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  Resurrection - Past, Present and Future - by Guerin Tueno 1 Cor 15


  Where were you on the 15th of June in 99? I was at the Intensive Care Unit in St Vincent's Hospital. I was there to see my friend Janet. I was there to say good-bye to her.
  She'd suffered bad asthma all her 23 years, and the last attack she had caused her heart to stop. The heart attack left her with brain damage. She was brain dead. I sat by her bed. I prayed over her. I read parts of the Bible to her. Then I ran my fingers through her hair. Kissed her on the forehead. And said good-bye.
  I don't think I've felt smaller, or more insignificant than that day. Knowing the power of death, and my powerlessness before it.
   One of the passages I read when I sat with Janet was 1 Corinthians 15. The passage we've just heard read out for us. This is one of the most significant chapters in the Bible – it deals not simply with death, but the final, total and absolute victory of God. Christianity is good news, because Jesus has beaten death.
   And if you're a Christian, then you share in the defeat of death too. Resurrection isn't simply a coming back to life. Back to what we were before. Resurrection isn't a U-Turn from Death. It is far more than Resuscitation. Far more. Its about breaking through Death. A new creation.
   In Romans 6:9 Paul says about the Resurrected Jesus, that he can never die again. Death no longer has a hold of him. That's hard for us to get our heads around. But it wasn't any less hard for the first Christians.
   Like so many other things in his letter to Corinth, Paul discusses the resurrection, because some of the Corinthians have got it wrong. Some of them are denying the resurrection. They're saying dead people don't come back. If you've been paying attention to the media in recent times, you'll know that this is still a current topic. Bishop John Spong in America, and our own Primate of the Anglican Church in Australia, Peter Carnley, have both denied the Resurrection. Arguing against its reality. Against it actually happening.
   Well in passage, Paul is drawing a line in the sand. He's taking his stand on the Resurrection. And he's writing to tell the Corinthians, and us to do the same. To take our stand upon the resurrection.
   Paul's first reason to do so, is because Jesus really did rise from the dead.
   Take your stand upon the Resurrection because Jesus really was raised.
   Lets look at v1-11. Paul's concerned to remind the Corinthians that the Resurrection was a part of the message he brought them; the message they received and believed. The message that according to v2, is the one through which they are being saved. The resurrection is at the heart of the gospel. In v3 Paul say that the message he gave them was of first importance. The resurrection is at the centre of the message – you can't remove it. It isn't an optional extra. Its like children's building blocks.
   Imagine you make a tall building out of blocks. Removing the Resurrection is like taking out one of the big bricks on the bottom. Remove it – and the whole lot comes tumbling down. Remove the Resurrection and Christianity collapses.
   And its a message with a reliable provenance. It's the message that Jesus was crucified, buried, and was raised according to the scriptures. That is – according to the Old Testament. Paul doesn't say which parts – just that the Old Testament sets the program for understanding Jesus. Like in Luke 24, when Jesus is explaining to two disciples that the Messiah had to suffer, die, and be raised, just as Moses and the Prophets said would happen. But on top of that, different people saw Jesus after he was resurrected. Look at the list in verses 5-8 of people who really saw Jesus after he beat death. Cephas (that's Peter); the rest of the Disciples; more than 500 people; then James – Jesus' brother; and then, Jesus also appeared to Paul himself. The very person who told them about Jesus being raised from the dead, had seen him too. The point of the list is that the Corinthians can check it out for themselves – they could talk to people who had really seen the raised Jesus.
   Paul's inclusion on that list is fascinating – in the Book of Acts, we know that until Jesus appeared to Paul he'd hated Christians. He'd been capturing them – putting them in gaol. He approved of their deaths. He's the last person imaginable that would have been wanting to see Jesus. Paul had thought the message about Jesus was all lies – and then he met Jesus, and recognised him as God.
   Paul's point in v11 is that it doesn't matter which of the Apostles the early Christians heard the gospel from – they heard the same gospel. One with the Resurrection in it.
   Think about the four Gospels in the New Testament. Four authors. Four different ways of presenting the story about Jesus.
   Some people think that four gospels means that it all wrong. They couldn't get the story straight. But think about what they have in common. Matthew, Mark Luke and John may express it differently, but they agree. Jesus was killed on the Cross, was buried and he was raised - he beat death. He appeared to people – not as a ghost – but as a real person.
   It comes down simply to this. The Resurrection happened. The doubters in Corinth are wrong because it really happened. It was promised. It was revealed in the Old Testament. It can be testified to by people who saw the risen Jesus.
   Paul's message is this:
   Take your stand upon the Resurrection because Jesus really was raised.
   On the basis of it being true, Paul's case moves to how it affects today.
   He's saying:
   Take your stand upon the Resurrection because it affects how you live.
   Paul starts by taking the claim at face value – what difference would it make if there was no such thing as Resurrection.
   From v 13 on. If there is no Resurrection, then Jesus is still dead in the tomb.
   If Jesus is still there, then the Apostle's message is wrong, and people are still trapped in their Sins. Still God's enemies. The Apostles have been lying about God – Saying he did something he didn't actually do. If there is no Resurrection then your faith is futile – its built on nothing, Those Christian who have died are really gone for good.
   As Paul says – if believing in Jesus is something only for this world, then Christians are to be pitied by the rest of the world. We've been living a lie – we could have been living the way we wanted to without God.
   No Resurrection means no Christianity. No reason to live as Christians.
   But!!! Look at v20. But in fact – Jesus has been raised from the dead, as Paul and the others can testify.
   Jesus' resurrection is the first part of God's plan. Jesus is the first fruits, the first to be raised. Jesus' people will come later. Jesus is the proof and pledge of our coming Resurrection.
   That means that far from being pitied, we pity those who aren't in Christ. Who only live for this world.
   You often hear that "It doesn't matter what you believe – as long as your sincere". Paul's saying that's an absolute lie. There is substance to the Christian faith. If there's no substance – we're morons. But there is substance – so we have certain hope now.
   And the Resurrection is part of God's Master Plan to restore all his Creation to him. God has made Jesus the key and king to history. Jesus is the answer to death.
   Death came through a human being. The resurrection, the defeat of death comes by a human being. The culmination of all this is in v24-26. All God's enemies are being defeated by Jesus. One by One. And the last of them is death.
   When death is dead – then Jesus' reign will be perfect. God's purpose to rescue his creation will be complete. The Resurrection is the final absolute victory of God.
   That has a tremendous impact on the way we live today. Paul gives us examples from his life.
   Because he knows Jesus has beaten death and will give new eternal life to his people he's not afraid to put his own life on the line.
   Read 2 Corinthians 11 for a list of the sort of dangers Paul put himself in for the sake of the Gospel – the message about Jesus. In v32 – he says he fought with wild beasts in Ephesus. I think he means the events in Acts 19. The beasts are the crowd of people who gathered in the theatre – the cities meeting place – hundreds, if not thousands of people shouting out the name of their God. And there's Paul – one small man. They were shouting for over two hours. They want Paul's blood.
   Because of his faith in the Resurrected Jesus, Paul was prepared to tell people about Jesus, despite their hostility. Despite what it would cost him – tradition has it that Paul was eventually beheaded under Emperor Nero.
   Paul says that he's willing to do it, because of the Resurrection. Because of the Resurrected Jesus.
   If people reject the Resurrection they might as well eat and drink because tomorrow they die. But if you're a Christian, if you hope in sharing Jesus' new life, you can't have anything to do with that. You either make God number one, or yourself.
   Paul's appeal is for Christians to reject living for yourself. Bad company ruins good morals – remove the resurrection, and there's no point in living morally.
   We're back to the building blocks. Remove the Resurrection and it all comes tumbling down. Look at what Christians who deny the Resurrection do. Paul says to beware of them.
   Take your stand upon the Resurrection because it affects how you live.
   As you can tell from my robust physique, I don't exercise a lot. When I was at school though, I did Cross-Country running. The coach would tell us to always keep our eyes on the goal. Always remember where we're running to. That the same advice Paul has for us.
   To take our stand upon the Resurrection because it's our Future.
   Paul knows that the sceptics in Corinth will be wanting to have a go at him. A dead body is a dead body mate – there's nothing living coming out if it. Paul's response is Fool! Idiot. Dimwit. He's not attacking people who genuinely want to know about the what our resurrected bodies will be like, he's attacking the cynics who believe that there's only this world. Paul says that there is both continuity and discontinuity about the Resurrection.
   Continuity because we'll still be ourselves. In fact we'll be more ourselves than we are now. But discontinuity because the Resurrection means change.
   Think of a seed – you put an apparently dead thing into the ground and new life comes from it. But what you sow, isn't what comes back – there's a massive change.
   Just like the Resurrection. It starts with the perishable bodies we have now but it will become imperishable. Incorruptible. It dies in dishonour, a dead body is a sad thing. It is raised in glory. Showing God's presence.
   It is sown in weakness. Janet lying hooked up to machines that breathed for her showed how weak the human body is. No matter how much we work out, even if we get a body like Schwarzeneger, we still die in weakness.
   The Resurrection body is raised in power. Power over death – filled with God's power.
   It is sown a physical body – a natural one. It is raised a Spiritual, a Supernatural one. Not a ghost body, not less real than we have now, but better, more real. All humans share in the Sin and fate of our ancestor, Adam. Christians share in the new life of Jesus, the founder of God's New Humanity.
   Paul's big point is that our current forms cannot, and will not receive God's New Creation. Our bodies are touched by sin and death. They're simply not fit for Eternal Life with God. The perishable cannot inherit the imperishable.
   But God will remake us. Paul let's us in on God's plan in v51. All Christian will be changed. Not just the dead, but also those living when Jesus returns. We will all be changed. Not mortal, but immortal. Eternal. Perfected.
   And the final enemy, Death, will be no more. Death will have died.
   In verses 55-56 Paul explains why death is our enemy. The power of death is Sin. God cannot allow sin near him.
   When we die as sinners, we die apart from God. The Law, God's law, is Sin's Power because it denounces Sin for what it is. But in Romans 8:2 Paul tells us that Jesus has satisfied the Law for us. He has removed the power of sin. He has disarmed death. For Christians, death is a toothless snake. An empty gun. A defused bomb.
   For us, Death has been swallowed up in victory. I didn't feel all that victorious when Janet died. But Janet died believing in Jesus. Janet will one day look Jesus in the face and say:
   Where O death is your victory.
   Where O death is your sting?
   And so will I. And so will you if you're a Christian. The Resurrection gives us the strength to go on in the face of death. In the face of every misfortune we face in this life.
   Paul's conclusion from our certain future is to press on. Don't give up. Be steadfast. Immovable. Always excelling in the work of the Lord, here meaning spreading the good news about Jesus, because we know that because of the Resurrection, the work of telling people about Jesus, about encouraging each other to stay firm and grow mature in the Christian Faith is not in vain.
   Keep going. Keep telling people about Jesus despite how they treat you. Keep believing even when life kicks you in the guts.
   Take your stand upon the Resurrection because its our Future.
   Paul started this letter by talking about the Cross. About how Jesus' death is a stumbling block and madness for the world. And yet God's foolishness is stronger than human wisdom.
   He ends his letter writing about the Resurrection. Two non-negotiables of following Jesus. No Resurrection. No Christianity. Its that simple. The Resurrection isn't just another tenet of faith. It's at the core of our faith.
   And what Paul has told us today, is to take our stand on the Resurrection because: Jesus really was raised. because it affects how you live. And the Resurrection is our Future.
   Lets pray.

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