Sermon, Easter Dawn 2013. 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
St. Peter Lutheran Church
1 Corinthians 15:1-11 (St. John 20:1-18)
March 31, 2013
Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
The Corinthian church was a church with a lot of problems. Problems in the church are always traceable back to one source, which is the doctrine of justification.
The doctrine of justification is tied inseparably to the death and resurrection of Jesus. Paul says in Romans 4: “Christ was delivered over to death on account of our sins, and raised on account of our justification.”
But there were people in Corinth who were saying: “There is no resurrection from the dead. The dead bodies of Christians and others will not rise again on the last day.” But Paul points out in this chapter—if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Jesus was not raised from the dead either. Because Jesus was and is a human being, of the same flesh and blood as us. It is because He rose from the dead that the rest of humanity will also rise.
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the Gospel I preached to you…Paul does not call the Corinthians unbelievers and pagans, even though this was a major error. He calls them brothers. In fact, their mistake about the resurrection had led to other ones. They tolerated gross sexual immorality because they believed that salvation was a purely spiritual thing and had nothing to do with the body. The body is just going to rot in the earth, after all, they thought. It’s not you. So it doesn’t matter what you do with it.
Their error regarding the resurrection led to misuse of the Sacrament of the Altar. They were not able to discern the Lord’s body. They did not realize what they were receiving and so acted proudly and made distinctions among themselves at the Lord’s supper. They also didn’t recognize one another as members of the same body, the body of Christ, which they all ate. They didn’t grasp that they were members of Christ’s body and as one body were reconciled to God.
But Paul doesn’t call them pagans or treat them like pagans. He reminds them of the Gospel He preached to them.
I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.
Why is it of first importance that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, was buried, and was raised the third day?
First of all, Jesus’ resurrection is God’s testimony that He is the Son of God. It was not a mere human being who died in humiliation on the cross, but the Son of God. Since God the Son endured death we can be sure that His death was no mere human death. It was the suffering of God. It was not a trifling thing. It is of unspeakable power and importance for those who are subject to death.
Secondly, Jesus’ resurrection shows that His doctrine is the truth. When the Jews asked for Jesus’ qualifications when He threw the money changers out of the temple, he said, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” The temple He was speaking of was His body. When adversaries asked for a sign, Jesus told them that a wicked and adulterous generation would receive no sign except the sign of Jonah—who was in the belly of the fish for three days, then belched onto the shore. So the son of man would be laid in the belly of the earth three days and then be given up into life. That was the proof that all He taught was true.
Third, Jesus’ resurrection is the proof that God has accepted the suffering of His Son as a ransom and payment for sinners, to blot out their sins and receive them as sons and heirs. When Jesus was on the cross, God imputed all your sins to Jesus, along with the sins of the whole world. He poured out His wrath against sin on Jesus. And when Jesus was raised, it was God’s announcement that He has put away sin forever, and along with it, death. The preaching of Jesus’ resurrection is the preaching of our justification. God counts us righteous. Every sinner longing for righteousness and salvation God wants to hear—Christ is risen! He will never die again. Death no longer has dominion over Him. And since He died for your sins, it means that they are gone forever.
Fourth, Jesus’ resurrection is God’s comfort that we will be raised from the dead. Our souls will not just go to heaven when we die. But these bodies which are subject to death and corrupted by sin will be raised from the dead. They will be incorruptible and will share in the glory of the Lord.
Jesus took human flesh and died because He made Himself one body with us. His resurrection is the resurrection and forgiveness of all of us. We are members of His body. We die with Him; we must surely rise with Him. We were baptized into Him who died and rose. Today we eat His body crucified for our sins and drink His blood which poured out for us—we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bone.
Therefore, holding fast this word Paul preached to us, we also will die with Him and rise with Him.
Holding it fast because the Gospel proclaims that what has happened to Christ has already happened to us in Him.
That means you must not be frightened at the terrifying appearance of death when it visits us.
When we see the horror of sin and death and feel its power and despair, that is not the end. Most of the time we don’t take seriously the wickedness of sin, our helplessness in it, God’s wrath against it. When it visits you, you get a taste of what it really means to be a sinner, subject to death, and an enemy of God.
But it is not the final word. We must move past what we see and feel and hold fast the Word that Paul preached to us. Death is not the victor. Death is shattered, defeated, trampled, and destroyed. Jesus tasted death for us. Now He is risen.
The joyful mystery is, so are we.
Peter and John stood and stared at the linens and the napkins where Jesus used to be. And Mary kept weeping. But Jesus was there talking to her. She thought He was the gardner. Adam was a gardener.
This is the new gardener, the new Adam. On His heel are the holes where the serpent bit him. In his hands are the holes where the nails were.
Under his heel is the broken head of the serpent. We don’t recognize Him with our eyes but by His voice, which speaks to you as His brothers and says “I go to my Father and your Father, to my God and to your God.”