Summary: 1) Sin’s been stomped 2) Satan will succumb 3) Death will die
“One down, two to go!” That’s something you might hear a student say in the coming weeks. At least I remember thinking that when I was taking exams at the end of the school year. “One down, two to go!” It’s also what a mother might say to a child she is coaxing into eating the last spoonfuls of vegetables. “One down, two to go!” It’s also the encouragement the Apostle Paul gives us this Easter Sunday because thanks to Jesus’ resurrection sin’s been stomped, Satan will succumb, and death will die. One down, two to go! Let’s take a closer look at this word of encouragement.
The Apostle Paul wrote our text as a letter to a Christian congregation in the Greek city of Corinth. He had heard that some of the members there were saying that Jesus hadn’t risen from the dead. There are so-called Christians today who still say this and they always seem to be the ones who are interviewed for these Easter specials you find on the TV at this time of year. But dear friends, do not listen to them. Listen instead to the testimony that Paul provided to the Corinthians. He wrote, “[Jesus] was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me” (1 Corinthians 15:4–8).
Paul wants you to know that Jesus’ resurrection was first of all prophesied. It’s something God said would happen. So if you believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, then you should have no problem believing that Jesus also rose from the dead as God said he would. But if prophecy alone won’t convince you, Paul listed over 500 witnesses of the resurrected Christ whom the Corinthians themselves could have interviewed to verify Paul’s report. Over 500 witnesses of the resurrected Jesus! How many references do you usually need when applying for a job? Two, maybe three? If that’s all it takes for an employer to decide if you are worth hiring, then shouldn’t the 500-plus witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection be enough to convince us that Paul’s report regarding Jesus’ resurrection is true?
And you can be sure that these witnesses were not in on a big conspiracy. If they were, how do you explain that they willingly suffered great hardship and even persecution to continue to proclaim this truth? Paul himself was repeatedly imprisoned. He was whipped and flogged, even stoned and left for dead once. If Jesus’ resurrection was all a lie, don’t you think Paul would eventually give up promoting it? There was, after all, nothing to gain from telling others that Jesus had risen from the dead if he really hadn’t.
That’s why Paul was puzzled to hear that some of the Corinthian members were saying that Jesus hadn’t risen. Not only were they wrong about that, they also apparently didn’t realize that a dead Jesus would be of no use to them. Paul said: “…if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. 20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:17–20a).
Jesus died to pay for our sins. It’s a statement you hear every Sunday. But we could and we should also regularly say that Jesus also rose so that we could be certain that our sins had been paid for. The resurrection is God the Father’s receipt to the whole world. It was his way of saying, “Yes, my Son has indeed finished his work of salvation. He has paid for every one of your sins.” If that had not been the case, Jesus would not have risen from the dead. He would have been like the shoplifter who is caught by store security and detained until he has returned the stolen item, and agreed to appear in court to answer for his crime.
But Jesus has risen. And therefore we can be certain that sin, your sin and mine, has been stomped into the ground like a scorpion crushed under the heal of a sturdy boot so that venomous critter can no longer harm. One enemy down, two to go!
So what are the other enemies that threaten us? It’s not a bad economy. It’s not your failing eyesight. The enemies that threaten to damage us permanently are Satan and death. But listen to what Paul said about them. “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep... 23 But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:20, 23–26).