One of the reasons I think Catholics, and not only Catholics but people of all Christian persuasions, as well as atheists, animists, New-agers, and other flavors of believer and non-believer alike, one of the reasons I think most of these people have a tepid, lukewarm, ineffective, or lackadaisical faith in Jesus Christ is that they have no idea; no comprehension; no understanding; of His resurrection.
Why do Christians get together every Sunday for Worship? Why do they get together on Easter Sunday? It’s your day off, right? Why blow a good Sunday when you can catch a football game or grab a couple extra hours sleep or catch up on some honeydo’s in the back yard?
They don’t gather together on Sunday because they have to… because they will score points and be a good little Catholic girl and boy, and be a good citizen. We gather together together because of the Gospel. They have the opportunity to worship our great God. They worship their God because of the Good News. It is the Good news that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead; That he was taken off the cross, put into a tomb where he rotted for three days then rose again in triumph, defeating sin and death, never again to suffer humiliation or defeat, never again to be nailed to the cross for the sin of the world. In his words: it is done! It is accomplished! It is finished! We celebrate, we worship, and we’re grateful for this glorious accomplishment.
Jesus Christ defeated death in no uncertain terms. We do not worship an empty tomb. We do not kneel to or revere a rock that was rolled away. Each Sunday we celebrate the fact that a three-day-old corpse, the unrecognizably beaten, bloodied, and hammered body of the final Passover sacrifice, our sacrifice, the sacrificial lamb of God who provided our access to eternity, to the Father, was raised from the dead, and walked out of there on his own two feet, shrugging off his burial clothes as if to say once again like he did on the cross, “it is done.” That’s why we worship on Sunday.
I’d like us to analyze First Corinthians Chapter 15. That’s in the New Testament, a little ways after the four Gospels. If you have a Bible or are on our website, www.thereformedcatholic.com, you can read along in the blog entry for this Podcast.
I want us to put on our thinking caps on for a few moments. And I know I’m asking a big thing of us because in this day and age we live in the world of media where we are instructed not to think. We are constantly amused. You know the root of amuse is ‘muse’ and to muse is to think: put an ‘a’ in front of it and it means ‘not’. Kinda like being “moral” means to have an internal compass telling you right from wrong and “Amoral” means not having a guide to right and wrong, to muse is to think, and to be amused is not to think. And right now, we need to muse over this: we need to think long and hard for just a few minutes on the foundation of what it means to be a Christian, how we can have confidence in our salvation: that we have the confidence that we’ll go to heaven should you get hit by a truck today, and the reason by which we can defend our faith and tell people why it is we believe what we believe.
Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthian church, who at the time was having a bit of a problem with false prophets: false teachers that were teaching that Christ was not way, or he was only part of the way; or that you had to do a few other things, like get circumcised or participate in secret rituals or get some secret knowledge in order to go to heaven but regardless of what the false teaching was, they were taking the Corinthian’s eyes off the simplicity and surety of the Gospel. That Christ, and only Christ, and nothing but your faith in Christ, will get you into heaven. Those were Christ’s words in John 14:6: He said:
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Before we read, though, Paul, using the vernacular of the day, and “vernacular” is just a big word that means ‘words’, using the words of the day Paul speaks to his Greek audience using Aristotelian logic, the logic of the local superhero of civilized thought: Aristotle, one of the great philosophers who developed the higher form of reasoning, argument, and debate of the day.
In other words, Paul talks to his audience in a way that they would respect and understand. Christ used examples such as shepherds, lambs, fish, seeds, and harvests, because the general professions at the time that he spoke to were fisherman, farmers, and shepherds. Paul is also preaching to a people who practically, as well as theologically, did not believe that it’s possible that people can be raised from the dead.
Before we go to the Scripture, it’s important to note that many of today’s skeptics include those who think that we are so sophisticated in our learning, we are so up to date in our understanding of science and technology, that with our God-like power we can create life in a test tube and destroy it with a vacuum tube; that we are so smart, that we in our sophisticated 21st-century know-how know we can’t take something that is dead and bring it to life… This is a news flash for some: Bringing the dead to life was just as “impossible” back then as it is today.
Today’s non-believers or scoffers think the faith of those that came before us was full of myths and superstition and ignorance, but these are the same people who built the Coliseum, the great aqueducts, and before that, the Pyramids, and the Great Wall. They were not ignorant fools who believed what you spoon-fed them.
Though they did not have Game-Boys, the Internet, nor the iPod (how’d they ever survive?) they did have high-technology and common sense, or as one of my wife’s MBA professors put it, ‘practical wisdom’. For we all know that ‘common sense’ is not all that common. Even this first century Jewish and pagan community knew it was impossible for the dead to rise. Even the apostle Thomas said “Get Real… I’ll believe it when I see Him with my own eyes and touch Him with my own hands.”
Now let’s get to Paul’s argument.
1 Corinthians 15:12-22 NASB (w. some paraphrase according to Anthony) Now if the Good News of Jesus Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there can be no resurrection of the dead? (13) If there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; (14) and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is useless, your faith also is worthless. (15) Moreover it would mean we are lying about God, because we proclaim that He raised Christ, … whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead cannot be raised. (16) For if the dead cannot be raised, not even Christ has conquered the grave; (17) and if Christ did not rise, his purpose: to save us from our sins and reconcile us to God was not accomplished and your faith is worthless; you are still accountable for your sins. (18) Then those also who have died believing in Christ have simply died with a false hope. (19) If our hope in Christ is just for this life only, a ‘feel good’ for today, we are men who ought most to be pitied.
Paul’s argument to the Corinthian skeptics of the early church are just as useful to us today. His argument in one sentence is “How can you have Christianity without the resurrection?” Paul reasons in verse 13 that if the dead cannot be raised, then Christ has not been raised. Then, if Christ has not been raised, all our work is an exercise in futility; we’re spinning our wheels; we’re wasting our time; and worse than that: your faith is worthless. You’re not going to heaven. You don’t have a redeemer. You, o sinful man, cannot face your Holy God. You do not have… atonement. You do not have… hope.
Like in many parts of the world today, it was dangerous to be a Christian back then, much less a preacher and teacher. Paul lived in continual danger every day, in the form of shipwrecks, riots, stonings, scourging. He died to himself every day in order that he live for Christ.
If there was no resurrection, we may as well follow the advice he gives us in verse 32: “If I fought these many dangers and there is no afterlife and resurrection, what have I gained?” I can imagine Paul saying, “Do you think I’m having fun?!?” He then quotes the prophet Isaiah: “If the dead will not be raised, then let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” If we are to have a short life, then let it be a merry one. In fact, that is the very thing the people in Noah’s time were doing as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew:
Matthew 24:38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark;
They had no idea what was coming.
Our faith, and our hope, relies on the fact that Christ rose, defeating death, paving the way for us to have everlasting life in communion with Him and God.
The world hates this message. The world abhors this message, it’s a noise in their ears and an affront to their sensibilities.
Not long ago James Cameron, filmmaker-turned-archaeologist claimed to have dug up the bones of Jesus. You know, a Muslim’s faith would not be threatened by the discovery of the bones of Mohammed. I do wonder, however, what the followers of “the religion of peace” would do if Mr. Cameron tried to take that on as a sequel. Buddhism was not shaken when the bones of the Buddha, were discovered in 1985. But, if we’ve invested our faith, our beliefs, our life’s purpose and eternal future, in a man whose bones were dug up by a Science Fiction filmmaker under an apartment in Jewish suburbia along with the bones of his Mother, his live-in girlfriend and his illegitimate child, the world needs to hear: “Please, don’t hate us Christians. Pity us. Pity us.”
If Christ was not raised, you’re still trapped in your sin. You’re in jail without bail. On Death Row! Our justification, our ability to stand before our Holy God, to Glorify Him by enjoying Him forever, righteous; sanctified; lies not in the cross, but in the Resurrection. The Resurrection is the acceptance of the atonement made on the cross; the atonement, the at-one-ment, the ability to be at one with God, to be reconciled to God, is a result of the Resurrection. The wages of sin: death; Our debt: paid in full.
Look at the rest of the world religions: none of them have atonement. There is no need for a resurrection. They hope in a future based on human works that we as sinful people cannot perform. Buddah is dead. Mohammed is dead. Joseph Smith is dead. But Christ lives!
Another news flash for some, is that the Bible, that collection of Scripture that is made up of sixty-six books written by forty-some people under the inspiration of our One God telling his one plan of redemption over a four-thousand some-odd year period is the most historically accurate piece of literature on the planet.
Now the Bible is not a science book. You’re not going to find in Scripture the design of the human eye, or how volcanoes work, or why the sky is blue or how birds and whales know how to migrate back and forth every year.
However, the Bible does display broad and accurate knowledge in every scientific field from cosmology, to biology, as well as scientific principles from the hydrologic cycle to the circulatory system.
The Bible, for all the controversy surrounding its authenticity and its veracity, its truth, is as I said an accurate recollection of History. We have the history of the creation of the universe. The universe was created when “God Said…” Did you ever notice the word universe? Uni-Verse, ‘one phrase’… “In the beginning God Said…” BANG!!!. That’s my big-bang theory!
The Bible then documents the history of early man: their fall from grace, their destruction save for a single family, the re-population of the world after the flood; the selection of the least significant of these people groups, Israel, from all the world’s peoples, the history of Israel, including all the good, the bad, and the very ugly. How that ugliness led to their downfall and captivity and destruction as well as the many nations, kingdoms and rulers, great and small, involved in all that conflict. This is historical record.
Then, after 400 years of silence God returns to complete history, His-story, with the birth of a baby that marks the beginning of the end of this wonderful tale of a God who would make himself known to his people and call them to Himself.
In the Gospels we have recorded for us under the influence of God the Holy Spirit the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We have accounts of the Herods and their kings. We have accounts of Census’ taking by the Romans. We have accounts of their leaders, such as Pontius Pilate, whose existence was questioned by critics until 1961 when records with his name began to surface on ancient inscriptions.
In the book of Acts we have what is regarded as the earliest recorded detailed accounts of maritime life penned by Luke, the physician, who was present on many of the Apostle Paul’s journeys. In fact, the anchors that were cut from Paul’s shipwrecked prison boat in Acts 27:29 are believed to have been found off the coast Malta in 2003, precisely where they would have been based on Luke’s detailed recordings. We have dozens of examples of this: The more we look: the more we find the Bible contains stunningly accurate historical records.
We also have historical record of the Resurrection of our Lord. Not a story; not a myth; but an eyewitness account. One that cannot be denied, and one that has never been repeated.
Critics forget, or intentionally omit, that Christ’s resurrection is not the first or only verifiable recording of the dead brought to life.
It is recorded in John 11 that Christ brought Lazarus from the grave, dead for four days, rotten, and stinking according to his sister, by simply uttering, “Lazarus, come forth”.
According to extra-Biblical narratives, Lazarus was thirty years old when this happened; and he lived another thirty years on Cyprus before he died. …Again… His grave in the city of Kition, has the inscription: “Lazarus the four days dead and friend of Christ.” Historical events… Historical record.
Mark tells us in Chapter 5 that Christ went to the home of a synagogue official to heal his at the time sick daughter. Apparently the people mocked him when he said the child had not died, but was asleep. “He’s dead you idiot… what are you going to do now? It’s too late… you had your chance and you blew it.” Again: Christ utters two words two words: Talitha kum: “Little girl, get up!”
In Matthew 10, we see Christ delegate his power and authority in verse eight to his apostles: “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.” How many were raised from the dead is not recorded but it created enough of a ruckus that …
John the Baptist heard of Jesus’ ministry while in prison and sent disciples to ask if he (Jesus) was the one that John had been preaching about. They reported back what they heard and what they saw: Matthew 11:5: “The blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.
As Christ and the disciples are approaching the gates of the city of Nain Luke tells in chapter 7 of a funeral procession: a widow had lost her only son. That’s a dark day for a woman in those times. She was basically putting her retirement plan in a box in a hole in the ground; the only hope of a somewhat comfortable ‘golden years’ lie in your male children, and here she is, her future lost.
Luke records in chapter seven:
Luk 7:13-15 When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, “Do not weep.” (14) And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise!” (15) The dead man sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother.
Can you imagine that happening here today? In your local cemetery? The local paper would have something to write about that week, wouldn’t they?
Eyewitness accounts of the impossible.
Now. Those were recorded in Jesus’ life. What about His death? What about his resurrection? On one side we have an empty tomb. After the Sabbath, several women went to the tomb to care for Christ’s corpse, to anoint it with spices. They got there, and nobody was there… nobody… no body. But it’s not the absence of a body that rocked the world and reset its calendar to April the eighth of … zero. It was the eyewitness of nearly 500 people over 40 days.
Even before that, at Christ’s death, Matthew tells us:
Matthew 27:51-54 NIV – At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. (52) The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. (53) They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. (54) When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”
I’m sure the Pharisees and Sadducees had a tough time trying to explain that one away during the following Sabbath sermon! Note the scripture says that “holy people who had died were raised to life.” It’s unclear whether these people are “the saints”, regular believers like you or me, or people in authority, like the Lord’s prophets.
It tickles me to think of the prophets of old who foresaw the coming of Christ, themselves martyred by the ancestors of those who killed their Christ all walking out of the cemetery, entering the city of Jerusalem, and ganging up on the crooked leadership at the temple, that “brood of vipers” as Christ called them, shaking their fingers at them saying “do you believe us now?!?!?”
Imagine walking through your local cemetery to visit a loved one that had passed away, and you see that there’s a hole in the ground and the body is gone! Like the women at Christ’s tomb you may first suspect foul play: “Oh no… someone’s taken Uncle Bill’s body… someone took Uncle Bill!!!” Then you get a tap on the shoulder, turn around and shout: “Uncle Bill!”
Undeniable evidence; documented evidence, enough proof to come to the conclusion in a court of law that resurrection is possible, and that only through one source: God in Flesh: our Jesus the Christ. We have numerous examples of this in the New Testament:
- Jesus appears to the women at the tomb as they cry thinking someone stole His body.
- Jesus appears incognito to two of his disciples on the road to Emmaus and disappears into thin air once they figure out who he is through his exposition of scripture and the sharing of a meal together. Jesus wasn’t a ghost: He physically ate with them.
- Jesus appears to the eleven disciples behind closed doors where they interacted with Him and ate a meal with Him.
- Jesus ate with the disciples on the beach at the Sea of Tiberius
- Jesus spoke to a crowd of five hundred (and that’s just the men!) on a mountain in Galilee where he preaches and gives the Great Commission. Paul describes in 1Cor 15:6 that “if you don’t believe me, go ask one of those who was there! Most of them are still alive and they’ll tell you what they saw!
- Finally, Christ appears to the Jewish terrorist and persecutor of His church: Saul, renaming him the Apostle Paul, to spread the Good News to the Gentile world, those not born into the Jewish bloodline – you and me.
John opens his Gospel account with:
1 John 1:1-4 NASB What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life– (2) and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us– (3) what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. (4) These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.
For those who doubt the Resurrection of Christ, they need to take into account that the evidence compiled documenting Christ’s life, death, and resurrection is greater than that proving the Greeks Plato or Homer ever lived. Those trying to take the Bible out of our children’s hands should first petition the removal of The Illiad and the Odyssey and The Republic from our libraries. Can’t prove they ever lived; why should we read a book that nobody wrote?
As I mentioned earlier Thomas needed proof: he said he needed to see it with his own eyes and touch Him with his own hands. You know, the Bible never says that Thomas touched him:
John 20:26-31 NASB Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” (29) Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” (30) Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; (31) but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.
Our faith is not a leap in the dark. It is a response to the revelation of light. Jesus, the true light, by coming into the world, enlightens every believer, and tells us that through Him we are the light of the world, and we are to let our light shine among men so they will not stumble in the darkness. That is the purpose of the Website and Podcast, TheReformedCatholic.com. That is your purpose, Dear Reader and Listener, if you have eyes to see and ears to hear
For those who believe in Jesus, the Christ; the Messiah; the savior that came to take away our sin and allow us to enter the holy presence of a glorious God, we, through the power of His Resurrection, shall not taste death. For believers, those in Christ, this broken and fallen world is the closest thing to Hell we will ever experience. For the unbeliever, the one who tries to work out their own salvation through their own works and not rely on the atonement of Christ: this world will be the closest thing to heaven they will ever taste.
We’re Christians. We have a simple message. We have a solid witness. Paul tells the Thessalonians
“Our appeal does not spring from error or impure motives. Nor are we trying to trick you. We are not looking for praise from men. But we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the Gospel of God but our lives as well, because you have become so dear to us. And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.”
The message we proclaim is precious: we have this treasure in clay jars. God uses us; imperfect people; ordinary people; to proclaim his extraordinary message and His insurmountable grace. And we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Christ is not on the cross; Christ is not in a tomb; Christ is not in the ground. Christ is Risen… Hallelujah!
He wanted me to make sure I told you that!
Amen, and amen!