Sunday 4th April 2021
George Methodist Church 10am
1 Corinthians 15
With Peter Veysie
Flavius Josephus, born A.D. 37, a Jewish historian, became a Pharisee at age 19; in A.D. 66 he was the commander of Jewish forces in Galilee. After being captured, he was attached to the Roman headquarters. He says, “Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call Him a man, for He was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to Him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ, and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principle men among us, had condemned Him to the cross, those that loved Him at the first did not forsake Him; for He appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning Him. And the tribe of Christians so named from Him are not extinct at this day” (ref.12).
“In the whole story of Jesus Christ, the most important event is the resurrection. Christian faith depends on this. It is encouraging to know that it is explicitly given by all four evangelists and also by Paul. The names of those who saw Him after His triumph over death are recorded; it may be said that the historical evidence for the resurrection is stronger than for any other miracle anywhere narrated; for as Paul said, ‘If Christ is not risen from the dead, then is our preaching in vain, and your faith is also in vain’” (ref.5, p.18).
In his book, “Who Moved the Stone?” (ref.6), Frank Morison, a lawyer, “tells us how he had been brought up in a rationalistic environment, and had come to the opinion that the resurrection was nothing but a fairy tale happy ending which spoiled the matchless story of Jesus. Therefore, he planned to write an account of the last tragic days of Jesus, allowing the full horror of the crime and the full heroism of Jesus to shine through. He would, of course, omit any suspicion of the miraculous, and would utterly discount the resurrection. But when he came to study the facts with care, he had to change his mind, and he wrote his book on the opposite side. His first chapter is significantly called, ‘The Book that Refused to be Written.’ The rest of his volume consists of one of the shrewdest and most attractive written assessments I have ever read…” (ref.2, pp.54-55).
Professor Thomas Arnold, for fourteen years the famous headmaster of Rugby, author of the famous three-volume “History of Rome,” appointed to the chair of Modern History at Oxford, was certainly a man well-acquainted with the value of evidence in determining historical facts. This great scholar said in his work, “Sermons on the Christian Life–Its Hopes, Its Fears, and Its Close” (6th ed., London, 1859, p.324):
“The evidence for our Lord’s life and death and resurrection may be, and often has been, shown to be satisfactory; it is good according to the common rules for distinguishing good evidence from bad. Thousands and tens of thousands of persons have gone through it piece by piece, as carefully as every judge summing up a most important cause. I myself have done it many times over, not to persuade others, but to satisfy myself. I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than the great sign which God has given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead” (ref.7, pp.425-426).
On the Sunday morning following Jesus’ burial, almost 2,000 years ago, something happened that changed the course of history from BC (before Christ) to AD (Latin Anno Domini–the Year of our Lord). That something was so dramatic it completely changed 11 men’s lives so that all but one died a martyr’s death, and it turned the world upside down. That “something” was an empty tomb. An empty tomb that a 15-minute walk from the center of Jerusalem would have confirmed, or disproved!
Jesus Christ went through six distinct trials–three Jewish and three Roman. The Roman authorities punished not only the individual who incited the people against the Romans, but the leaders of the people as well. Many Jewish leaders, by circumstance of the political conditions, had to act as informers against some of the dissenters and revolutionaries among their own brethren in order to save their own lives.
This in itself is quite significant, but what is so powerful for me today is the testimony of those who faithfully follow Christ from historians to scientists to teachers, professors to you and I sitting here today.
I also find the testimony of Paul fascintating because he chooses to follow Christ and bear the cross of Christ – not his own – in order to testify to the resurrection.
I want to share this testimony with you and explore how it can impact our hearts today.
1 Corinthians 15: 1 – 23 and 35 – 58
I will take the word RISEN as an acronym and unpack it with you.
R – Risen – I am the least of the apostles and yet He appeared to me. I know you all remember the story, but Paul was on his way to Damascus with fire in his eyes wanting to kill anyone who was confessing Christ as Lord. He was riding a horse with a group of his followers when suddenly a blinding light came down and it was so fierce that it through him off his horse. He was left on the ground and we are not sure what he meant when he said that he had to bear a thorn in the flesh, but maybe he injured his hip at the same time as this.Jesus asks him – Saul Saul why do you persecute me?
He responds who are you Lord ? Acts 9 and his life is turned around as he recognises the Lord. I know that Paul was not so far away from God even with his religious spirit because he says Lord.
I am surprised and overwhelmed when someone I least expect turns to Jesus. Some of them are so fierce and when they turn they are sold out.
Paul saw the risen Christ and he was sold out to him, put humbly in the hands of others, blinded for three days and taught under the hands of the disciples for 14 years.
Christ declared as risen and Lord of Paul’s life means that he has a new destiny and that is to transform people by the renewing of their minds to follow Christ and not persecute him.
INSPIRED – Paul then goes on to explain the importance of the resurrection because there were those (the Sadducees) who did not believe in this. They were caught in their own emotions and they believed that when you died that was it. If you don’t believe in the resurrection then not even Christ is alive says Paul. (vs 12)
Pauls is so inspired here because he reminds of the death of ADAM and if he died then all die. We know that we get that, but the inspiring part for Paul is that if Christ is raised then all are raised. We have a destination to look forward to. The inspiration of the Word of God describing the resurrection and remember this is thru Paul’s eyes is that it does not all end here.
Does Paul face death and persecution every day of his life for a myth or for truth. He says guys lets get real here and understand what it is all about. A crazy person sacrifices his or her life for nothing and so many have done this in the past.
In the middle of this Paul rebukes us for just going on in life as if nothing happened. Is this a holiday or a HOLY DAY.
SPIRIT – Now the last part of this is for me the most profound and I often share this at a funeral because it describes the resurrection body so well.
35-38 Some skeptic is sure to ask, “Show me how resurrection works. Give me a diagram; draw me a picture. What does this ‘resurrection body’ look like?” If you look at this question closely, you realize how absurd it is. There are no diagrams for this kind of thing. We do have a parallel experience in gardening. You plant a “dead” seed; soon there is a flourishing plant. There is no visual likeness between seed and plant. You could never guess what a tomato would look like by looking at a tomato seed. What we plant in the soil and what grows out of it don’t look anything alike. The dead body that we bury in the ground and the resurrection body that comes from it will be dramatically different.
39-41 You will notice that the variety of bodies is stunning. Just as there are different kinds of seeds, there are different kinds of bodies—humans, animals, birds, fish—each unprecedented in its form. You get a hint at the diversity of resurrection glory by looking at the diversity of bodies not only on earth but in the skies—sun, moon, stars—all these varieties of beauty and brightness. And we’re only looking at pre-resurrection “seeds”—who can imagine what the resurrection “plants” will be like!
42-44 This image of planting a dead seed and raising a live plant is a mere sketch at best, but perhaps it will help in approaching the mystery of the resurrection body—but only if you keep in mind that when we’re raised, we’re raised for good, alive forever! The corpse that’s planted is no beauty, but when it’s raised, it’s glorious. Put in the ground weak, it comes up powerful. The seed sown is natural; the seed grown is supernatural—same seed, same body, but what a difference from when it goes down in physical mortality to when it is raised up in spiritual immortality!
45-49 We follow this sequence in Scripture: The First Adam received life, the Last Adam is a life-giving Spirit. Physical life comes first, then spiritual—a firm base shaped from the earth, a final completion coming out of heaven. The First Man was made out of earth, and people since then are earthy; the Second Man was made out of heaven, and people now can be heavenly. In the same way that we’ve worked from our earthy origins, let’s embrace our heavenly ends.
50 I need to emphasize, friends, that our natural, earthy lives don’t in themselves lead us by their very nature into the kingdom of God. Their very “nature” is to die, so how could they “naturally” end up in the Life kingdom?
51-57 But let me tell you something wonderful, a mystery I’ll probably never fully understand. We’re not all going to die—but we are all going to be changed. You hear a blast to end all blasts from a trumpet, and in the time that you look up and blink your eyes—it’s over. On signal from that trumpet from heaven, the dead will be up and out of their graves, beyond the reach of death, never to die again. At the same moment and in the same way, we’ll all be changed. In the resurrection scheme of things, this has to happen: everything perishable taken off the shelves and replaced by the imperishable, this mortal replaced by the immortal. Then the saying will come true:
Death swallowed by triumphant Life!
Who got the last word, oh, Death?
Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now?
4. ENDURANCE – Because there is a finishing line and it is not death but life. Sort our sin in your life because that’s the only thing that will hold you back or bring fear.
It was sin that made death so frightening and law-code guilt that gave sin its leverage, its destructive power. But now in a single victorious stroke of Life, all three—sin, guilt, death—are gone, the gift of our Master, Jesus Christ. Thank God!
5. NEW – KAINOS MOMENT – Let this resurrection Sunday change the way you think about life and the eternal.
58 With all this going for us, my dear, dear friends, stand your ground. And don’t hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort.