Sunday, 6 May 2018

The Resurrection is true (1 Cor 15:1-11)

On Friday I got to kick off our Youth Group term program on 1 Corinthians 15. About 20% into delivering this talk I realized that I was using older notes and not the latest version. Below is the version I wanted to deliver. I think this version is sharper in emphasizing the truth of the Resurrection, but only by a few degrees.

Welcome to Term 2. This term we are going to be spending our time looking at what 1 Corinthians 15 says on the Resurrection - what it means for Jesus and what it means for us.

The Resurrection can sometimes be forgotten after Easter. It can be an idea that we sorta know but we may not see how it is important to us today. We remember that God raised Jesus from the dead, but we sometimes forget that God will also raise us from the dead. We are not going to die and come back like a force ghost like what we see in Star Wars. That is not true. Jesus’ bodily resurrection has implications for our physical bodies.

Our bodies are important now and in the future. Now that Jesus has gone to the right hand of the Father, Christians now have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them. Our bodies are the new Temple (1 Cor 6:19). What we do with our bodies, how we worship is important. One day we are going to be judged on what we have done in our bodies (2 Cor 5:10). We can’t be judged on anything else, as everything we do, involves our bodies.

Now we may not be happy with our present body. When I was your age I wanted to be bigger and stronger. I was one of the smallest kids in my grade and puberty for me took a while to kick in. I remember being nervous giving speeches in English class because my voice hadn’t broken yet. I never dated in school, maybe because I was too small or unattractive by the world's standards. No one taught me to shave but that was ok as my face didn’t grow that much hair.

Now, some girls here may want to be more beautiful and skinnier, and some guys may want to be stronger or bigger. We may spend hours in front of the mirror looking at our bodies or hours shopping for just the right item of clothing to make us look good. People may have insulted you on how you look and these words stick and make you sick on the inside. We may have people here with self-harming tendencies or eating disorders. If you do have these issues, please talk to us so that we can help you get more help.

If nothing else, all these shows is that we value our bodies and that what we do with them is important; and Christianity believes that we get a real physical body in the new heaven and the new earth. You may now wonder what will that body be like? Well, you will have to read on or come back in a few weeks as we will deal with that later.

But, tonight, our passage sets out the bare bones foundation of Christianity. Paul takes us back to the Gospel or good news. This is of first importance. Paul gives three main reasons for believing in this good news, in this Gospel[1].

The first reason Paul gives for the truth of the Gospel is they believe the message that had been taught them. Like a favorited story or song, Paul goes back to something that they already know which evokes a positive feeling and memory.

Check out verses 1 and 2. Paul isn’t telling them anything new here. They too had heard this message every Easter. The had received the message of Jesus in the past, they are currently standing in the faith and they will be saved if they hold fast to the words that were preached to them. They received the message, they stand in the message and they are to hold fast to the message. This is theirs and our Christian experience. We don’t move on from this good news. There is no extra level in Christianity. It is just the good news about Jesus. And we too should be reminded of this, as the world is telling us a different story, an untrue story. We need to be reminded of this true good news.

And what is this true good news? Verse 3 and 4, that Christ died for our sins, that he was buried and rose again on the third day. And this is what the Bible says. This is the second reason Paul gives them to believe the good news is true. Twice the phrase “according to the Scriptures” is said. Paul brings forward the Bible to show that it predicted that this Messiah, this Christ, this King would die for our sins, would be buried and would rise again. Jesus’ death was no accident. It was part of God’s plan, and He has been preparing a whole nation for the coming savior of the World. The Story of Israel is fulfilled in the story of Jesus[2]. Jesus was the true and better nation of Israel. Jesus was the true and better sacrifice. Jesus was the true and better temple. Jesus was the true and better prophet, priest and King. Jesus died for our sins to bring us to God. This is the Easter message, this is what we looked at last term and this is a message on which we should continue to stand and hold fast too because it is true.

Not only does Paul remind them of their own personal salvation in hearing the Gospel, not only do the Scriptures foretell Jesus, Paul also points to a third reason for believing this good news is true. Paul calls out a bunch of real-life people. Paul is writing this about 20 years after Jesus rose from the dead. There were people still walking around that you could go meet who actually saw Jesus alive after He had died.

Have a look at verses 5 to 8. Paul point to Jesus’ followers, Peter and the others, 500 other people, and then James who was Jesus’ brother. And last of all Paul mentions himself. It’s interesting the Peter, James an, Paul gets called out from the bunch who saw Jesus’ resurrection.

On the morning of Jesus’ execution Peter denied three times he even knew who Jesus was, but then after the Resurrection, he was the first to preach fearlessly to multitudes about Jesus and his resurrection (Acts 2:14-41).

James and his family all thought Jesus was insane for claiming to be the Messiah (Mark 3:21), but history tells us that after Jesus’ resurrection he became a prominent Christian leader in Jerusalem - the very town where Jesus was killed.

And Paul was no fan of Christians, in fact, he was looking for Christians for all the wrong reasons. He wanted to put them in prison and even kill them. But then Jesus turned up, knocked him off his horse, blinded him for three days and then Paul could not not believe. He has seen and heard Jesus. He couldn’t deny it. This changed his life forever. And this was the message he had passed on to the Corinthians.

And Paul reminds the Corinthians like I am reminding you, that the message of Jesus dying and rising again is true. It is not made up. It is not some myth that has evolved or been embellished over time well after the event and all the eyewitnesses were gone. I have emailed university ancient history professors, I have read atheist and Christian books on the Resurrection. I have listened to multiple debates on this issue and I genuinely believe that we live in the real world where Jesus rose from the dead[3]. This is a true story. I do not want to be lying to you[4].

The Resurrection is what Christianity stands or falls on, and it is true. And this has repercussions for us. Those who believe this message are changed. Look at Peter, look at James and look at Paul. They were very different people after encountering our risen Lord.

The good news is this: Jesus died for our sins, was buried and then rose again. He defeated death and all who believe this message, all who stand in this message, all who hold on to this message will live again. Jesus took our sins on himself and we get His goodness. Jesus took on death and we get eternal life. Jesus defeated death, rose again in a body, and because of that we too will rise again after death in a new resurrected body.

What will our resurrected bodies be like? What about those who are alive when Jesus returns? How can we be so sure we are going to get a resurrected body? Well stay tuned, we will wrestle with these issues this term.

[1] It occurred to me that these three reasons fit in with John M Frames triperspectivalism framework. The normative (rational) view is from scripture, situational (empirical) view is from other witnesses and the existential (subjective) view is their own faith. I had a (very) quick look in his Systematic Theology textbook but I couldn’t find him saying this anywhere.

[2] This is Scott McKnight’s definition of what the Gospel is from The King Jesus Gospel

[3] I think this is something Karl Barth said cited in a KEC talk by Johnny Gibson

[4] This was cut as it was a bit ranty and more relevant for the next secion of the passage: “If you can find an argument that convinces me that the Resurrection didn’t take place, I can guarantee you that I will give a talk here at youth persuading you that Christianity is rubbish, that we are wasting our time at Youth and then I’ll quit being a youth leader, for I want to tell the truth and live in the real world. Every Easter I do a shout out on Facebook asking my non-Christian friends for reasons not the believe in the Resurrection, I haven’t heard a single good reason yet.”


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