Summary: Christ's Resurrection is well attested. It not only gives us hope, but it demonstrates Christ's supremacy over all things.
Our Incredible Christ—Resurrection; Col 1:18; 11-17-15; 4th of 4.
What a wonderful journey we’ve been on as we spend time with Our Incredible Christ. We’ve looked at his role in creation and seen that we were made “for him.” We’ve seen the incarnation and realized he was the perfect Sacrifice for sin—fully God and fully human. And as human he is especially able to sympathize with us in our struggles. We examined his death, which opens the way to God for us and for the world. So we live “4 Christ.”
Tonight we come to the final episode in our adventure of recognizing “Our Incredible Christ,” his resurrection. We’re focusing on verse 18: “He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” “Firstborn from among the dead” is a reference to his resurrection. Let’s dig in, and we’ll see that (KT) the resurrection seals our hope and attests to Christ’s supremacy over all.
Again you’ll have the chance to raise your questions and comments at the end.
Paul says Christ is the “head,” the “beginning” and the “firstborn.” Each of these words derives from the same Hebrew root (ryst), and each one affirms Christ’s sovereignty in the new creation and the old. The first part of the passage talks about Christ’s role in creation. Now this verse speaks of his role in the new creation. He is the head of the new creation. He is the beginning of the new creation. And he is the firstborn from among the dead. Because he rose, we are assured that we will rise too. His resurrection is the source of new life for believers. As he said in John 14: “Because I live, you also will live” (14:19).
N.T. Wright points out a big change precipitated by Christ’s resurrection. The Jews believed that at the end of time there would be a mass resurrection, and the good would rise to life and the evil would rise to judgment. But Paul teaches that God brought that “age to come” forward. He moved the age of resurrection into the present age, in order that the power of the new age might be unleashed in the world while there is still time for the world to be saved. Instead of resurrection coming at the very end, believers are raised to new life now, and that changes the way we live and our impact on the world around us. (cited in Garland, The NIV Application Commentary: Colossians/Philemon, p. 92.)
But for a lot of people, the question is whether resur-rection could even happen. Is it just a myth, a fairy tale? When I was in college I really wondered about whether Christianity was true at all. Did some smart people just make it all up? What evidence was there that this is real? I wanted some solid evidence. I heard about an English lawyer named Frank Morrison who was sick of the claims of Christians. He decided he would apply his investigative skills as a lawyer to the evidence for the resurrection. If he could disprove the resurrection, then all the rest of Christianity would just crumble. So he did the research, but to his surprise, he found the evidence was compelling that the resurrection really did happen. He wrote a book, Who Moved the Stone, to lay out his case. I remember sitting in the Laundromat at school reading that book. And I was convinced. The resurrection of Christ is one of the best attested events in ancient history.
We don’t have time to go into it very deeply, but let me just mention one key area—the empty tomb. Supporters and opponents of the resurrection alike all admit that the tomb was empty. Had it not been empty, the authorities could have gone to it and produced the corpse, and all the preaching would have been squelched.
So how can we best explain the empty tomb? The earliest story was that the disciples came and stole the body while the guards slept. First of all, for guards to sleep on duty was an offense punishable by death, so it’s not likely that they slept. But even if they had, the disciples were psychological wrecks at that point, and they had no concept of Jesus rising to life. And almost every one of the disciples was martyred for preaching that Jesus had risen. Is it possible that they were willing, to a person, to die for what they knew to be a lie? Highly unlikely.
Maybe the Jewish or Roman authorities stole the body. First, why would they do that? And second, when the disciples started preaching resurrection, they could have produced the body and said, “He didn’t rise. Look, here is his corpse.” But they couldn’t do that because they didn’t have the body.