Sermon for Easter Sunday based on I Corinthians 15:1-11 (14, 17-19)
Dear believers with the promise of the resurrection: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father, and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
All of Christianity depends on one single day. Really not even one single day, but rather one single event during that one day: the Resurrection of Jesus. The Apostle Paul writes in I Corinthians, “If Christ has not been raised [from the dead], then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain… And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (15:14, 17-19)
In other words, if Jesus was not raised from the dead then we are dead. Then we’ve got nothing. We’ve got no hope. We’ve got no future. The only thing that awaits us is eternal death.
If Jesus claimed to be God and then died and is gone, then he’s nobody. Despite whatever good things He might have said and done, He would be a fraud. He told His disciples many times that He would die and rise again, so if He did not rise, He would be a liar. If He said He was going to die for our sins but then never rose, we would have to conclude that He lost the battle with sin and the devil. We’d have to conclude that God the Father did not accept His death as payment for our sins. That’s why Christianity is dependent on the single event of the Resurrection.
“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead” (I Cor. 15:20). Our Epistle lesson says, “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures… he was buried… he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” And Jesus proved His resurrection by showing Himself to Peter. Then to the Twelve (eleven). Then He appeared to more than 500 at one time. He appeared to James. He appeared to Paul. He appeared to Mary Magdalene (Jn 20:11-18). He appeared to the two on the road to Emmaus and to those gathered in Emmaus (Lk 24:13-35). And Jesus proved Himself not to be some ghost or apparition by telling them to look at His pierced hands and feet and touch Him and see that He is real (Lk 24:39; Jn 20:27). He ate in front of them (Lk 24:42; Jn 21:9-14). He performed miracles in front of them (Jn 20:6). Jesus proved that He had been physically raised from the dead.
And Jesus’ Resurrection changed the disciples. Before the Resurrection, the disciples had fled when Jesus was arrested. They were in hiding behind locked doors after His death. They were exactly at the point we would be if there was no Resurrection. They were thinking that their faith in Jesus had been in vain. They thought they had it all wrong. They had hoped Jesus would save them, but now He was dead (cf. Lk 24:21). Jesus was dead. They had no hope. They had no future. Jesus must have been a fraud. Jesus must have been a liar. And now the disciples were afraid that they would be put to death just like Jesus had been put to death.
Between Jesus death and resurrection, no one believed in Him. No one single person believed in Him. The religious leaders had Him killed. The crowd had shouted, “Crucify Him!” The disciples fled and met in hiding to figure out what to do next. The women bought spices to anoint His corpse. No one believed in Jesus. But that didn’t stop Him from dying for them and rising from the dead. In spite of their unbelief, Jesus died and rose again. Then He showed Himself to them and proved that He had done exactly what He said He would do.
So the resurrection changed the disciples. All of a sudden, they came out of hiding. They openly proclaimed Christ in Jerusalem in the power of the Holy Spirit received at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13). They were no longer afraid of death. Even upon arrest and being told to stop talking about Jesus by the same council that found Jesus guilty, they said, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
So also the resurrection changes us. We also have no need to hide our faith. We also do not need to fear death. Baptized into Jesus, we have the promise that just as He was raised from the dead, so we will also be raised (Rom. 6:5).
So we ask: “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (I Cor. 15:55) Death, you have nothing on us. You think your victory is in the morgue? You think your sting is in the cemetery? Death, do you think your victory is in the cancer ward or in palliative care; in terrorist strikes or on the battlefield? There is no victory for death. There’s no sting in death because the grave cannot hold us. The grave cannot hold us any more than it held Jesus.
The tomb couldn’t hold Jesus. The heavy rock rolled in front of the entrance didn’t stop Jesus from rising. The Roman seal on the stone that threatened execution to whoever broke it could stop nothing. The Roman guard keeping watch couldn’t secure Jesus’ body in the grave. Death did its worst, but Jesus rose triumphantly.
So also the grave will not hold us. Dirt will not keep us from rising. Even a heavy stone and a guard of soldiers cannot keep us in the grave. So we need to fear death as little as our bed. The grave is nothing more than a resting place for our bodies until the day of our resurrection.
Jesus’ resurrection has changed everything for us. It compels us to hold fast to the preached Word of God and His Sacraments. It compels us to regularly receive God’s gifts that He gives here in the Divine Service lest we fall away from the faith and have thus believed in vain. The resurrection compels us not to live in doubt or fear, or live in sin following our sinful desires. It compels us to live in hope – sure and certain hope in the promises of God. We will be raised as Jesus was raised. Our sins will not be charged against us because they were charged against Jesus and He died for them on the cross. Through Baptism, His death is our death and His resurrection is our resurrection.
Jesus claimed to be God and then died and rose, so we know that He is God. He told His disciples many times that He would die and rise again, and He did as He promised so we know that everything that He said is true. Jesus said He was going to die for our sins and rise from the dead, so His resurrection proves that He won the battle with sin and the devil. It proves that God the Father accepted His death as payment for our sins. That’s why the single event of the Resurrection proves that Christianity is true.
Since Jesus was raised from the dead we will be raised from the dead. Because of His resurrection, we’ve got everything. We’ve got hope. We’ve got a future. We’ve got the forgiveness of our sins. The only thing that awaits us is eternal life. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.