But then, early in the early morning hours of the first day of the week, as the women went to the tomb, the message was proclaimed: He is not here; he has risen! (Luke 24:6) Reflect for a few moments on the mystery, wonder and beauty, the hope and joy of the resurrection, and the significance of the truth of this historical event.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:17…if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, it’s incomplete, of no real value. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. BUT, Christ has…been raised from the dead! (20)
Dr. Billy Graham is quoted as saying: If I were an enemy of Christianity, I would aim right at the resurrection, because that is the heart of Christianity.
The authenticity of the resurrection matters, because the Bible declares it to be true, and the Bible is our source of truth and faith. If the Scriptures are wrong on this point, they become altogether unreliable. Paul reminds the believers in Corinth, For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
Let there be no confusion on this point, everything in the Gospels, everything in the book of Acts, everything in the Epistles stands in perfect harmony on this point, Jesus Christ died and then was raised from the dead. And it matters; it matters because it authenticates the truth of the Bible; the account of the empty tomb validates the stories of those who encountered the risen Lord.
The truth of the resurrection is essential to our doctrine and our faith, but the implications of this truth are more than just theological in nature. There are profound implications regarding our understanding of death and the afterlife.
When we stand at the graveside of a loved one, it’s very easy to feel overwhelmed; it’s not unusual to wonder if we will ever see them again. In the early church some believers faced this very human struggle. The Apostle Paul addresses this concern in his first letter to the Corinthians by reminding his readers that their confidence, their hope rested on whether or not Jesus was raised from the dead.
It’s interesting; Paul does not rebuke these believers for their doubts and fears. Nor does offer any ‘proof’ of the resurrection. He simply states it as a fact…that Christ died…that he was buried, that he was raised on the third…(1 Corinthians 15:3-4). He points them back to the empty tomb and says, ‘remember, God raised His Son from the grave’!
Everything hinges on whether or not it’s true, on whether or not you believe it to be true. To drive home his point, he argues, what if Jesus has not been raised from the dead? If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (17-19)
It all hangs on that little word “if…If Christ has not been raised… (17). But, what if it is true? Look again at the authoritative truth of the Holy Scriptures: Christ has indeed been raised from the dead! (20) And because it is true, we can simply reverse all that Paul has just argued: our faith does have meaning, deep, profound implications for life and eternity; we do have forgiveness and the sure hope of life beyond the grave. We can be certain about our own future; about all who die in Christ. Death has been swallowed up in victory. (15:54). Our dying in Christ becomes the passageway to heaven.
During my 30+ years as a pastor, I have stood at the bedside of the dying, I have stood at the graveside more times than I can remember. It never gets easier. The hardest part for me is driving away from the hospital or the cemetery; the finality of someone being gone weighs on my soul, it just does. I’ve seen all the death I care to see, even though I will likely see more before my time on earth is done.
Where do we find hope in the face of death? We find it in the truth of God’s Word; in the certainty of the resurrection! In Christ all will be made alive. (15:22)
Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (15:57)