“The Resurrection…It’s Not Just for Easter Anymore.”
1 Cor 15:12, 16-20
A couple of Sundays ago, we had the “Big Game,” the super game played in a bowl, and I know a lot of you watched the game not for the game, but for the commercials. And while there was a lot of talk about the new ads, it is interesting to me how quickly the ads disappear, and we really do not notice. Remember the cowboys who herded the cats? The Budweiser guys who said, “Whassup?!” Seen the Taco Bell Chihuahua lately? A few years ago the Florida Citrus Board ran some commercials for orange juice that told us, “It’s not just for breakfast anymore.” Another ad that has disappeared. In the New Testament lesson today, Paul reminds the Christians in Corinth, and us, of the importance of remembering and believing in the resurrection of Jesus on a daily basis. So on this Sixth Sunday of Epiphany, our topic is this: “The Resurrection, it’s not just for Easter Anymore.”
This topic we have before us this morning may strike you as something of a no–brainer, especially for those of you who have been Christians for much of your lives. We know Jesus died and rose again from the dead. We note and celebrate that fact every year at Good Friday and Easter. We confess this every Sunday in the creeds. Yet, while the truth of Jesus’ resurrection is as basic to our faith as anything, it remains a truth amazingly underappreciated within the church today. I can tell you that in my vacation visits to other churches, it is mind-boggling how often this is not preached in the sermons I have heard.
For whatever reason, some among the Corinthian congregation were apparently unwilling to subscribe to the doctrine of the resurrection. Perhaps it offended their philosophy. The Greeks were really into philosophy. Maybe they thought that an afterlife without material trappings was somehow more spiritual. There are those who believe this today. Some Christians today believe in a misguided hyper-spirituality where they think that after death, they will rise in a ghost-like state to heaven, and that is it. We do believe that those who die before Jesus’ return, that their souls go to heaven, but we also believe the Bible when it says we will rejoin these things when Jesus returns, and we are resurrected. Eternal life with Jesus will be a physical thing.
I believe there are a lot of Christians who think the story ends with your soul in heaven, and wings, and clouds, and such. Other Christians say they believe in the doctrine of the resurrection as the Word of God teaches it, but then live their lives like they don’t. Instead, these Christians push aside the truth of the resurrection and live lives that assume this is all there is and think only of the concerns of this world, as if the problems and joys of this life are the be–all and end–all. There is a little bit of that in all of us. If we examine our schedules on a day to day basis and see how much time we are spending on things that really are not important or really matter in the grand scheme of things, and then see how much time we devote to prayer, reading the Bible, family devotions, church time and so on, you will see what I mean. And when we find ourselves having a rough time, facing a crisis of some kind, we need to remember that while we may have to deal with the bad stuff here for 80 years, we will find ourselves in heaven forever, and when we are there, our time here when we were so worried and anxious for so long, will just feel like a blip, a moment, just a second.
Paul’s response to the Corinthians, and to Christians today, is blunt: It is impossible to deny the resurrection and remain a Christian. Rule out the resurrection and Easter is out. If there is no Easter, there is no forgiveness for our sins. If there is no forgiveness, there is no hope: all of us are damned. When Jesus died on the cross, did His soul JUST go somewhere with wings and cloudy places? He rose from the dead, and the Bible says we will, too. Despite its popularity then and now, a resurrectionless Christianity is an oxymoron. It is impossible, there can be no such thing.
What we do have is this, (Paul’s words), “For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished…But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” The Bible makes it perfectly clear that when Jesus returns, the bodies of all the dead will be raised, and the bodies of all the saints will rise imperishable and will know eternity in heaven. We will rise from the dead, just as Jesus did on Easter. As Job said, “I know that my Redeemer lives…and I will see him with my own eyes, mine and not another’s.” We will see Jesus. It will not be a vision. It will not be a mirage. It will not be a dream. For all of us who fall asleep in the arms of the Lord and go to heaven before He returns, our souls will be rejoined to our resurrected bodies and we will see Him return in power and glory, triumphant over sin, death and the power of the devil. And He will gather His children, all those who believe in Him, and together will experience paradise for eternity. This is not just something to celebrate on Easter Sunday. We should celebrate this every day!
The history books tell us even Ben Franklin understood this. While there are those who debate whether Ben was a Christian, he sure seemed to take Paul’s words to heart. When he wrote his own epitaph, he came up with this: “The body of B. Franklin, Printer like the cover of an old book, its contents torn out,…Lies here, food for worms. But the work shall not be wholly lost, For it will as he believed, appear once more in a new and more perfect edition, corrected and amended by the Author.”
We need to let people hear this message. We need to live like we know this is our future. Jesus died and rose for us. We are forgiven, saved, loved beyond any love we can imagine. With St. Valentine’s Day on Thursday, a lot of people were thinking about love last week. But no matter our status in life, our age, education or occupation, we all have a God and a Savior who is ready, willing and able to give us and show His love to us. Being so blessed, it is my prayer here today that each of us would feel and know a renewed sense of urgency to go out those doors and share this good news we know. Jesus died and rose. We are forgiven and loved. We, too, will rise from the dead. We should live every moment knowing the joy of this truth. And that message should be shared and told by us every chance we get.
This is not something that we should only think about on Easter. This is something we should revel in every day. The Resurrection, it is not just for Easter anymore.
In Jesus’ Name.