Summary: Without the resurrection our faith rests only on a great deception
This morning, we celebrate what is undoubtedly the most important event in the history of the world – the resurrection of Jesus. But I’d like you to imagine with me this morning what your life would be like today if there had been no resurrection on that first Easter morning nearly 2,000 years ago.
For me, the first thing that comes to mind is that all of us would probably still be in bed rather than gathering here at this early hour. On our calendars, the year would surely not be 2016 since all of history has been divided into BC and AD based on the birth of Jesus – an event that wouldn’t carry nearly the significance it does without the resurrection. In fact, we probably would have never even heard of Jesus if it hadn’t been for His resurrection.
After all, throughout history there have been many great teachers, many great political and religious leaders, many who claimed to be the Messiah and many who have been able to draw large crowds and get people to follow them. But because all of them, with the exception of a few charismatic political and religious leaders who are still alive, are all now dead and in the grave, we don’t even know most of their names.
And for me perosnally, it would mean that I would have to have a real job instead of merely working one day a week as a pastor.
The question of how our lives would be different if there was no resurrection is not new. That “what if” question, as we’ll see this morning, has been asked since that first Easter morning. About 20 years after the resurrection of Jesus, the apostle Paul wrote a letter to the people in the church in Corinth in which he described why the resurrection was so important. In that letter, he asks a series of “what if” questions to show that the impact of the resurrection on our lives goes well beyond the origin of a Spring holiday or determining the date on our calendars or what I do for a living.
Apparently, some of the people in that church claimed to have faith in Jesus, but they didn’t believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Many of them believed that their soul would live beyond the grave in some form, but they didn’t believe that their bodies were going to be resurrected in any way. But, as Paul points out in his letter, if there is no such thing as a physical resurrection of the body, then Christianity falls apart and their faith, and subsequently ours as well, is completely in vain.
Because of the importance of the concept of a physical resurrection, Paul devotes an entire chapter of his letter, chapter 15, to proving the resurrection of Jesus and explaining why that is so important. He begins the chapter by giving evidence that Jesus did indeed experience a physical, bodily resurrection, one that was witnessed by over 500 people in the days that followed. Then, beginning in verse 13, he begins to explain why the resurrection of Jesus is essential for their faith. You can follow along in your bulletin insert while I read the words Paul wrote beginning in that verse:
But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
(1 Corinthians 15:13-19 ESV)
In a nutshell, here is the point Paul is making:
Without the resurrection
our faith rests only on a great deception
Paul begins his argument by pointing out that if a bodily resurrection is not possible, then that means that not even Jesus was raised from the dead. And if Jesus was not raised from the dead, then He did nothing more than deceive His followers into thinking that His death on the cross paid the penalty for their sins.
Throughout His life here on earth, Jesus had consistently taught that He was going to offer up His life for the benefit of His followers and then rise from the dead on the third day. So if the resurrection wasn’t real, then there are only two possibilities. Either Jesus was completely deluded and just thought He was going to die and be raised from the dead or else He lied about it. And if either of those two things are true, then that means we really can’t believe anything else that Jesus said either.