Summary: Year C Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany February 11th, 2001
Year C Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany February 11th, 2001
Lord of the Lake Lutheran Church
Web page http://lordofthelake.org
By The Rev. Jerry Morrissey, Esq., Pastor
Heavenly Father thank you for having Jesus raise from the death for our benefit. Amen.
Title: “Resurrection from the dead.”
1Corinthians 15: 12-20
It seems that some folks, either some among the Corinthian Christians or others outside the community who were challenging their beliefs, were denying even the possibility of bodily resurrection from the dead. This would be understandable among people who grew up in Hellenistic culture. They could believe in the immortality of the soul, separated at death from the body and living spiritually in Pure Spirit forever. They could not believe that the human body would have any part in that, since it was composed of matter, which is the very principle of evil. The twin issues of resurrection of Christ and of the dead were among the most difficult challenges for Christianity to overcome when it came to converting Gentiles.
It appears that some Christians were willing to concede that Christ “rose in their consciousness” but not in fact. The most likely candidates for this position would be the spirit-people, those who valued the spiritual gift of tongues, those who believed they were as saved here and now as they will ever be. Paul saw not only the fallacy in that position but its lethal danger for the faith. The bodily resurrection of Christ was the basis for faith in him and for the bodily resurrection of those who believe in him. While it is perfectly legitimate and helpful to view the resurrection of Christ metaphorically in order to derive the many benefits which come from seeing the theoretical implications and practical applications of this great grace, such ideas must never forget or dismiss the historical basis for them. Faith in Christ is not created simply by the discovery of the empty tomb, but it would be destroyed by the discovery of the dead body of Jesus on earth or in the earth somewhere else. The resurrection of Jesus is both historical and meta-historical, both physical and metaphysical.
In verse twelve, “no resurrection of the dead”: Whether there actually were Christians saying there was no resurrection, Paul is treating the matter as though they actually were maintaining such. Paul’s preaching is based on the fact that at least one person has, in fact, been raised. Thus, the possibility for others to follow is there. Christ’s resurrection, however, is not merely a test case proving possible what was previously thought impossible. It is much more than that, but it is at least that. It is the actual source, cause and means for others to enjoy supernatural life. Too many people saw the resurrected Christ to deny its historical fact, even if it cannot be explained.
In verse sixteen, “neither has Christ been raised”: If bodily resurrection is an impossibility then it is impossible also for Christ to have been raised. This has profounder and broader implications than just getting the facts wrong. The faith is empty of content, as the tomb was empty of the body. The faith would be as misplaced as the body would have been without resurrection. And all things would not be possible for God. The limits of creation would be left up to human creatures to define, rather than to the Creator.
In verse seventeen, “your faith is in vain, you are still in your sins”: If the whole point of the resurrection was for Christ to demonstrate that he has overcome the “flesh,” sin, humans on their own power, without destroying flesh, then minus the resurrection flesh or sin still rules.
In verse eighteen, “those who have fallen asleep have perished”: “Fallen asleep” is a euphemism for “died.” The point is clear. Christ, along with faith in him, would be a pointless exercise in futility.
In verse nineteen, “if for this life only”: It is true that even following Christ as a great ethical teacher will produce a happier, more satisfying personal life in this world. His moral teachings are so wise and effective that one would benefit regardless. However, there is more to Christ than even that. He did not come to dupe people into being good just for this world’s or this life’s sake, true as that is. He came to bestow eternal life here, now, but more fully in the future.
“The most pitiable of people”: Christians would be living life on their own power, striving to measure up to the standards laid down by Christ by their own effort. They would fail as miserably as did the Jews following the Law. Indeed, it would be the Law under the guise or, more correctly disguise of Christ. Even today there are some “Christians” who do- or try to do- just that. Effectively, if not consciously or expressly, they deny the resurrection too.