Opening Prayer: Almighty God, too often we consider these glorious gospel truths with dull hearts and glazed eyes. But here in the mystery of the resurrection you displayed your righteousness and your plan for the whole world, the entire cosmos. Teach us now, meet with us now, challenge us, change us, and overcome our every excuse, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!
Resurrection Sunday is the high feast of the Christian calendar.
Christ is Risen therefore Jesus is Lord
Paul describes the gospel declaration here at the beginning of the passage emphasizing that what took place is “according to the Scriptures” (15:3-4). This is what was promised from the beginning, and Paul summarizes this preaching in the phrase “Christ is raised from the dead” (1 Cor. 15:4, 12). When we declare that Christ is risen we are declaring the simplest gospel. In fact, this is the first thing we mean when we say that Jesus is Lord. For Jesus to be Lord, he must in fact be Lord of all. There cannot be anything that can hold Christ under its sway. The greatest enemy; the fiercest foe and strongest power in the world, is the power of death. But when we say that Jesus is Lord, we mean that he is Lord of even life and death. He is the Lord because he is the only one can both lay down his life and take it back up again. When we declare that he is risen we declare that he is Lord of life and death, and if he is lord of life and death, there is nothing he is not Lord of. He is Lord of birth and pregnancy, the Lord of childhood and education. He is the Lord of employment and marriage. He is the Lord of our computers and cars and clothes. He is the Lord of our homes and communities. He is Lord of all.
All are Raised or None
Paul addresses the doubts of some in the Corinthian church about whether there will be a resurrection of the dead (15:12). He is clear that either Jesus is raised and therefore all will be raised, or if there is no resurrection of the dead then Jesus did not rise from the dead (15:13, 16). You cannot have one without the other. This is like wanting pregnancy but no children or children without pregnancy. The two are mutually dependent: if you have one, you must have the other. This is like wanting the sun but no sunlight, or thinking that you might be able to have sunlight without the sun. If you do not have one, you cannot have the other. Likewise, the resurrection of Jesus means the resurrection of the dead, and the resurrection of the dead can only be true if Jesus rose from the dead. And furthermore, if Christ did not rise then the gospel is empty, our faith is empty, we are liars, and we are still in our sins, and we are the most pitiable of all men (15:14-19). Paul says that if Jesus did not rise from the dead, we are a bunch of lying, sorry losers.
Christ must Reign
The question of course comes, why is Christ waiting so long to raise us up along with all those who have died. What is Jesus doing before the “end”? He must reign, Paul says, until He has put all enemies under his feet. Jesus is destroying all of his enemies, until he comes to the last enemy which is death itself (15:25-26). He goes on to describe the resurrection, and he gives us glimpses of what the resurrection is like, but he summarizes the effects of the resurrection by saying that “corruption” does not “inherit incorruption” and therefore we shall all be changed (15:50-51). And when this corruption puts on incorruption, when this mortality puts on immortality, the saying will go out, “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” (15:55). Paul says that the sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law, but God gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (15:56-57). Paul is not only talking about the end of human history; he is talking about Jesus is doing now. When Jesus took his life back up, when his Father raised him from the dead, and Jesus ascended into heaven, he sat down at the right hand of the Father to reign and rule until every enemy has been put down, until every sin has been put down. This is the victory, the immortality and incorruptibility that we taste and share in now. This is why Paul concludes that our “labor is not in vain in the Lord.” If the resurrection is true, then we will be changed. Our enemies (sin, death, Hades) will be put down through the reign of Christ in history and in our lives.
Conclusions and Applications
We believe that Jesus is king and 2000 years ago, he burst out of a cave that was blockaded by a gigantic stone and a guard of soldiers. We believe that Jesus is Lord of life and death, heaven and hell, and he will reign until every enemy is put beneath his feet. Therefore you must live in this world expecting God to do marvelous things. We live in a broken world, where sin’s effects are ravaging our communities, our families, and friends. It will not do to throw up our hands and say, “I can’t change” or “he/she will never change.” “This is just who I am” or “that’s just how they have always been.” “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” That’s a lie. If Jesus is raised, then the dead will be raised. If Jesus is raised, then God changes and will change this world. Every enemy will be put down. Every enemy will submit. We serve the God who “who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did” (Rom. 4:17). And God declares the same to us. Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life.” And he is out doing battle on your behalf. He sees the hard-hearted riffs in your families, he knows about the sins you battle, he knows about the struggles you have with your friends, and how lost your neighbors and family are. He knows their condition better than you, and he says to you, “I am the resurrection and the life.” I am the resurrection. I burst out of a grave 2000 years ago, and I am Lord of all. There is no hard heart that I cannot break, there is no family rift that I cannot heal, there is no sin that I cannot forgive, there is nothing that I am not Lord of. Corruption must put on incorruption, mortality immortality. The greatest enemy, the hardest one, was death. And Jesus took it down and we mock it in the victory of Christ: O Death where is your sting?
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen!
Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, our master, our King, and our God. We cast aside every doubt, all unbelief, and every excuse for why we cannot be changed or why you will not change those we love. You are the resurrection and the life. No one stays your hand, no one can tell you no. Therefore we worship you and glorify you in your resurrection. And we plead with you to change us into your image more and more. Make us people of faith, people who look for and expect the mighty working of your grace in our lives and in the lives of our neighbors, families, and friends. Go before us, for you are our Lord and King.