No Christianity without Jesus’ resurrection
On Sunday, churches throughout the West celebrated Easter. For those of the Eastern Orthodox tradition, it will be celebrated next Sunday. While for many the focus of Easter celebrations is more on egg hunts and time with family and friends, the focus for Christians is on the resurrection of Jesus and what that means for each of us.
What remains a mystery to me is how so many can claim to be Christians and observe the Easter celebration and yet not believe in the historical resurrection of Jesus.
The bodily resurrection of Jesus is so central to the Christian Faith that there really could not even be a Christian Faith if Jesus did not rise from the dead. Without the resurrection of Jesus – who was crucified and suffered and died for the sins of all the world – there would be no reason to celebrate, no acquittal of sinners, no pardon, no forgiveness from God!
The Apostle Paul wrote of this to the believers in the Greek city of Corinth: “For if Christ was not raised, your faith is futile, you are still in your sins, and then those who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost” (1 Cor. 15:17-18).
Everything hinges on the factualness of the resurrection of Jesus. That is also why the Apostle not only told the believers in Corinth that Christ truly did rise from the dead; he provided them with a long list of eyewitnesses who had seen the risen Christ to prove Jesus’ resurrection was a historical fact.
He wrote, “For I delivered to you at the first what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again thethird day, according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4). He then went on to list those who had seen Jesus alive. There was Peter, the 12 apostles, more than 500 brothers at one time (and most were still alive at the time of Paul’s writing if any had questions or doubts about the resurrection). There were James, all the apostles again, and, lastly, Paul himself.
Because Jesus did rise from the dead, Christians are assured of forgiveness and life in His name.
Paul wrote to the believers at Rome, saying that Jesus “was delivered on account of our sins and was raised on account of our justification” (Rom. 4:25). The sins of the world were laid upon Jesus, and He was punished in the stead of mankind. His resurrection means that indeed full atonement was made. God accepted the sacrifice of His Son. For Jesus’ sake, the sins of all are paid for in full and pardoned by God!
He wrote to the Christians in the Greek city of Thessalonica: “If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, those also who have fallen asleep through Jesus God will bring with Him” (1 Thess. 4:14). And he goes on to describe how, when Jesus returns, the dead in Christ will be raised up first, and then we believers who are alive and remain will be caught up in the clouds to meet our Lord Jesus in the air to be forever with the Lord.
Now I wonder what those celebrate who do not believe the eye-witnessed accounts of Jesus’resurrection? What hope could they possibly have? They have no guarantee of forgiveness from God. They remain dead in their sins. They have no reason to believe that they will ever be raised up from the dead to enjoy the everlasting joys of heaven because, if Christ did not rise, how could they ever hope to be raised up? If they claim to be Christian but do not hold to the historical resurrection of Jesus, they are, as Paul said, “of all men, the most miserable” (1 Cor. 15:19).
[Scriptures in this article translated by author directly from the Greek Received Text.]
“And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” Matthew 28:5-6
If you were looking for a loved one who had died and was buried, where would you look? Wouldn’t you go to the cemetery and to the grave site? I believe most of us, at least at times, visit the graves of much-loved family members and friends.
Where would you have gone to find Jesus on that first Sunday morning after His crucifixion and burial? Wouldn’t you, like the women who followed Jesus, have gone to His tomb, expecting to find His body there? Yet, we see from the Scriptures that the tomb was the wrong place to look for Jesus – we would not have found Him there!
When the women went to the tomb on the third day, that first Sunday morning following Jesus’ death and burial, they did not find the body of Jesus laying in the tomb (Matthew 28:1ff.; Mark16:1ff.; Luke 23:55ff.). Instead, they saw an angel of God who told them, “Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” Jesus was not found in the tomb, because He had risen “as He said” (cf. Matthew 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:17-19). There had been “a great earthquake; for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door” of the tomb, showing to all the world that the tomb was empty – that Jesus Christ had risen from the dead (Matthew 28:2).
Where can we find Jesus? If we travel to Jerusalem, to the tomb site, as many do at this time of year, we will not find Jesus; for He is not there! He is not in the grave, as some would have us believe (vv. 11-15)! He is risen as He said, and the tomb is empty!
And so, where can we find Jesus? We know and believe that He has risen and is alive, and that He has paid in full for all our sins and is ascended to the right hand of God the Father, where He intercedes for us and prepares a place for us to be with Him forever (cf. Romans 8:34; 1 John 2:1-2; John 14:1-3). We know that He rules and fills all things and is with us always to the end of this world (cf. Ephesians 1:20-23; Matthew 28:20). We know that He dwells in our hearts by His Holy Spirit (John 14:23ff.; 16:7ff.). And, we know that He will come again to raise up the dead and to take all who have placed their hope in Him to be with Him forever in heaven (cf. Hebrews 9:24-28; John 5:28-29; 6:39-40; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 20:11- 21:8; 1 Peter 1:3-5)!
Where can we find Jesus? Not among the dead, but among the living! And, we look for Him to appear in clouds of glory at any moment! This same Jesus who “loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood … cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him” (Revelation 1:5, 7; cf. Acts 1:11). Don’t look for Him in the tombs. Instead, keep looking up!
O Dear Lord Jesus, grant that we not look for You among the dead, but among the living, and trust that, as You have died for our sins and are risen again, we have forgiveness for all sins and shall also rise to dwell with You in the eternal mansions of heaven. Amen.
“And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?” Luke 24:30-32 Read Luke 24:13-43
Not desiring that these two disciples go away in unbelief and filled with doubts over what had occurred in Jerusalem and the accounts they had heard of His resurrection, Jesus joined them on the road to Emmaus that first Easter eve and showed them from the Old Testament Scriptures that it was indeed necessary for the Messiah to suffer and die for the sins of all the world and to rise again on the third day.
Their hearts burned within them as Jesus taught them from the Word of God and opened up to them the Scriptures. And, as we read, in the breaking of bread, their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus, alive from the dead.
Jesus does not want us to go away from hearing again the events of that first resurrection Sunday without faith. He doesn’t want us to leave perplexed or troubled by doubts and fears over what happened and what it means to us, and so, by His Holy Spirit, He comes to us and shows us from His Word that it truly was necessary for Him to suffer and die upon the cross and be forsaken and condemned of His own Father on account of our sins. He opens up the Scriptures to us and shows us that He was to die for the sins of the world and rise again on the third day (cf. Isa. 53) that we and all sinners might have God’s pardon and forgiveness and through faith in Christ’s shed blood receive life everlasting.
And though we may not yet see with our eyes His bodily presence with us, Jesus reveals Himself to us as our crucified and risen Savior through the Scriptures. He opens to us the divine Word that we might see Him and know and trust in His great love and mercy toward us.
And do not our hearts burn within us as we hear the Word of our God and Savior? Through the Scriptures, He reveals and makes known to us that indeed “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures … He was buried … and He rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3,4). He makes known to us that “He [God the Father] hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:6,7).
Dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, grant that we not come away from the hearing of Your innocent sufferings and death upon the cross, and of Your glorious resurrection, troubled by doubts and fears. Come to us by Your Holy Spirit and open up the Scriptures to us that we may come to see You and know and believe that in You we have forgiveness for all our sins and life everlasting. Amen.
If Christ Be Not Raised….
“And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.” 1 Corinthians 15:17-20
Today, we as Christians celebrate the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave after His crucifixion and brutal death upon a Roman cross just days before.
But not all believe in the resurrection. Even among so called “Christians” there are some who question and deny the bodily resurrection of Jesus and treat the whole issue of Jesus’ bodily resurrection as an insignificant matter, speaking only of a spiritual resurrection in which Jesus’ followers carry on His work by showing love and doing charitable works for the good of all mankind.
But is the historical fact of Jesus’ resurrection really important? Does our faith really depend upon it? I invite you to listen to the inspired Word of God penned by the hand of the Apostle Paul and consider the hypothetical question: What “if Christ be not raised”?
“And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”
What does the Word of God say? If Jesus did not truly rise from the dead, our faith is vain, empty and useless! If Jesus is not alive, you and I are still dead in our sins and have no hope of forgiveness and life everlasting. If Jesus’ body is still moldering or decaying in some ancient tomb near Jerusalem, all those who died trusting in Jesus Christ – from Adam and Eve, Abraham and David to our very own loved ones who fell asleep in the confidences that Jesus would raise them up are lost forever.
And if our faith and hope in Christ Jesus is only of benefit in this life – a crutch or security blanket to help us cope with life’s problems – we are, as St. Paul writes, “of all men most miserable.”
Think of the Apostle Paul and the other disciples of Jesus who suffered the loss of all things and were persecuted and even killed because of their faith in the crucified and risen Christ. If Christ did not rise, what a waste the lives of his followers were! And what about you and me? If Christ be not raised, all our time and effort put into serving Christ and spreading His kingdom would have been a sham, a deception and a complete waste of our time and resources.
If Jesus were not raised, we would have nothing to celebrate today, no reason to be here on Sunday mornings and no hope for tomorrow! Without the bodily resurrection of Jesus, there can be no Christianity, no Church, no kingdom of God!
But Jesus did rise bodily from the grave! The tomb was empty. Angels announced His resurrection, and Jesus Himself appeared to His disciples showing Himself to be risen and alive by many infallible proofs over a period of 40 days (cf. Acts 1:3). Jesus appeared to the women, to the twelve apostles and to many other of His disciples on numerous occasions.
The apostle sums up Jesus’ resurrection appearances in this way: “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time” (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).
You see, if anyone during the First Century had questions or doubts about Jesus’ resurrection, there was no shortage of eyewitnesses to His resurrection appearances. He even appeared to more than 500 disciples at once, and most of them were still alive if anyone wanted to talk to them and hear their eyewitness accounts. The Apostle Paul includes himself in the list of witnesses because of the risen Christ’s appearances to Him.
The Jewish rulers who tried to cover up the fact of Jesus’ resurrection by bribing the soldiers to say Jesus’ disciples stole the body while they were asleep – in itself, a foolish story – could have put an end to all question if they had just produced the body, but they didn’t and they couldn’t because there was not body to be found – they knew the tomb was empty! And, if such a story were true, why would Jesus’ disciples give up everything, including their lives, to promote a lie? They wouldn’t have; but they did give up all, they did suffer painful and torturous deaths for one reason: Jesus did rise, as He said.
And what does the historical fact of Jesus’ resurrection mean for us today? It means our faith is not empty or vain. Jesus did indeed pay in full the just punishment for the sins of the whole world, for God raised Him up on the third day (cf. Romans 4:25). We, by the grace of God, are not still dead in our sins. Your sins and my sins are paid for in full and forgiven because of Christ’s perfect sacrifice.
It means that we too will be raised up, Christ, the first fruits, and we also when He returns. As Jesus said, “Because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:19).
It means those who have fallen asleep before us, trusting in the Lord Jesus, have not perished. They are not lost forever. Rather, those who “sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him” on the Last Day (1 Thess. 4:13-18).
Yes, it’s true. Everything depends on the resurrection of Jesus. If Jesus did not rise, all is lost, no one can be saved. But Jesus did rise! And, because he died for all our sins and rose again in victory, we have forgiveness for all sins and the assurance that we shall be raised up to be with Him forever in paradise!
Dearest Lord Jesus, we give You thanks and praise for Your bitter sufferings and death in our stead, and for Your glorious resurrection on the third day, that we might be assured of our salvation and await Your return in the sure hope of life everlasting, Graciously keep us unto that Day. Amen.
From the Lutheran Confessions
The Smalcald Articles
THE THIRD PART OF THE ARTICLES
Part III, Article IV. Of the Gospel.
We will now return to the Gospel, which not merely in one way gives us counsel and aid against sin; for God is superabundantly rich [and liberal] in His grace [and goodness]. First, through the spoken Word by which the forgiveness of sins is preached [He commands to be preached] in the whole world; which is the peculiar office of the Gospel. Secondly, through Baptism. Thirdly, through the holy Sacrament of the Altar. Fourthly, through the power of the keys, and also through the mutual conversation and consolation of brethren, Matt. 18:20: Where two or three are gathered together, etc.
Part III, Article V. Of Baptism.
1] Baptism is nothing else than the Word of God in the water, commanded by His institution, or, as Paul says, a washing in the Word; as also Augustine says: Let the Word come to the element, and it becomes a Sacrament. 2] And for this reason we do not hold with Thomas and the monastic preachers [or Dominicans] who forget the Word (God’s institution) and say that God has imparted to the water a spiritual power, which through the water washes away sin. 3] Nor [do we agree] with Scotus and the Barefooted monks [Minorites or Franciscan monks], who teach that, by the assistance of the divine will, Baptism washes away sins, and that this ablution occurs only through the will of God, and by no means through the Word or water.
4] Of the baptism of children we hold that children ought to be baptized. For they belong to the promised redemption made through Christ, and the Church should administer it [Baptism and the announcement of that promise] to them.
Part III, Article VI. Of the Sacrament of the Altar.
1] Of the Sacrament of the Altar we hold that bread and wine in the Supper are the true body and blood of Christ, and are given and received not only by the godly, but also by wicked Christians.
2] And that not only one form is to be given. [For] we do not need that high art [specious wisdom] which is to teach us that under the one form there is as much as under both, as the sophists and the Council of Constance teach. 3] For even if it were true that there is as much under one as under both, yet the one form only is not the entire ordinance and institution [made] ordained and commanded by Christ. 4] And we especially condemn and in God’s name execrate those who not only omit both forms but also quite autocratically [tyrannically] prohibit, condemn, and blaspheme them as heresy, and so exalt themselves against and above Christ, our Lord and God [opposing and placing themselves ahead of Christ], etc.
5] As regards transubstantiation, we care nothing about the sophistical subtlety by which they teach that bread and wine leave or lose their own natural substance, and that there remain only the appearance and color of bread, and not true bread. For it is in perfect agreement with Holy Scriptures that there is, and remains, bread, as Paul himself calls it, 1 Cor. 10:16: The bread which we break. And 1 Cor. 11:28: Let him so eat of that bread.
Bible Study in Preparation for Sunday
Scripture Readings for Sunday are: Psalm 148; Acts 4:32-35; 1 John 1:1 – 2:2; and John 20:19-31. Please read them in their context as you prepare for worship on Sunday.
The Sunday Adult Bible Class will continue its study of the book of Hebrews, in chapter eight, verse 8ff.
Remember to Pray
Remember to pray for our church and for all our members, that none be lost to Christ’s kingdom but that all continue in repentance and be strengthened and built up in the true and saving faith in Christ Jesus through the hearing and study of His Word. We continue to pray for all who have been sick or who are suffering among us – for Dixie Grant, Dawn Hiebert,Sam Rusch, Bonnie Hawes, Mel Boren and Pastor Moll; for those who have been absent from us, for our extended families and for believers who are alone and have no congregation. Continue to pray for Lutheran congregations and believers around the world who are persecuted or suffering for their faith in Christ Jesus.
Events and Announcements
Information for bulletins or newsletters may be sent to Pastor Moll by calling him at 479-233-0081 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]