19 If in this life we only have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. 20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.
1 Corinthians 15:19-21
He is Risen. He is Risen indeed. Alleluia!
On this joyous occasion, Christ’s church confidently rejoices in the bodily resurrection of Jesus her Lord. The suffering and death that Christ had endured is now past. Jesus reigns victoriously over death and the grave. His three-day tomb remains forever empty. Jesus is risen, just as He had said. Sin has lost its power and dominion.
Jesus our Savior died with your sin on the cross Good Friday. But He who knew no sin, who became sin for us, was the only victor, the only one of the two standing when all was said and done. Darkness had covered the land with Jesus’ death. But now, the light of Christ shines brightly, piercing through the darkness of death and rejoicing the heart with resurrected gladness.
News of Christ’s triumph flows as a river throughout the world, giving life to all who drink from it. This water is the pure water of God’s truth. This water contains no contaminates, nor is any harmful material to be found in it. It does not make sick. It brings to health. It does not make weak. It brings strength. It does not cause complacency. It moves to faith. It does not cause despondency. It moves to confidence. It does not bring hopelessness. It raises to blessed assurance, the blessed assurance that Jesus is yours, that He has overcome death and the grave. Just as He has been resurrected from the dead, so you too are brought to life in Christ Jesus our Lord, raised from the deadness of your sin to the resurrection of eternal life.
This is good news! Christ has now arisen. Had Christ, who once was slain, not burst His three-day prison, our faith had been in vain. The words of Hymn 482 in Lutheran Service Book, appropriately titled, “This Joyful Eastertide,” echo the words of St. Paul where he writes, “And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty” (1 Corinthians 15:14). With these words, St. Paul the apostle demonstrates the futility and the utter uselessness of faith apart from the bodily resurrection of our Lord.
In the day of this blessed apostle, there were those who claimed that there was no resurrection of the dead (v12). For some reason, they had lost sight of the truth of Christ’s resurrection. Having lost sight of that, they could do no other except lose sight of the hope and promise of God. Though St. Paul proclaimed Christ as having been raised from the dead (v12), this message had lost significance among some in the church of Corinth. Therefore, these men falsely concluded that there was no resurrection from the dead. Having no confidence in the Lord’s resurrection, they could do no other except construct a hope of their own making. In the process, the very hope that St. Paul had preached to them became null and void, not because it wasn’t true, but because there was no trust in what had been rightfully and diligently proclaimed.
Except it be for the witness and testimony of the Holy Scriptures, we too would be in the same boat of doubt and denial when it comes to the resurrection of the dead. But the Words of God before us today reveal differently. This day called Easter witnesses and testifies, according to the Bible, that there is a resurrection from the dead and that Christ is alive according to the flesh.
These things cannot be apprehended apart from God’s witness and testimony. They cannot be understood and held to be true based on our own personal experiences. Instead, the things of God are not naturally known. They are revealed through the heavenly Word, not the heavenly word of our own heart or head, but the heavenly Word written and sealed in God’s book, written by the apostles’ and prophets.
If these Word’s of our Lord were not so, there would indeed be no bodily resurrection of Christ. There would be no ‘rose again from the dead’ or ‘rose again according to the Scriptures’ of the Apostolic and Nicene Creeds. Christians everywhere would be making false confessions and lying before the world of Him who died and rose again; if indeed Christ had not risen.
If there were no resurrection of the dead, all worship and praise would be empty and worthless. There would be no need to worship in a Christian congregation, for all ‘roads would certainly lead to heaven.’ There would be no uniqueness to Christianity, for it would turn into a religion of salvation by works, as all the other religions are today. Believers and nonbelievers alike would all be going to the same place. It would not really matter what one believed, as long as one was sincere of heart.
If Christ did not rise, then it would truly be as St. Paul says, “If in this life we only have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men” (v19). If there was no resurrection of the dead, and if Christ had not been raised, then the church’s proclamation of her risen Lord would be for nothing. Her number one priority would not be preaching the Gospel of forgiveness through Jesus Christ, but preaching man’s works and emphasizing his own endeavors, not in the service of others, but for earning recognition with God. God’s ministers would be false teachers and false witnesses, because they testify of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up – if in fact the dead do not rise (v14-15).
If Christ had not been raised, faith would be in vain. Worship would be void and hypocritical. There would be no reason to come to church, even only a few times a year, because there would be no hope in this hopeless world. There would be no God but oneself, for who could know God if the Bible was untrue? There would be no eternal hope for a blessed peace. All would live as many do now, living for themselves and not for the Lord or for neighbor. There would be little concern for the future and more for the instant gratification of today.
With no resurrection of the dead, nor resurrection of Christ, what would be the hope of sinful man before the just God? Could man by His work or ability satisfy the penalty of sin, the debt of iniquity, or the guilt of transgression? What would be the end of it all? And what would be the end of the entire world, even of us who confess Christ Jesus to be Lord, except hopelessness, misery, and grief. Satisfaction and contentment could never be guaranteed and everyone would be in the ‘rat race’ of trying to make peace with God at any expense and by any means.
But thanks be to God! It is not as they in St. Paul’s day claimed. Nor is it as many in our day believe, that Jesus is a crutch and that one has the power to altar or change one’s destiny before God. Christ has indeed risen from the dead! This means everything to us and to Christ’s church. Death could not hold Him. The grave could not bind Him. The tomb could not contain Him. Christ was not sealed in by death. He opened the way to life, the hopeful life, the confident life, the blessed life, and the eternal life.
Christ is your hope this day. By His death, He died your death. By His life, you are raised to new life. No longer does your guilt have the last word. Consciences are clear and free. The debt of your iniquity is paid. The penalty of your sin, forgiven. In Christ, you have everlasting hope before the just God. Instead of liable, you are innocent. Instead of accountable for sin, you are liberated from your sin. Peace with God is now our state of affairs in the presence of God. Christ is your peace. Hopefulness, joy, and delight are now your end. Instead of meaninglessness, there is meaningfulness in life.
Christ is risen from the dead! Our faith in the resurrection is not in vain. He who died lives forevermore. There is reason for eager anticipation and joyous expectation of what will be. Our heavenly homecoming is drawing near. His Means of Grace are effective and powerful. God’s Word gives what it says. Even today, His Word works wonders. Great expectations are the product of the faith founded on the Lord’s promises, not only for the future, but even in the present.
The Church’s proclamation of her risen Lord is not for nothing. Her Lord is her everything. Through liturgy and song, the church confesses her Savior. Through prayer and praise, she confesses her Christ. The preaching that man’s sins are forgiven in Christ Jesus continues to be the mission of the church. Man does not earn recognition with God by what He does. But God, in His mercy, grants His favor to man through His beloved Son. Through Jesus, God recognizes you as saint, holy, and righteous. The Lord’s resurrection is true. God’s Word is not untrue.
Because Christ has risen from the dead, worship of the Triune God is not trivial and without value. Worship of God in spirit and truth is full of meaning and import. Because God and His Word are true, heavenly gifts are offered at the baptismal font and at the Lord’s altar. Our Lord speaks words of life. Those of His sheepfold listen to His voice and feast at His banqueting table of Word and Sacrament. Because the Lord is risen from the dead, there is complete uniqueness to the religion called Christianity. No other religion teaches the salvation of the God who became man, died, and rose again on the third day. All other religions do lead to the same place, but Christ alone grants eternal life. All others lead elsewhere. It really does matter what one believes, regardless of how sincere one is.
The Apostolic and Nicene Creeds of Christendom are true. They do give an accurate witness to the faith of Christians everywhere, both of Christians today and of Christians before. Their confessions testify to the world of Christ’s resurrection and of Him who died and rose again. There is a ‘rose again from the dead’ and a ‘rose again according to the Scriptures’, for Christ has indeed been raised from the dead. The Scriptures are really true. The testimonies are correct. The Word is sure. The truth is found.
There is much reason to rejoice this day. The Christ, who had once been slain, has burst His three-day prison. Death no longer entombs Him. ‘Christ has triumphed! He is living! Alleluia!’ (LSB 465, “Now All the Vault of Heaven Resounds”). This is a ‘Joyful Eastertide’, for Christ ‘the Crucified has sprung to life’ (LSB 482, “This Joyful Eastertide”). ‘He lives, yes, He lives, and will nevermore die’ (LSB 480, He‘s Risen, He’s Risen). Jesus is your Savior, faithful and true. Because He lives, you too shall live with Him, now and forevermore. Amen.
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