Summary: Year C Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany February 4th, 2001

Year C Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany February 4th, 2001

Lord of the Lake Lutheran Church

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By The Rev. Jerry Morrissey, Esq., Pastor


Heavenly Father, thank you for the Wonder of your presence in earthly things and circumstances. Amen.

1Corinthians: 15: 1-11

Title: “He works through wonder.”

Before Paul closes his letter in chapter 16, he takes up questions about “the resurrection of the body,” as preached and believed in the early Church. The discussion takes up chapter 15. We will be reading from this chapter for the next four weeks. It is not clear what questions the Corinthians asked Paul or exactly what situation he was responding to. We have to surmise all that from what he says, as was the case with the spiritual “gifts.” They seem to be related, however. The best guess is that certain Corinthian Christians were “spirit-people,” people who denied the importance of the human body. They would have still been influenced by the Hellenistic idea that the body and soul were entirely separate entities, joined at birth or conception and un-joined at death. The soul would go to God and be absorbed into him and the body would just rot in the ground, unimportant and unredeemed. On one end these folks would argue that the body could sin and it would not matter. On the other end, they would say that there was no bodily resurrection for Christians because there was no bodily resurrection for Christ. He “rose” in their minds or spiritual consciousness, but not in physical fact.

Paul first establishes that Jesus, in fact rose from the dead as a whole human person. He cites eyewitnesses, not to his actual resurrection, for which there were none, but to his appearing to people still alive at his writing, including himself. This lays the foundation for the rest of the chapter where he applies that factual truth to all Christians.

In verse one, now I am reminding you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you: Paul’s solution to all questions and problems is to go “back to basics.” He will not answer their complex theological and philosophical questions, muddled by human speculation, until everyone is at the same starting point: the gospel. Their problems arise from straying too far from that safe and solid ground.

In verse two, through it you are being saved: The sense of this is the futuristic present: you are saved now and will be fully so in the future. Apparently, some “spirit-people” thought they had completely arrived at salvation. There was no more to come. They had fully transcended into the next realm, the kingdom, and could not be un-saved because of any sin they commit. Their bodies do the sinning, not them.

In verse three, I handed on…what I also received: The gospel is not Paul’s. It is not for him to make up as he goes. What he passed on is authentic. It comes from Christ. He has the responsibility according to the spiritual “gifts” he has been given to apply the truth to new conditions, but not to change the truth to fit those conditions or his own pre-conditioned prejudices.

In verses three b and four: He quotes the fundamental Christian creed: Christ died, was buried, was raised. That he died “according to the scriptures” goes all the way back to Jesus who identified with the Suffering Servant of Deutero-Isaiah, innocently suffering to atone for the sins of his “family .” That he was raised “according to the scriptures” can only refer to Hosea 6:2, which reads, “He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day, That we may live before Him.” That he was buried clinches the argument that he truly died and did not just pretend to. People saw Jesus die and be buried. That is undeniable and belongs to the world of physical fact. Why he did so belongs to faith. But people did not see him actually rise. Hence, the importance of witnesses who saw him after he rose.

In verses five to seven: Paul lists some of the witnesses, leaving out the women, to the appearance of the bodily-risen Lord. The reference to the more than 500 is found only here in the New Testament. It is not explained.

In verse eight, last of all…to me: Paul’s apostleship is as valid as that of the other apostles and on the same grounds: an appearance and a commission by the Lord himself. This would be the last of the Lord’s post-resurrection appearances on earth.

As one born abnormally: It is impossible to know what Paul means by this remark. The word used here, Gk ektromati, can mean an untimely or premature birth. This meaning would hardly fit the context, since Paul is claiming to be not only the least but the last to whom Jesus appeared. The word also can mean “abortion,” either spontaneous and, hence “premature,” but born dead or induced. If “induced” it is even harder to know what he could mean. Some take it to be metaphorical, referring to a “name” his opponents called him or a reference to the fact that he was uncomely according to 2Corinthians 10:10. This is sheer speculation. In the end, we just do not and cannot know. In any event, it is not “revelation” or essential to his point. The notion of an “unformed, undeveloped, repulsive possibly lifeless fetus does not seem to be complimentary, unless he is referring to the notion of “All things are possible with God.”

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