Summary: The resurrection of Christ signifies his victory over sin and death and gives us the hope of eternal life.
The Death of Death
A doctor in a third world country was once asked by a visiting professor, “What’s the death rate around here?” And he replied, “Same as any place. One death per person.” You’ve no doubt heard the adage that the only things that are certain are death and taxes, but really if you’re a high-flyer then death is the only sure, universal human experience. We might live for 5, 10, 20, 50, 70, 100 years, but in the end we all die and there’s not a damn thing we can do to avoid it. It’s a sobering thought, and it’s a thought that most people don’t dwell on too much. In fact, we tend to avoid talking about death, don’t we? That, I think is one of three major responses to death that I see amongst Australians. We ignore, almost pretending its not there but all the while knowing in the back of our minds that it is there. The second is to get angry. Why has my loved one, my friend been taken by death? And anger is a perfectly reasonable response because death is our enemy, death is God’s enemy. And the third response it to be supremely confident. It’s amazing how people who are otherwise not at all religious suddenly become experts on what happens when we die. How many times have you heard at funerals someone confidently asserting that the deceased has gone to a better place. Early last year in Melbourne a young man was tragically killed at a train station. He apparently went to the defence of a woman who was being assaulted and ended up being pushed onto the tracks in front of a train. And one of his mates said this in a media interview: “I know he’s gone to a better place full of beer and hot chicks.” This guy knew nothing about heaven and nothing about how you got there, but he could assert that he friend was there. But whatever our response, death has a power over us. We fear it, we desperately try to avoid it, yet we know it’s inevitable.
But what I want to suggest to you today is that it’s not inevitable. It doesn’t need to have the power over us that we give it. In fact, it’s already been defeated and its power is waning.
And the reason I can say that is because of one thing, and that is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. No doubt most of you have come along here today expecting to here something about this resurrection: after all, it is Easter Sunday and that’s what we’re supposed to be talking about. But many of you may not have fully realised just how important it is. I’m not sure where you stand on the resurrection. Maybe you believe completely and utterly that Jesus rose on the third day. Maybe you’ve heard it over and over again and you might even say you believe it, but you’ve never really thought about it. Maybe you dismiss the claim as fanciful – how can anyone in the 21st century believe someone can rise from the dead. But I hope that we can all understand by the end of this service that is a very important topic to discuss. It’s not a question about some odd event in the ancient world in a “believe it or not” category. It’s a profound claim of reality about Jesus, but not only about Jesus but about you and me and the world we live in. And it has important implications for God and for the future of the universe and my future and your future. It is a claim that is at the very heart of the Christian faith.
And its at the very heart of the passage from 1 Corinthians 15 that we heard read earlier. We’re going to deal with that passage under three main headings today. You’ve got an outline, and the outline will also be on the screen and the bit we’re on at the moment will be highlighted in red so hopefully that will make it easier to follow. Anyway, let me begin at vs. 12: 1CO 15:12 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? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And 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.