing that He arose from the dead was vital to their faith. So, are we fools to believe that?
If so, then the Bible would be a hoax if Jesus is dead. Throughout Jesus’ life, he made many outrageous claims. He claimed to be the Messiah, the Son of God, to have authority to forgive sins, to be King, to be Lord, and to be worthy of equal praise to the Father. The resurrection validates these claims Jesus made for Himself.
If the resurrection did not take place it makes Jesus a liar. Either He is who He claimed to be or He was a fool. There are some who say His disciples did not preach Jesus as risen from the dead.
That’s not what the Bible says. After God’s Spirit filled the disciples, they went into the streets proclaiming the Good News. In Acts 2:29-33 Peter says, “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.”
If Jesus didn’t really arise from the dead then the preaching of His disciples was foolishness. Nearly 50 places in the New Testament it speaks about Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
In I Corinthians chapter 15 Paul states that the resurrected Jesus appeared to Peter and James and the other disciples. He says Jesus appeared at one time to over 500 individuals most of whom Paul says were still living at the time If that is not true then the disciples were fools.
If there was no Resurrection, there would be no salvation. Paul told the Corinthian Church that if Jesus did not arise then we are lost in our sins and without hope of eternal life. If Jesus is dead then there would be no salvation for mankind. Paul says in Romans chapter 10 that the resurrection is something we must believe in order to be saved.
When Jesus cried, “It is finished”, He did not mean that redemption was finished. He meant one work He was sent for was finished. His resurrection completed His work.
If He did not arise then we have no hope of eternal life, no comfort of something better after death, and we would still be in our sins. Again, Paul writes in his first letter to the church in Thessalonica saying this in 4:13-18, “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” Jesus’ resurrection, not His death sealed the victory over death.
For those of us who have lost loved ones who are in the Lord, death has been defeated because of Jesus’ resurrection. If Jesus never arose from the dead then we who believe our loved ones will also be resurrected are victims of a foolish prank!
Lastly, the promise of Christ reigning over all of Creation would be a myth is Jesus did not rise. The Bible says that after three days in the tomb Jesus arose with power. The Bible says for forty days following that climactic event, He appeared to many people. After those forty days with His disciples, He ascended into Heaven before their eyes. At that point, Jesus took His rightful place at the right hand of God.
We have a reigning Lord. During our trials and difficulties, Jesus is still on His throne. However, if Jesus never arose from the dead He would never have been able to take His spot on the throne because he would still be dead and remains of His body would be somewhere in Jerusalem.
If there was no resurrection then there is no reigning Lord. There is no one interceding before God on our behalf. There is no power in our prayers. There is no comfort of someone bigger and greater in control. There is no hope of justice upon the wicked. But in the end, praise be to God, “Jesus is not dead!” He is alive and He is reigning right now in Heaven.
The world is full of religions whose spiritual leaders have all died and are now buried. Today followers of the Islamic faith can visit the tomb of their leader Mohammed. Today followers of the Buddhist religion can go to the grave of their founder, Buddha. You can visit the graves of past world leaders and historical figures, but you cannot visit the burial place of the greatest man that ever lived, Jesus Christ He arose from the dead and lives even today at the right hand of the throne of God himself.
Only Christianity follows a Messiah who left behind an empty tomb. Our Savior Lives! So, rather than being victims of a terrible prank, we are blessed with a living Lord, who now offers that same resurrection and eternal life to each one of us. Now, all we have to do is go out and tell the rest of the world…