Summary: I Corinthians 15 provides three reasons to celebrate Easter.
Last Monday, four couples in this church celebrated wedding anniversaries. Tom & Darlyn reached a special milestone - their 40th.
Two weeks ago today, members of their family held a reception here at the church. Their whole family came from near and far for the celebration along with many of their friends. We ate cake, drank punch, congratulated them, and heard some of their stories. It was a wonderful day to celebrate.
But as much as the rest of us enjoyed the festivities, only Tom and Darlyn really know what made that celebration special. Only they know the path they have walked through financial uncertainties and occupational challenges. Only they know what it was like to face medical emergencies. Only they know how many prayers it took to get Tommy and Michelle through school and to work through their own relational differences. They have come through their hardships and we were privileged to celebrate with them.
Today is Easter Sunday, the most important day of celebration on the church calendar.
• Jesus is no longer on the cross. The cross is empty.
• Jesus is no longer wrapped in grave clothes. They are empty.
• Jesus is no longer in the tomb. The tomb is empty.
The drama and music reminded us that behind our celebration today is the rest of the story. And all of you who have come today are among the fortunate because you know why we celebrate. And you are not alone. A Gallup poll says that 84% of people who don’t go to church believe Jesus rose from the dead. After all, Jesus’ resurrection was not done in secret. There are over a dozen references in the New Testament that say Jesus met people, touched people, and talked with them after his crucifixion.
The Bible makes absolutely clear that Jesus rose from the dead. And for those of you who have been following our messages from I Corinthians, let me just point out that this letter is put together like two bookends: it begins with the cross in chapter 1 and it ends with the resurrection.
So, what does it matter that Jesus Christ is no longer dead? Why should we celebrate? Here are three reasons from I Corinthians 15.
1. Reason one. God promises a changed life here and now.
When you read the NT, you see that Jesus’ disciples were not expecting him to rise from the dead, but when the truth about his resurrection dawned on them, it changed their lives. Their despair turned to joy. Their hopelessness turned to purposeful living.
The Apostle Paul counted himself among them. He was a terrorist toward Christians, going out of his way to inflict persecution on them. But when he met the risen Christ, the direction of his life completely changed. In v. 10 he says, “By the grace of God I am what I am.” He knew he didn’t deserve it, but God had changed him. Can you say that?
If I were to stop preaching right now and pass the microphone around, several of you would pop right up to tell us how Christ has changed your life. Some of you lived with the bitterness of an unforgiving attitude. Some of you carried guilt. Some of you were filled with despair, lacking direction and purpose in your life. But through God’s amazing grace, he changed you. And that is a reason to celebrate.
2. Reason two. God promises a new body in the future.
The Bible says that God has created us in his image. The Bible says our bodies serve as a temple of God. He lives in us. So, what happens when life on earth is over? Will God toss our bodies aside like the plastic bottles that litter the landscape? If you read I Cor.15, you find that God is not quite done with our bodies.
I don’t know what Jesus looked like when he came back from the dead, but he was in a body, recognizable, yet different from before. One account says he ate; another says he walked through locked doors. His was a different kind of a body.
Some of you probably got new clothes for Easter. New clothes make you feel, well- new. They do something for you. When Paul explains what our new bodies will be like, he says it will be kind of like the seeds we plant in our garden. Those seeds have to die before they produce a new plant. We can’t predict what the plant will look like just by looking at the seed. But, “God gives it a body as he has chosen and to each kind of seed its own body.” I don’t know how that will work, but it is as though God will redeem our bodies in a unique way. V. 53 says, “This perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality.”