Summary: If Christ was not raised, then there are some drastic consequences.
I want to share with you a story about a little boy named Philip. Philip was born with Down’s Syndrome. He was a happy child, but there was a lot of difference between him and other children his age. Philip went to Sunday School faithfully every week. He was in the third grade class with nine other eight-year-olds. You know how eight-year olds are. Philip, with his differences, was not readily accepted. He wasn’t really a part of the group.
His teacher had an idea for his class one Sunday. You know those things that L’Eggs pantyhose come in, the containers that look like great big eggs? The teacher collected ten of them. He brought them into the room and gave one to each child. It was a beautiful spring day, and the assignment was for each child to go outside, find a symbol for new life, put it into the egg, and bring it back to the classroom. They would then open their eggs and share their symbols one by one.
So, they went wild and ran all around the church grounds, gathering their symbols, and returned to the classroom. They put all the eggs on a table, and then the teacher began to open them as the children looked on. He opened one and there was a flower. He opened another and there was a little butterfly. He opened a third and there was a leaf.
The teacher opened the next one, but there was nothing inside. The children, as eight-year olds are prone to do, said, “That’s stupid! Somebody didn’t do it right."
Then the teacher felt a tug on his shirt, and he looked down. Philip, the little boy with Downs Syndrome, said, "It’s mine.” And the other children said, "You don’t ever do anything right, Philip. There’s nothing there!"
Philip said, "I did so do it right! I did do it right. It’s empty. The tomb is empty!"
Philip died soon after that. And when he did, at his memorial service, nine eight-year old children marched up the front, not with flowers but with an empty egg -- an empty plastic pantyhose egg.
Philip was right. There is no greater symbol of new life than the empty tomb.
When you think of men dying on a cross, you probably think immediately of Jesus Christ. But, over the years, there have been many men who have died by crucifixion. In 519 B.C., for example, the Persian king Darius crucified 3,000 Babylonians. In A.D. 66, the Romans crucified 3,600 Jews which started a revolt. By the time order was restored, the executioners had run out of wood for crosses.
It is not merely that Jesus of Nazareth died by crucifixion which makes people look to him for salvation. It is the fact that three days later, the tomb stood empty. Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
During his earthly ministry, Jesus said that he would be resurrected. "From that time Jesus began to show to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day." (Matthew 16:21). Even his enemies told Pilate, "Sir, we remember, while he was still alive, how that deceiver said, ’After three days I rise.’" (Matthew 27:63).
According to Jesus, the resurrection would be the single greatest sign to mankind about who he truly was. When the Pharisees asked him for a sign in Matthew 12, he referred them back to Jonah being in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights and said that that was how long he would be in the heart of the earth.
If it had not been for the resurrection, the ministry of Jesus would have ended, his claims would have been ignored, he would have been merely another religious martyr, and he would have been forgotten long ago.
So it is essential that we come to a decision in our own minds in regard to the resurrection of Christ. Either he rose from the tomb, or he didn’t. That doctrine is central to the Christian faith. And the Corinthian Christians had accepted that truth. In the first 10 verses of I Corinthians 15, Paul goes over some of the evidences for the resurrection not so much as a proof but as a reminder because he says in verse 11, "So we preach and so you believed."
The fact of that resurrection formed the basis of Paul’s argument in this chapter: Because Christ was raised, our resurrection from the dead is obviously possible. The two resurrections stand or fall together; there could not be one without the other.
It seems strange to us that some of those Christians could have accepted one part of the truth without the other. No doubt, they had been influenced by the pagan philosophies and religions from which they had come. The people of that day, just as our own, had many erroneous ideas of what happens to human beings after death.