Summary: How are the dead in Christ raised? Especially those who have suffered great trauma in death.
The Missionary and the Tuna Fish Sandwich
Back in the mid 1800’s there was this missionary serving in the darkest of Africa. One day he was out on his circuit
going from village to village
preaching the Gospel. In one place he had to travel through this very dangerous and heavily wooded area. As he was walking down the narrow path a lion - a very vicious and hungry lion came out of the bush and with a quick snap of his mighty jaw the faithful missionary was with the Lord.
Well, at least his spirit was with the Lord. His body went inside the lion giving this creature strength for another day. The missionary’s bones formed a calcium bed around the base of a tree. The missionary's molecules went through the animal's normal digestive track.
A day or two later the lion eliminated the missionary giving much needed nutrition to the great trees that grew in that part of Africa. In the weeks that followed the rains helped to filter the missionary's chemicals along with his bones down into that tree's root system.
Soon the missionary was feeding the great tree - indeed becoming a part of the tree.
A few years past by when this lumber man from the coast came and cut down the missionary tree and spit it into fine lumber and fashioned it into a ship.
A great ocean-going vessel.
It crossed the Atlantic many times with precious cargo. One day there was this awful storm, and the great steamship went down to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. There the fine African wood rotted for many years mixing with the chemicals of the ocean floor. There it fed the abundant plant life in that dark and murky world. The plant life in turn fed the plankton. And the plankton fed the smaller fish. The smaller fish in turn fed a Tuna fish that came by.
By now it was the early part of the twenty first century. The great tuna was hungry and so he ate of the small fish that had eaten the Plankton that had fed on the rotten wood from the missionary tree and thereby grew big and strong. In time, sadly, the great Tuna was caught and killed and canned. And in Costco a young university student from Kelowna brought the Tuna fish because it was on sale. Took it home made a sandwich and for some strange reason felt the call of God to be a missionary to Africa.
"How are the dead raised?"
The greatest chapter in the Bible on the subject of the resurrection is 1 Corinthians 15 which was just read in our hearing. Paul tackles this question. "How are the dead raised?"
It’s one thing to answer that question when you are looking down at a friend or loved one in her casket. Where they have been laid out beautifully. But how do you answer that question in the face of cremation? Or dismemberment? Or the missionary turned tree turned tuna fish? How are the dead raised? How many of you remember what you were doing 57 years ago today? (November 22, 2020) Both C. S. Lewis and John Kennedy died 57 years ago today. Lewis died of prostate cancer. Kennedy died of a bullet through his brain. It much easier to answer our question: How are the dead raised? When we consider C. S. Lewis than when we consider President Kennedy. How does God reconstruct a brain that has been severed by the mad man’s bullet? The Bible gives us an answer to this question in 1 Corinthians 15.
This is the great Resurrection chapter of the Bible. Apparently, there were some people in the church at Corinth who had a hard time with the idea of the resurrection of the body. Perhaps they could believe like their pagan neighbours that the spirit went off to be with God but not this decomposing corpse. Surely, that is the end of the body. So, the Apostle makes several points that are extremely valid even after 2,000 years.
What happens to us after we die? What happens to our bodies? I want you to see several things in 1 Corinthians 15.
I. Humans are not complete without a body.
1. The whole inference of this chapter - indeed the entire New Testament is that person needs a body to be truly human. It is unchristian to take a low view of the body - to suggest that what really matters about us is what's inside. The Greeks made that mistake. They taught: The Body is evil, matter is evil. What really matters is the spirit. So I will ignore my body, punish my body, or give into the body’s every whim.
But the Bible teaches that our bodies are also holy. The Bible teaches that the body is the temple of the Spirit of God