As the church enters into the fullness and richness of the Easter Season with our celebrations of Ascension and Pentecost, it might be worth our pausing for a second and taking a deep breath by reflecting on St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 15. It is a doozy. I would love to walk and talk with you through the entire chapter, verse by verse, and word by word, but suffice it to say, this is a blog and it somewhat limits my getting carried away.
So, focus for a moment on St. Paul’s question: “how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead?” I refer to it as an eternal question obviously, because this is the 21st century and there are those who are still butting up against the question.
In some respects, Corinth and the culture of Greece was no different from our day as we live in a pretty immoral and crazy time especially when it comes to sex—don’t forget Aphrodite. Our age is now predominantly secular which reminds us of another great story (Acts 17) when Paul was summoned in Athens for a life-or-death trial on the resurrection—don’t forget Socrates.
Within this context we are aware today of the many academic and scientific worlds who see the universe only as closed which makes no room for miracles, revelation, or the supernatural. Although revelation was once a way of informing reason, it now is simply reason alone which tends to place limits, boundaries, and a ceiling on those areas of life that are seemingly unexplainable—such as, faith, life after death, heaven and the resurrection.
Start with the resurrection. In a material, rational world such as ours the idea of a resurrection is beyond grasp for many. So, it was in Greece. Yet, Paul writes, “How are the dead raised? What kind of body do they come? Fool!” (1Corinthians 15:35-36) Paul doesn’t hold back. As he discusses seed and flesh and heavenly bodies and earthly bodies his point is simply the human body is physical, limited, and mortal. The resurrection of Jesus opens the tomb of darkness, death and sin where light, glory and revelation of a new life appears. I would say it is that simple but this is God’s work and it is profound. Faith and trust in God is required. We weren’t born into this world because we asked for it, or it was reasonable, but we are here as a miracle, a sign, an example of God’s willingness to be with us on this side of heaven.
Now watch…God is here on earth and his mighty work in the resurrection of Jesus is telling. It says our mortal bodies are for life here on earth. But the resurrection of the dead provides us with a body appropriate for life eternal. That is for the dead. What about the living?
Here again, the resurrection speaks loud and clear. What we find inside the empty tomb is what we worry about—darkness, sin, and death. Outside the tomb on Easter stands Jesus—light, glory, and life. Get it? Easter is the difference between night and day. The resurrection is what our life is all about.
This is why Paul raises the question. He questions us to open our eyes. Look in the mirror. We who believe in Christ are outside of the tomb and we are alive in Christ. How can you say there is no resurrection of the dead? We are the living proof of life with God—forever.