“You’re saying that someone who died and was buried actually came back to life?” Had you been able to speak with the Apostle Paul as he wrote to residents of the Greek city of Corinth nearly 2000 years ago, that might have been your skeptical question.
Your question would not have surprised Paul—he was writing to people who had thought of the resurrection of the body as something foolish. They might have expected some part of a person, his or her spirit, to achieve immortality. But the resurrection of the body? No, that just didn’t fit with Greek thinking.
As Paul writes the letter we know as 1 Corinthians, he summarizes the core of his message: “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, and that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (15:3–4 NIV). Then he identifies by name several to whom Jesus Christ appeared after his resurrection and mentions a group of more than 500 who saw him. He reminds his readers that Christ had appeared to Paul himself some time later. That encounter had transformed Paul from a violent persecutor of followers of Christ to someone who risked his own life to tell people about Jesus.
Having cited eyewitnesses, Paul explores what it would mean if Christ had not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, both Paul’s preaching and the faith of the Corinthians is useless. If there is no resurrection, Paul would be a liar—for that stands at the heart of his message. If our hope in Christ is only for this life and does not extend beyond the grave, Paul says we are to be pitied. We would be victims of a delusion.
After repeated ifs Paul makes a triumphant affirmation “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (verse 20 NIV). How important is the glorious fact of the resurrection? Crucial enough that for almost 2000 years the church has celebrated it—on April 1 this year (no fooling!) in the western church. Christ’s resurrection structures the weekly rhythm of the life of the church as it gathers to worship each Lord’s Day, each Sunday, each day of resurrection.
Still skeptical? Fine. But let me invite you to find a church this Sunday where the great news of the resurrection is believed and preached. You’ll see people worshipping a Savior who is alive, and you will be welcomed, not just to learn about him, but to come to know him. He is has been raised!
John W. Mahaffy
Pastor, Trinity Presbyterian Church of the OPC
Published as the “Pastoral Ponderings” item in the March 21, 2018 issue of the Newberg Graphic. Used by permission.