If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
These are the words that begin today's reading from the words that the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to write to the church in Corinth. These words teach us how important the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is for Christianity. Paul teaches us that if Jesus did NOT rise from the dead, then it would be a better use of our time to go home and watch TV. If Jesus did NOT rise from the dead, then everything that we do here would be totally useless.
Paul then went on to proclaim that, in fact, Jesus has risen from the dead. This means that all the promises of God belong to us. It means that when we gather here, we are receiving the very gifts of that same Jesus who rose from the dead.
As we read through the events of the early church, we see that the proclamation of Jesus Christ began in many different ways and under many different circumstances. Never the less, sooner or later, every proclamation always got around to Jesus rising from the dead.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is His certification
His seal of approval. It means that Jesus really is God. He really is the truth. His suffering and death on the cross really did earn the forgiveness of sins for all humanity. His resurrection assures all people that there will be a time when He will raise us from death as well. His resurrection means that all those, who die with faith in Him, will live with Him forever.
Today's Gospel tells us that there was a short time when the disciples were not Christians. They were not Christians because they rejected Jesus' promise to rise from the dead.
They believed that Jesus was dead and would stay that way. An execution squad had nailed Jesus to a cross. Jesus had endured the agony of that crucifixion for hours. Then He died. His death was certain. The women in today's Gospel saw His lifeless body laid in a tomb.
The only reason the women were coming to the tomb was that the preparations for burial had been incomplete. Sunset had interrupted their work as they prepared Jesus' body for the tomb. Sunset meant the Sabbath. Sabbath meant no work, not even the work of preparing a body for burial. The women were simply returning to the tomb to put the finishing touches on the dead body
the finishing touches that they didn't have time to do on Friday. They were expecting to find the decaying body of a dead Jesus.
That is the reason that I can say that they were not Christians. As faithful as they were to Jesus
as much as they loved Him
as dear and sweet and diligent as they obviously were
they believed that the decaying flesh of the dead body of their friend and master was still in that tomb. They did NOT believe that He had returned to life and would never die again. For a short time, they rejected the resurrection and so rejected Christ, the man they claimed to love.
Fortunately for these women and for us, there were a couple of angels waiting for them when they arrived at the tomb. Today's reading from the Gospel calls them two men in dazzling apparel. The words of the angels seem to express bewilderment, "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise." There is a gentle rebuke in their words. Weren't you paying attention when Jesus said He would rise after He suffered and died? What are you doing snooping around here looking for a dead body?
It was then that the women remembered what Jesus had taught. The angels almost quoted Jesus word for word. The Holy Spirit used the words of Jesus and renewed the faith of these women. They were Christians once again.
They had not yet seen Jesus, but they believed that He had risen from the dead. Why? Because Jesus had promised to rise from the dead. The angels simply reminded them of the promises that Jesus had made. We have the promise that the Holy Spirit will work with the Word of Christ. When the women remembered the Word Jesus spoke to them, the Holy Spirit renewed their faith.
Well, you can't keep that sort of thing to yourself. You've got to tell your friends. The women went to the eleven disciples with the good news.
Today's reading reminds us that these are the very apostles whom Jesus chose to send out. Never the less, they demonstrate that they are also unbelievers. The women's words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. Peter was curious and ran to the tomb. He saw that the tomb was empty. He marveled at what might have happened to the body. Today's Gospel reading comes to an end and we have to leave Peter trying to figure out what happened to Jesus' body.
Down through the centuries, many theologians, philosophers, and historians have investigated the Christian claim of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The historical evidence supports the Biblical account of the crucifixion and it points to an empty tomb. Eventually, the honest, scholarly historian admits that the tomb must have been empty. The only question remaining is, "How did the tomb get that way?" Many of scholars have used their imaginations to try to come up with a scenario that explains the empty tomb. So far, the only one that fits all the facts is that Jesus left the tomb under His own power. The resurrection is the best attested event in the ancient world.
But is it enough to simply believe that the resurrection happened? No it is not! As it written, [James 2:19b] Even the demons believeand shudder! If you honestly believe that Jesus rose from the dead, but that resurrection has nothing to do with you, then His resurrection will do you no good.
Jesus rose for you. His resurrection certifies that everything He did, He did for you. He left heaven and took on human flesh in the womb of the virgin
for you. He was born
for you. He lived a perfect life totally without sin
for you. He suffered an agonizing death on the cross
for you. While He hung on that cross, He endured the very wrath of God
for you. With this work, He earned the forgiveness of sins
for you. It is not enough to simply believe that Jesus rose from the dead. Instead, His promise is that He rose from the dead
As we continue through the season of Easter, we will once again hear about all that Jesus did after he rose from the dead. He will continue to do these things
for you. We will hear once again, that Jesus ascended into heaven
for you. We will hear that even as I speak, He is preparing a place
for you. We will once again hear how Jesus will return with an eternity of paradise
You can be glad, secure in the reality of the empty tomb. You can rejoice with your whole being in the certainty of your resurrection. Just as Christ Jesus Himself rose to new life after being put to death on that Roman cross, God will not abandon you to the grave after your flesh loses its life. Jesus Christ has defeated Satan, sin, death, and hell! As a result, Christ's conquest now brings victory to all of God's people. His victory is for you. Amen
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