If Christ Has Not Been Raised

1 Corinthians 15:12-19 

Intro: That’s why God made families

And that's why God made the church - so that we might see the face of the risen Jesus in the faces of our brothers and sisters in Christ.  The risen Lord lives in us, his face shines in ours.  We are the risen church.

Everyone wanted to see Jesus, to know what he looked like, to experience the excitement that had surrounded him everywhere he went. As the week of Passover dawned in Jerusalem everyone expected something was about to happen.

The week began with crowds gathering, palm branches waving, adrenalin flowing, the city resounding with shouts that the Messiah was entering the holy city, the rocks ready to shout out themselves in celebration that the King had arrived!

As the week progressed, a growing controversy arose as Jesus drove out the money changers from the Temple area, who had defiled religion and made it a source of their own gain. As he taught in the Temple, as he was confronted by Pharisees trying to put a check on the enthusiasm of the crowds.

As the week progressed, Jesus’ opponents quietly went about spreading their poison, wielding their influence through threats and intimidation. They looked for the opportunity to arrest Jesus and enforce their justice – a justice that would pervert decency and order, and would bring about the verdict and the sentence that had been determined months earlier when the high priest Caiaphas had prophesied, “It is expedient that one man should die for the people than that the whole nation perish” (John 11:50).

Thursday evening as Jesus and his disciples met in the Upper Room, as Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, as he washed the disciples’ feet, as Satan entered the heart of Judas – the plan came together.

Later that night in the Garden . . . prayers to the Father . . . sleeping disciples . . . soldiers’ footsteps . . . a kiss . . . the arrest . . . a trial begins -- Annas – Caiaphas – Sanhedrin – Pilate – Herod – Pilate … cries of “Crucify him, crucify him” . . . washed hands. . . justice perverted.

Friday morning, as the words of Pilate, “I find no basis for a charge against him” were muffled by the inflamed shouts of the crowds, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Jesus was flogged and scourged and beaten, and began the walk, carrying his cross through the streets of Jerusalem that would end in the climb to the summit of the rock outside the gate that was named, Golgotha, the place of the skull.

The nails were pounded in and the cross was hoisted into place and Jesus began the six most important hours in all the course of human history. To most who looked on, they were a sign of dismal defeat – a cruel end to what looked like the most glorious star to rise on heaven’s horizon. And now look at him – stripped naked, blood and spit dripping down his face, crucified between two thieves like a common criminal. He cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” and then, “It is finished.” The earth quakes and the sky turns dark and people flee in terror. And for his disciples, surely the end of the world has come.

And if the story had ended on Friday with the sky dark, the body laid in a borrowed tomb, and the disciples huddling in fear behind the locked doors of that rented upper room.
If Sunday morning had come and the soldiers had to remove the stone for those three women who had come to anoint and prepare the body . . . .

Well, as Paul said, “there would be no resurrection, and we who have hope in Christ, are to be pitied more than all men.”
Christianity crumbles without the foundation of the resurrection. Paul says:
• Our preaching is useless
• Your faith is worthless
• We are false witnesses about God –
for he would be a liar.
• If Christ was not raised from the dead – we are still in our sins, lost and without hope in the world. Defeated.

Not at all to mean that the cross was defeat. The cross was the very climax of God’s perfect plan to rescue man from sin. It was on the cross that Jesus, the perfect high priest – the perfect sacrificial lamb of God – paid the price of redemption. If not for the cross, you and I would be hopelessly, helplessly enslaved to sin. So the cross was the glory of God’s gift to man.

But if it had ended on the cross, if Christ had not been raised…

But that’s not the end of the story, God is not finished.

And Luke begins the last chapter of his Gospel by telling us the rest of the story:
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! (Luke 24:1-6)

He was raised, Christ triumphed over death, God raised him from the grave. It is because of the resurrection that the blood of Christ was not shed in vain on the cross. The resurrection vindicated the claims of the one who said, “Tear down this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The cross and the resurrection in tandem are the power of God to save a world lost in sin.

It is the resurrection that is the ultimate demonstration of the power and the wisdom of God. The resurrection changes everything.

It changes how we live here and now. It changes our attitudes, our thinking, our behavior, our very lives:

Colossians 3:1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.

Romans 8:11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

2 Cor. 5:14-17 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

And if the resurrection changes what we are now, it certainly changes what we shall be:

1 Cor. 15:42-44, 50-57 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body….
And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven. I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true:
“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Did you hear what Paul said? When you die, this mortal, weak, sinful body will be transformed into a new, eternal, spiritual body – just like Jesus. No more pain, no more illness, no more sin, no more death. Your body as it was intended to be – incorruptible, imperishable, immortal.

It is our baptism that anticipates the resurrection and this new life in heaven.

Romans 6:3-5 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.

In Mark’s Gospel, there is a strange note there on that first Easter morning. The women had gone to the tomb, had found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty and an angel who announced, “He has risen! He is not here!” And then Mark writes, Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

In the face of the best news that could ever be announced, they had responded with despair and defeat. To be sure, they were overwhelmed with the moment, and later they couldn’t keep the good news to themselves, but their initial response was disbelief and doubt. And I’m not sure we’re a lot different in how we respond to the wonderful news that Jesus has risen and is alive.

What should thrill us beyond belief, and fill our hearts with excitement and celebration often brings an apathetic yawn of boredom. Risen? Living? I don’t see it, I don’t get it. Wake me when you’ve got some real news.

It reminds me of the life of W.E. Sangster, a minister in Great Britain during the middle decades of last century. He began to notice some uneasiness in his throat and a dragging in his leg. When he went to the doctor, he was diagnosed with an incurable disease that caused progressive muscular atrophy. His muscles would gradually waste away, his voice would fail, his throat would soon become unable to swallow. Sangster threw himself into the work of writing and encouraging. He prayed: Let me stay in the struggle, Lord. I don’t mind if I can no longer be a general, but give me a regiment to lead.” He wrote articles and books and helped organize prayer cells throughout England. “I’m only in the kindergarten of suffering” he told people who pitied him. Gradually Sangster’s legs became useless. His voice went completely. But he could still hold a pen, shakily. On Easter morning, just a few weeks before he died, he wrote a letter to his daughter. In it, he said, “It is terrible to wake up on Easter morning and have no voice to shout, ‘He is risen!’ – but it would be still more terrible to have a voice and not want to shout.”

It’s time to wake up and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and it is time to wake up and live in the power of our own resurrected lives.