THE RESURRECTION CONNECTION
Little children love to play “connect the dots.” If you were to go to most any restaurant and ask for a children’s menu, somewhere on the menu would be a “connect the dots” game. I suppose what makes “connect the dots” so interesting to a child is the way in which the picture or pattern progresses. As the lines and numbers are connected – one, two, three, etc. – a picture gradually emerges from the series of dots.
Small children aren’t the only ones who “connect the dots.” Life itself is progressive – one thing leads to another. That also applies to our understanding of God’s plan of salvation. Today, the apostle Paul teaches us that our Christian faith is not a random series of beliefs. Rather, there is a real progression to what we believe. And as we grow in our faith and understanding of the Savior, a wondrous picture emerges. And so Paul’s words aid us in our spiritual growth, as he explains: THE RESURRECTION CONNECTION. He connects the dots, so to speak between our life and Christ: 1) If Christ didn’t rise, then we can’t either and 2) Since Christ did rise, then we will also.
1) If Christ Didn’t Rise, Then We Can’t Either
Logic and reason. The Corinthians craved such things. In fact, they lived in a culture that prided itself on philosophical reason. Greek philosophy had a grip on the members of this ancient church. Philosophers such as Plato taught what was known as a dualistic view of nature that insisted that everything “spiritual” was good and everything “physical” was bad.
Such a viewpoint considered the concept of a resurrected body to be foolish and ugly, because the idea of a resurrected body gave the impression that the physical body could be glorified and on an equal level with the soul. And so some in Corinth were promoting the idea that there was no physical resurrection of the dead.
Such thinking has not died, but has been “resurrected” over the centuries again and again. Post-modern theologians believe and teach that Christ’s resurrection did not actually happen. Many pastors refer to the resurrection as something they call “the Easter event.” It is taught that Jesus did not actually rise, but that doesn’t matter. What is important is that people share in Christ’s existential death and resurrection. Those who deny the resurrection account claim that Easter is just a story that fills us with the hope that we can rise above our troubles in this life. We rise with Christ in the sense that we find the freedom to be true to ourselves, and to live a life that is open to God’s love. Such thinking tries to erase the bold pencil line of hope that connects us to Jesus Christ.
Yet what does St. Paul say in response? He boldly says, “For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” If people cannot be raised from the dead, then Christ could not have been raised either. You see how the apostle connects the dots for us? If Christ didn’t rise, then people who believe in him have a fruitless, empty faith and are hopelessly lost in sin.
The resurrection is God’s ultimate pledge of his grace – his undeserved love. And that flies in the face of self-serving hearts. Our sinful hearts do not desire a resurrected Savior because that is the ultimate proof that Christ has achieved our salvation for us. Sinful humans don’t want a God who offers the free gift of salvation wrapped up in his Son. By nature our hearts want a self-help manual to salvation.
Without a resurrection, Christianity is pointless. We are then wasting our time this morning. There can be no hope of Justification – God’s declaration that we are declared innocent for his Son’s sake. Without Christ’s resurrection there is no need for us to strive to live a godly life in honor to our risen, living Savior. We might as well indulge every sinful desire. We might as well live it up now because if Christ’s remains are still lying in some shallow grave in Palestine, then we are to be pitied more than all people. If Christ is still dead, then God is the biggest liar the world will ever know! All those loved ones who died in the faith will remain dead. That means the Bible cannot be trusted!
A missionary was teaching the Bible in a market place in North India. When he had finished his class a Muslim approached him and said, “Sir, you have to admit that we Muslims have one thing you do not, and it is far better than anything you Christians have.” The missionary smiled and said, “Please tell me what that is. I’d like to know.”
The Muslim said, “When we go to our Mecca, we at least find a coffin. But when you Christians go to Jerusalem, which is your Mecca, you find nothing but an empty tomb.”
The missionary replied, “That is precisely the difference. Mohammed is dead. Mohammed is in his coffin. The founders of every philosophy are in their graves. But Christ, whose kingdom includes all nations and people, is not entombed; he is risen. And all power in heaven and earth has been given to him. That is the Christian’s hope. It is living!”
To deny the resurrection is a dangerous thing. It leads to spiritual erosion. The line of hope that connects us to Christ will be erased. If Christ has not been raised, then we won’t be either. And so the apostle Paul announces emphatically that, yes indeed, Christ has been raised!
2) Since Christ Did Rise, Then We Will Also
St. Paul asks, “But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” Christ’s resurrection has been loudly proclaimed as the truth. Jesus has been heralded as a risen Savior. The resurrection is God’s seal of approval that he is pleased with his Son’s redemptive work. Our sins are forgiven. Death has been conquered. Jesus’ resurrection is all the proof we need. And we believe it because God’s Word proclaims it as such. And God does not lie!
The apostle Paul makes this point crystal clear: “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” The apostle says that Christ is our firstfruit. Now we need to understand that imagery the apostle uses. The firstfruit was the first sheaf of the harvest offered to the Lord as a thank offering. God’s people would bring the first cluster of grapes or the first bundle of wheat to the Lord. This was an expression of faith. This was done with the sure hope that God would bring in the rest of the crop. Christ’s resurrection is God’s pledge that he will gather in his “sheaves” – all his own who trust in his Son for eternal life. Jesus broke free from the clutches of death. He was the first to spring forth from the grave. That simply means that there are more who will do the same.
Talk about a sense of hope! Jesus’ resurrection gives us the assurance that our sins are forgiven. God is not dead, but he abides with us in this life just as he promises. Eternal salvation is our destiny. One day we will spring forth from the grave and join our risen Savior in the glories of heaven.
Of all the special days in the Christian Church Year, Easter has the greatest influence. Our regular worship day is Sunday, the day of the week on which Jesus rose from the dead. Every Sunday is a “little Easter.” We not only worship on Sunday because it was the day of Jesus’ resurrection, but also because Jesus’ resurrection is our greatest hope and it has the deepest implication for our faith and life: “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (1 Cor. 15:14). But Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
Someone said, “This present age is one, big Easter celebration.” What he meant was that our new life of hope begins with the resurrection of our Redeemer and it will end with the resurrection of all the redeemed. We live between two Easters – Jesus’ resurrection and ours. Between lies a life of hope as we are called to live a new godly life through faith in Christ. The dots have been connected for us. There is a resurrection connection. The power of Christ’s Easter fills us with the strength to live our lives with the hope of that last, great Easter to come. Amen.