I’m going to break away from The Story a little bit today to provide context for the importance of the Resurrection. In class Sunday, we talked about the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross and how this is often where we focus in Christianity. More is going on than just the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and I think it is pertinent to study the Resurrection of Jesus. Paul says, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17).
What is central to Christian belief? I once drew a large target on the board of one of my college classes and wrote “Gospel” in the middle. I then read off a list of “debates” that break out in churches that often lead to divisions and asked the class what is central to the “Gospel.” In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul begins by saying, “Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you…” When we see a verse like this, we need to pay attention. Sometimes we place more emphasis on things that are not central to the Gospel than we do the things that are. I plant that as a seed of thought for future discussions and to lay a foundation of importance for this week’s reading. Paul says he wants to remind them of the gospel he preached and then writes a long discourse on the resurrection of the dead. Take a moment to think about what you imagine when you think of the resurrection.
Take some time to read all of 1 Corinthians 15. What will be resurrected when the Resurrection comes? What will we be like? I remember watching cartoons that depicted death where the character was a ghostly looking being wearing a white robe with a halo and wings. These scenes depict a spirit leaving the body to go to heaven. While this may not be false, does something more happen at the Resurrection? One of my favorite authors/scholars that I read, N.T. Wright, is known for saying, “I want to talk about life after, life after death.” We’ve talked a lot in Christianity about what happens when we die but he, and others, want to focus more on what happens in the Resurrection. What is our final existence? Why does it matter?
Philippians 3:20-21 – “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”
1 John 3:1-3 – “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.”
2 Peter 3:13 – “But in keeping with his promises we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.”
1 Thess 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.
The Greeks, based in the Philosophy of Plato and Plotinus, saw the body as evil and the spirit as good. The thought that we would receive a resurrected body was foolishness to them. The Greeks taught that it is our spirits that leave our bodies to go sit on a cloud for the rest of eternity. These ideas were battled in the early church but crept their way back into Christian teaching in the Middle Ages.
As you read The Story this week, what do you notice about Jesus’ resurrected body? If it is his soul that is resurrected, why is the tomb empty? Think about your current body. Is this what God intended when he created humanity in the Garden?
Why does this matter? We have received the first parts of the resurrection as we anticipate the full Resurrection to come. We live out what God intended His creation to look like. We don’t “do good” in order to receive a reward. We “do good” because we see the brokenness of the world and work towards reconciling it!
Romans 6:3-4 – “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”
There is a lot more to be said on this topic, looking back to the prophets (Isaiah 11 specifically) and looking forward to the end of Revelation (20-22) but I mostly want to plant these seeds of thought to start the dialogue. We've focused a lot in Christianity on things that are not central to the Gospel and I want to advocate that we focus more on what it means to live out the resurrected life. I want us to be able to say with confidence what Paul says in Philippians 3:10-11, “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”