The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.
1 Corinthians 15:19-26
The Resurrection of Our Lord: Easter Day
08 April 2007
Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Morrill, Nebraska
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
Christopher Idle (LSB 486) writes: If Christ had not been raised from death Our faith would be in vain. Our preaching but a waste of breath, Our sin and guilt remain. But now the Lord is ris’n indeed; He rules in earth and heav’n: His Gospel meets a world of need—In Christ we are forgiv’n.
If Christ still lay within the tomb Then death would be the end, And we should face our final doom With neither guide nor friend. But now the Savior is raised up, So when a Christian dies We mourn, yet look to God in hope—in Christ the saints arise!
If Christ had not been truly raised His Church would live a lie; His name should nevermore be praised, His words deserve to die. But now our great Redeemer lives; Through Him we are restored; His Word endures, His Church revives In Christ, our risen Lord.
Each stanza of the hymn 486 proclaims the “If” and the “But” of the 1 Corinthians 15. The “If” is discussed for the sake of argument. And then we hear the truth. Each stanza ends with the facts of Scripture and faith: Jesus physically rose from the dead, leaving nothing but an empty shroud behind. We are comforted with forgiveness, the fact of our own future resurrection, and the forever-enduring Word of the Lord.
Using “If” can like building a house of cards. Once you get the first couple of cards to stand on their own, you gain confidence. Then comes the challenge of the second level. By the third story, one begins to wonder if the table is steady enough. If you make it to the fourth, your hands are likely shaking because of the excitement. And then…one false move and the whole house comes tumbling down and the cards are as flat as when you began. “If” can also provide suspenseful, exciting, and controversial television. We must remember the house of cards as we consider the annual attacks on Jesus, both who He is and what He has done for us.
In recent years we heard about the so-called “Jesus Family Tomb,” “The Da Vinci Code” and the so-called “Gospel of Judas.” I wonder what our old evil foe will come up with in the future to create doubt in the Biblical reality of who Jesus is and what Jesus has done for you.
This morning, we have one more “If” to consider: 19If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
This is the “If” of no hope, the “If” of no life after death, the “If” of “let us eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.” But we know differently, because St. Paul informs us of the Lord’s promise: 20But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
We know about Adam and Eve and how they disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit. Their sin had a consequence: the wages of sin is death. All of their children inherit “original sin.” The curse of death spreads. Death is a physical and spiritual problem, needing both physical and spiritual solutions.
Christ, the solution to physical death and spiritual death, was promised all the way back in Genesis 3:15. The Lord promised hope even as He gave out the wages of sin. Your Lord cares for you body and soul until life everlasting. If God only cared about the soul, why would He provide daily bread? Why would he give you everything you need to support this body and life? Why would he care about your body, your hurts, pain, and diseases? If God only cared about saving souls, why would Jesus need to be born, suffer, die, or rise physically from the dead? If God only cared about souls, why would He promise that you would rise?
Of course the Lord cares for you soul and body! He created you, He sustains you, and He will raise you on the Last Day. Those who believe in Christ will be raised to Life Everlasting. Those who did not confess Jesus in this life will be raised, but will spend eternity with body and soul in hell. That is not a pleasant thought, but it is true. The Church therefore cares about more than just winning souls. We care about more than numbers. We preach Christ crucified and risen. We are gathered by the Lord around His Gifts where He gives us the forgiveness, life, and salvation Christ won by His sacrifice on Good Friday. The empty tomb on Easter proves God accepted that once for all sacrifice. In addition, the Church has been responsible for human care needs throughout history. Christians founded hospitals, universities, and homes for orphans. Christians have provided food, clothing, and have visited the sick and imprisoned. Christians have cherished life and supported adoption. Luther himself encouraged his government leaders to provide universal free Christian education. We are given to care for body and soul. We gladly tell the Good News about Jesus. We invite others to church, Bible Class, Sunday School, and VBS. And as we have been given to by the Lord, we generously give firstfruits from what the Lord has given.
As Christians, we may fear dying, but we need not fear death. In baptism, we got death over with! St. Paul writes in Romans, chapter six: “We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Romans 6:4)
Death came through Adam. Life comes through Jesus Christ, the firstfruits. Because Jesus is the firstfruits, we know there will be other fruits in this harvest: us. On the Last Day He will raise you and all the dead, and give eternal life to all believers in Christ. Holy Baptism [means] that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.
After a visit to the Holy Land, pastor wrote the following about his trip: ….We visited three important tombs in a single day. The first tomb was that of King David. The area was crowded with Jewish pilgrims. Many were weeping and wailing over what supposedly are the remains of the one they consider the most important king of Israel. This tomb is occupied. [David is there.]
Next we visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. This is believed to be the place where Jesus’ lifeless body was laid. Of course, this tomb is empty. Instead of weeping and wailing, the Christians at this site sang joyful hymns of praise.
The professor continues: The third tomb we visited was the first tomb of Lazarus. This tomb was also empty because Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead.
Our visits to these tombs left a deep impression on me, [he says]. In visiting the tomb of David, I observed the Jewish people grieving over [a] great leader of their religion. But his tomb remains occupied. My thoughts went to other founders of different religions, such as Muhammad. Their tombs remain occupied. They remain dead.
However, Jesus Christ has an empty tomb! Of all the leaders of the world’s religions, Christ alone has risen from the grave. More than that, he has the power to raise others from death as well. That’s why Lazarus’ tomb is empty. Christ alone has conquered death. And He has done this not only for Himself, but also for [you]! What difference does Jesus’ empty tomb make? Slow: [No more “If”!] Our tombs will one day be empty too! (CPR, David Peter)
Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.