“Resurrection Realities”   1 Corinthians 15:1-8; 35-58   April 8, 2007  Easter

 

INTRO:  I want you to imagine two people—same age, same education, skills.

   Both given same job—and it’s a very hard job,

   physically exhausting, mentally draining, full of frustrations.

But one person is promised $10,000 for a year’s work,

   and the other person is promised $10 million.

 

How will these two people process the difficulties they face in their job?

   Not by looking at their immediate circumstances—but by looking at their future.

One will be exhausted and say to himself—This just isn’t worth it.

   The other will be just as exhausted and say—This is worth every ache and pain.

One will be more and more discouraged as months pass—

   for the other the exact opposite—he’ll get happier and happier.

 

Here’s the point:

   Your character and the way you face your present circumstances,

   is shaped by what you believe your future to be.

 

One thing about the early Christians that amazed the Romans

   was the way they faced death.

When lions were set loose on Christian men, women, and children in arenas—

   they didn’t scream and curse like people normally did.

   They sang and prayed for enemies.

Even those who hated them took note of this.

   What did they have that gave them such calm and joy?

 

This was it—Their character and the way they faced their circumstances,

   was shaped by what they believed their future to be.

They believed that death was not the end—believed they would rise again.

   They believed that all of their suffering would enhance their joy in next life.

 

This was totally different from their pagan neighbors

In the Greek and Roman mind, if there was an afterlife,

   it was a dark and gloomy place, where the lost soul wandered in darkness.

For all practical purposes, this life is all that there is.

 

How could these early Christians be so certain about their future

   that they could face the lions with singing?  The resurrection. 

It was the fact of Jesus’ resurrection that was the basis for their future hope. 

   He was raised.  It really happened.

   And because of that, we know we will be raised, because he has told us so. 

Their hope for the future was not wishful thinking.

   It wasn’t the power of positive thinking. 

   It was real, solid, certain hope that came from the fact that Jesus is risen.

And that same hope is available to you.

 

Someone has said that today Christians don’t face lions—we face lumps.

   Doctor says:  It’s a lump.  It doesn’t look good.  Have to do biopsy.

   And that’s like a lion coming into the arena.

How do you face your lumps?

   I don’t just mean medical problems—anything that threatens your future—

   you health, family, marriage, finances or anything else?

 

Do you sing or do you worry?  Do you stand firm or do you fall to pieces?

   It all depends on what you believe your future is going to be.

   If you have no certainty about your future—every present crisis will shake you.

But if you know, as the early Christians knew so well—

   that Christ’s resurrection guarantees a wonderful future—

   then you will able to face all sorts of things with calm and joy.

 

1 Cor. 15, Paul ends this great resurrection chapter with this application:

   “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm.  Let nothing move you.”

That’s what the resurrection can do for you when you really believe it.

   I know all of you believe it or wouldn’t be here—believe it happened.

But when you really believe it—

   when it goes in deep, and you start to see what it means for your future—

   then you get a confident hope that enables you to stand firm against

   the lions and the lumps and anything else that comes against you.

 

So let’s look at this great resurrection passage.

There are three things that Jesus’ resurrection guarantees

   will be the future of every person who trusts in him.

1.  A Stingless Death

2.  Swallowed Suffering

3.  A Spiritual Body

   Credit where credit is due.  Sermon by Dr. Timothy Keller on this passage.

   Great help to me in a number of ways. 


MP#1  A Stingless Death

Jesus’ resurrection guarantees a stingless death for everyone who trusts in him.

   “Where, O death, is your sting?”

Have you ever been stung by a wasp or a yellowjacket?

   What makes a sting hurt so bad?  It’s the poison in the sting.

   Totally different from getting poked with a pin—it burns, it can kill.

 

Paul says:  “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.”

He means that death is more than physical—

   there is a poison in death that burns even deeper.

 

The poisonous sting of death is that when you die,

   your whole life is judged by the law of God.

Every thought, word, deed—

   everything hidden—things no one else knows you have done,

   you hidden sins, your darkest motives, your cravings—everything is judged.

 

One of the ways the Bible describes it is that the books will be opened.

   Everything about you has been written down.

   That record of your life will be judged by the law of God.

And the verdict of the law for sinners is condemnation.

   So the sting of death is your guilt before God.

 

Most people don’t ever think about the sting of death—

   but Christians think about it all the time because we see it in the cross.

Why did Jesus groan aloud and sweat drops of blood in Gethsemane?

   Was he scared of the nails, scared of the crown of thorns?

Of course not.  He was a strong man physically—carpenter.

   He was also a man with a perfectly clean conscience.

   If it was just a matter of physical pain he could have handled it.

 

He groaned was in agony because he knew he was about to feel

   the sting and poison of the law. 

   He was going to suffer wrath for the guilt of our sins.

Then there are those three terrible hours of darkness—the darkness of hell.

   And Jesus crying out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.”

   That is the sting of death.  That is the judgment we all face.

 

But then Christians look at the resurrection on Easter morning.

The resurrection is proof that your guilt has been paid for.

   It’s a receipt for the sting of death.

If you walk out of a store and clerk stops you and says—You haven’t paid.

   You pull the receipt out of the bag and say—Yes, I have.  Look.  Proof.

   The resurrection is the receipt.  It’s assurance that price is paid.

   Jesus took our judgment so the sting of death is gone—the guilt and shame.

 

So death can’t really hurt you, it can only make you better.

   And you don’t have to wait until your death to experience this.

Are you troubled with guilt?  Things you have done and left undone?

   People you have wronged.  Sins against God.

 

Any time you are troubled by guilt, can pull the receipt out of the bag.

   He is risen.

All of my sins have been paid for, payment has been accepted

   My death will not sting.  I can face God unafraid.

 

That’s how the early Christians could face the lions.

   No guilt in death.  No fear.  Jesus’ resurrection is the guarantee.

And if you know that about your death—then you can certainly

   stand up against anything else that comes against you.

 

But there is a flip side to this.

   If you have not put your faith in Jesus, and repented of your sins,

   then your death is going to sting like hell.

Because you will die and face God and the law, and be judged for your own sins.

 

Don’t delay, trust in Christ.

So that you can rejoice in his resurrection

   and enjoy all the benefits of complete forgiveness.

 

Stingless death

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


MP#2  Swallowed suffering

Jesus’ resurrection guarantees swallowed suffering for everyone who trust in him. 

   “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

 

If you have food on a table you can get rid of it in two ways—

   you can throw it away, or you can eat it. 

If you eat it, it goes down into you and becomes part of you.

   Gives you energy and life.

The resurrection does not throw away your suffering—

   it swallows it in such a way that all of your suffering,

   becomes part of you and enhances your joy.

 

When the disciples saw Jesus on Easter—what did he call their attention to?

   His wounds.  Look at my hands and feet.  Touch them.

   Look at my side where the spear pierced.  Touch it.

Why did Jesus still bear the marks of his suffering?

   If he had been raised and glorified, why weren’t those completely wiped away?

 

If he looked at his scars, wouldn’t that remind him of the cross?

   Wouldn’t his scars remind him of the betrayal, abuse, cruelty?

   Wouldn’t that detract from the joy of heaven?

 

Not at all.  In fact, the very opposite. 

   It is by seeing the marks of his suffering, that his joy is made greater.

   Jesus’ sufferings are part of who he is. 

   He will forever be the Lamb that was slain. 

They enhance his glory.

 

His wounds weren’t removed, they were swallowed up in victory.

   It’s going to be the very same way with your suffering.

   Paul says:  “We will bear the likeness of the man from heaven.”

   We are going to be like Jesus in his glory and in his scars.

 

The resurrection means that God is going to take your suffering—

   and he is not going to throw it away,

   or wipe away your memory of it—He’s going to glorify it.

That means that even the worst things you have suffered

   will end up making your joy and glory

   even greater than it would have been if you had never suffered.

Maybe you’ve experienced this on a small scale in daily life.

   Have you ever lost something really important, and then found it?

   Did you notice how losing made the finding that much sweeter?

Once on a hike when kids were little and we lost Eliza for about 10 minutes.

   When we found her, the finding was that much more intense

   because we had lost her.  We’ve never forgotten the relief.

 

The resurrection is a guarantee that your most intense suffering

   will be swallowed up in victory—even death.

Your scars will be like Jesus’ scars—trophies you look at

   that will intensify the joy of life with God.

 

That’s the way the early Christians could look at persecution and sing.

   Because the resurrection was so real to them,

   that they knew they would bear the likeness of Christ.

And that same faith will give you strength in your suffering.

 

Think of all the ways people try to wipe away their suffering.

   Some people turn to chemicals or obsession with work.

   Some people go through decades of psychoanalysis.

 

But no matter how hard you try to get rid of your pain,

   it’s always going to come back to you.

A person, or a conversation, or a memory is going to tear the wound open again.

   Because we live in a fallen world.

   And it is impossible to deaden or do away with all suffering.

 

The resurrection gives us a much better hope.

   Like Jesus, all our sufferings, even our death swallowed up one day,

   and making our future life and joy that much more intense. 

 

But there is a flip side to this.

If you have not put your trust in Jesus,

   then your sufferings will not be swallowed up in victory.

They will just be appetizers for hell.

 

Don’t let that happen.  This is Easter Sunday.

   If you haven’t trusted Jesus, open your heart to him.

Stingless death, swallowed suffering, and . . .
MP#3  A Spiritual Body

Jesus’ resurrection guarantees a spiritual body for everyone who trusts in him.

When a believer dies, his soul goes to heaven to be with the Lord,

   and his body is buried.  But that’s not the way it will be forever.

 

God created us with bodies—and that is how we are going to live forever.

   We are going to be like Jesus, with a resurrected body.

   It will be a body different in wonderful ways from the bodies we have now.

A spiritual body, Paul calls it. 

   A body without weaknesses and limitations, empowered by the Holy Spirit.

 

How can we understand this mystery?  Paul gives three illustrations.

He compares it to putting on new clothes.  Taking off old, putting on new.

   It’s taking off all weakness and decay, all sinful desires,

   and putting on power, purity, immortality.

 

Paul also compares this new body to sleeping and waking.

   Emphasis is that one day our bodies will be awakened.

When wake up from a long sleep, refreshed, new day is dawning.

   You get up and go out into a new world.

And a new earth is exactly the home that God is preparing—

   this world restored, for our use, and pleasure, and work.

 

Paul’s third illustration, his longest—compares this new body to a seed and plant.

   A seed is buried, it dies in a sense—out of that comes a plant

   that is much more glorious than the seed itself. 

 

I’ve said this before on Easter but whenever I read this I think of tomato seeds.

   You look at that little brown, fuzzy seed in March and it’s hard to believe

   that in late July you’ll be standing in hot, humid Alabama summer,

   looking at this green vine covered with tomatoes.

That’s just a little picture of how much greater our resurrection bodies

   will be from the bodies we have now.  These are just seeds of something great.

   Jesus’ resurrection is the guarantee.

 

This is such an amazing promise—hard to comprehend.

   New, glorified bodies, animated and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

   Living and working in a new earth, perfectly restored.

How does this future hope help us to face the lions and lumps?

Obviously, a great help when it comes to lumps specifically.

   All of us, sooner or later deal with the pain and decay of our bodies.

   And we watch the bodies of people we love falling apart.

Hurts because we love their bodies. 

   This is the hand that fed me, felt forehead when had fever, spanked me, held me.

   I love this hand, I don’t want this hand to get old, weak, cold, and dead.

What a great hope it is to know one day we will not just get well, be made new.

   All of our prayers for healing will be answered in amazing ways.

   Whenever you doubt that you can look at Jesus’ resurrection and know true.

 

But there is something deeper.

The resurrection of our bodies means that what we do with our bodies now matters.

   Yes, our bodies turn to dust.  Early Christians eaten and burned.

But there is a connection between what we do with these bodies—

   and the future bodies we will receive.

 

The more you use your mouth to bless—

   the more beautiful your mouth and voice will be.

The more you use your mind to think on what is true, noble, right, pure, excellent

   the sharper your resurrected mind will be.

The more you use your eyes to look at what is really beautiful—

   the sharper your sight will be.

The more you use your hands to perform the skills God has given you—

   the stronger and more skilled your glorified hands will be.

The more you use your feet to go where he wants you to go—

   the swifter your feet will be—you will walk on water as Jesus did.

And that’s a huge help when it comes to facing the lions and lumps.

   The way I live with this body has a bearing on my resurrected body.

 

But the supernatural body that Paul describes is only for believers.

If you don’t trust Jesus, you will be raised but not by the Holy Spirit within you—

   simply by the bare command of God

   calling you to step forward for judgment.

And you will suffer for your rebellion in the body in that terrible place

   where Jesus himself says that the worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.

 

If you have not put your faith in Jesus, asked him to save you—

   do not leave this morning before you do, too much at stake, too much to lose.


CONC:   In the early church, when Christians saw each other they didn’t say:

   “Hello.  How you doing?”

   Instead, they had a number of special greetings.

 

One greeting was:  “Grace and peace to you.”

   Paul’s salutation in some of his letters.

Other greetings prompted a particular reply.

   One Christian would say:  “The Lord be with you.” 

   And the Christian he was greeting would reply:  “And also with you.” 

 

The happiest of the early Christian greetings went like this.

   Two Christians would meet and one would say:  “Christ is risen.”

   The other would reply:  “He is risen indeed.”

This wasn’t a greeting used only at Easter, only in worship services—

   it was used throughout the year, even in private greetings.

   It was a special encouragement in the early centuries of persecution.

 

And it should be the same with us today.

Even if we don’t use the greeting.

   It is the resurrection of Jesus that gives us hope for the future,

   and enables us to face everything today.

Put your faith in the resurrected Savior.