Summary of Sunday Sermon, 05 Apr 2015
WHAT IF JESUS HADN’T COME ALIVE?
The Gospel is a fascinating truth. Whenever Jesus spoke of His death He always accompanied it with the promise of His resurrection on the third day. Jesus fulfilled all His claims and promises. As we celebrate Jesus’ victory over sin, death and grave, let us be reminded that our God is not dead.
In the book of 1 Corinthians 15, Paul expounds on the theme that God is not dead. He brings alive the impact of resurrection in a novel way. Drawing from that, let us also examine the three consequences that would have occurred if Jesus had not risen from death.
1) NO RESURRECTION, NO JUSTIFICATION
12 Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. 14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. 15 Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. 16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.
1 Corinthians 15:12-18
Justification means ‘to declare to someone that their sin will not be held against them’. Paul says that if Jesus’ resurrection didn’t occur, then we would all still be in our sins and not have been forgiven.
On Good Friday, Jesus died on the Cross of Calvary for us. By His death, we have been redeemed and our sins forgiven. So why was it necessary for the resurrection to justify us? That question leads us right back into the Old Testament.
THE HIGH PRIEST IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
Leviticus 10 narrates how Aaron’s two sons performed a sacrifice that God had told them not to. The Bible says that God’s wrath fell on them and killed them. Leviticus 16:1-2 says that, Now the Lord spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they offered profane fire before the Lord, and died; 2 and the Lord said to Moses: “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at just any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, lest he die; for I will appear in the cloud above the mercy seat. Only the High Priest was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies. He had to take a lot of precautions while going in. It included wearing the right kind of clothes, performing the right kind of sacrifice and following every prescribed law regarding going into the Holy Place. If they didn’t follow the high standard of holiness that God expected from them, He would strike them dead. In fact, tradition says that a rope would be tied to the High Priest’s leg before he went to the Holy Place. If he approached God’s presence in an unholy manner and God’s wrath killed him, the people would drag him out by the rope. Every time the priest went in, the Israelites would await his return with bated breath. They’d wonder if he had fulfilled God’s Holy standards. Meanwhile, the High Priest would perform the sacrifice with trembling. The moment he returned, the people would be joyous because they knew that God had accepted their sacrifice.
THE HIGH PRIEST IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
11 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. 12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.
In the New Testament, Jesus Christ became the High Priest. He entered the Holy of Holies and sacrificed not goat or calves but His own life. Because of Jesus’ death on the Cross our sins would have been forgiven. But we wouldn’t have known whether His Sacrifice on our behalf had been accepted. So Jesus’ resurrection is the sure indication that God had accepted His sacrifice.
Hence Paul says that because Jesus rose from the dead we can be confident that our sins have been forgiven. We need not worry about our past baggage because Jesus has dealt with them. The following quote says it beautifully. When God forgives our sins, He puts them in the deepest ocean and fixes a board saying “No fishing”. The resurrection is a reminder that no matter what kind of life we have led, God has forgiven it on the Cross of Calvary.
A man joined the army during a war. When the war finished, he called his parents and expressed his desire to return home. His parents readily agreed. The man paused and said that he also wanted to bring his friend along. His parents agreed to that also. He continued and said that he wanted to take care of his friend for his entire life. He said that his friend had lost an eye, a hand and a leg during the war. His parents told him that his friend would be a burden and baggage for him. They suggested that he give the friend some money and get rid of him. They didn’t want a maimed man in their family. The man agreed and ended the call. A few days later, the parents received news of their son’s suicide. When the dead body was brought home they saw that their son was missing an eye, a hand and a leg. Their son hadn’t been talking of his friend. He had been checking if his parents would accept him as he was.
We all long to be loved and accepted for who we are. Romans 5:8 says that, ‘But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us’. No matter what our past sins may have been, Jesus has dealt with them on the Cross of Calvary. Jesus came back from death to give us the assurance that our sins have been forgiven completely. Just like the return of the High Priest from the Holy of Holies in the Old Testament was the assurance that God had accepted the people’s sacrifice, the return (resurrection) of Jesus from the dead is the assurance that God has accepted the eternal sacrifice of Jesus for our sins and that our sins are forgiven.
2) NO RESURRECTION, NO SANCTIFICATION
29 Otherwise, what will they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead do not rise at all? Why then are they baptized for the dead? 30 And why do we stand in jeopardy every hour? 31 I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. 32 If, in the manner of men, I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantage is it to me? If the dead do not rise, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!”
33 Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.” 34 Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.
1 Corinthians 15:29-33
Sanctification means to be set apart, to live a holy life. Paul says that he has fought the wild beasts in Ephesus and lived such a difficult life. He questions, ‘If this life is all that there is then what was the big deal?’ We can all eat, drink and be merry because we are anyway going to die. It wouldn’t be wrong to steal, cheat, or live an immoral life if there was no eternity. But the moment we bring eternity into the equation, it changes the entire perspective. Since Jesus rose up from the grave, the way we live does matter. When Graham Staines and his two sons were killed, his wife said, ‘I am hurt but I forgive those people who did that’. It would be a baseless claim if she didn’t have the hope of seeing her husband and children on the day of resurrection. The nun that was assaulted in West Bengal recently said that she forgave her attackers. Such a statement would have been meaningless, if there was no eternal perspective. Because of resurrection, we have the sure hope that our life on earth is meaningful and sanctified.
3) NO RESURRECTION, NO GLORIFICATION
35 But someone will say, “How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?” 36 Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. 37 And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain—perhaps wheat or some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body.
39 All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh[c] of men, another flesh of animals, another of fish, and another of birds.
40 There are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial isone, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory.
42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. 45 And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.”[d] The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord[e] from heaven.48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. 49 And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.
50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.
55 “O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:35-56
We have an earthly form but that is not our true form. Our true form is in the likeness of Jesus. The ultimate goal of a Christian is to be more like Jesus Christ. The way we deal with our families, the way we work in our offices, the way we behave are all a demonstration of how we live out Jesus daily. When we cross over to the other side we will be transformed in the likeness of Jesus. However, without the resurrection there is no glorification.
Max Lucado writes about death in this way. He says, ‘Heaven enjoys a maternity ward reaction to funerals. Angels watch body burials the same way that grandparents monitor delivery rooms. He’ll be coming through any minute. They can’t wait to see the new arrival. While we are driving hearses and wearing black, the angels are hanging pink and blue streamers, passing out balloons. We don’t grieve when babies enter the world, the host of heaven doesn’t weep when we leave it.’
The promise of glorification assures us that death is not the end for us. Our God is not dead. We also won’t die. Even when we pass through this life, we can be certain that there is a better life waiting for us.
Jesus’ resurrection assures us three things:
|1. Our past sins have been dealt with and forgiven||We have been justified|
|2. Our present has been infused with new meaning||We are being sanctified|
|3. Our future is secure||We will be glorified|
Alfred Hitchcock writes a story of a wicked woman who was imprisoned. She made friends with the prison guard. She told him that if he helped her escape from the prison she would share half of her stashed up savings with him. He agreed and together they make a plan. He was in-charge of making coffins for the dead prisoners. So she said that the next time anybody died she would slip into the coffin and he could bury her. After everybody left, he could rescue her from the coffin. He agreed. As per the prison tradition, whenever a person died a bell would be rung. After a couple of weeks, she heard the bell ringing. She realized that someone had died. So she sneaked in to the coffin room and slipped into the coffin. After sometime she felt the coffin being lifted, lowered into the ground and buried. She waited quietly. Seconds turned into minutes and her rescuer didn’t appear. She got worried. Now on her way to the coffin room, she had managed to steal a matchbox. So while she waited, she lit a matchstick. To her utter horror, she saw that the dead body next to her was that of the very man who was supposed to rescue her from her grave. The prison guard was the one who had died. There was no rescue coming.
He who is dead cannot help us. He who is in the grave cannot rescue us. But there is one who rose victoriously from the grave. He said, ‘Because I live, so shall you’. Resurrection is not just a religious concept; it is a reality that gives us hope because the one we worship is not dead in a grave, but risen and alive. Our graves may be made of rejection, depression and struggle. But the power of the resurrection pulls us out of our graves. Because He conquered the grave, we can be certain that our God is not dead. He reigns over our lives.