If Corpses Can’t be Raised

 

Jeremiah 17:5-10

1 Corinthians 15:12-20

Luke 6:17-26

Psalm 1

Now, my brothers, I want to speak about the Gospel which I have previously preached to you, which you accepted, in which you are at present standing, and by which, if you remain faithful to the message I gave you, your salvation is being worked out—unless, of course, your faith had no meaning behind it at allPhillips

This is how Paul opens the new section of his letter to Corinth. In what we now label chapter 15, Paul teaches about the resurrection. He wants all of us followers to grasp the fundamental importance of resurrection to our faith. He adds, For I passed on to you Corinthians first of all the message I had myself received—that Christ died for our sins, as the scriptures said he wouldPhillips

Look first at that last phrase, as the scriptures said he would. For ancient Romans as well as for modern Americans, we must understand and accept that God gave us a script for how the Messiah would appear, preach, die, and defeat death. Anyone claiming to be the Messiah—and many have claimed it—and does not defeat death is an imposter. Putting our trust in someone who does not defeat death does us no good.

In today’s reading, Paul gets at the one central truth of Christianity. Now, let me ask you something profound yet troubling. If you became believers because you trusted the proclamation that Christ is alive, risen from the dead, how can you let people say that there is no such thing as a resurrection? If there’s no resurrection, there’s no living Christ. And face it—if there’s no resurrection for Christ, everything we’ve told you is smoke and mirrors, and everything you’ve staked your life on is smoke and mirrors. Not only that, but we would be guilty of telling a string of barefaced lies about God, all these affidavits we passed on to you verifying that God raised up Christ—sheer fabrications, if there’s no resurrectionMSG

Paul is dealing with Greek/Roman—and American—believers here. Jews believed God would raise the just and the unjust at the end of time. Even in Jesus day, there was much debate about what form that resurrection would take, but they agreed that it would be physical.

Greeks could not easily grasp the physical notion. Greek philosophers taught that what we call the soul might survive death some way, but never the body in any form. As a result, many Greek/Roman followers of the Way continued to reject a bodily resurrection of Jesus.

Paul says to them: you are dead wrong; full stop. You must accept that Jesus’ body stepped out of the grave. If you reject that teaching, you’re doomed.

Okay, he was a little less blunt.  If corpses can’t be raised, then Christ wasn’t, because he was indeed dead. And if Christ weren’t raised, then all you’re doing is wandering about in the dark, as lost as everMSG

That’s why every one of the Four Gospels spends most of their writing on the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus; and why they spend time mentioning all the people Jesus appeared to in bodily form.

Paul described it this way: he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to meESV

To reject physical resurrection is to reject Christianity. At the time Paul was writing—about a decade before the first Gospel—there were hundreds of people alive who had seen Jesus; he talked with them, he ate with them, he let them touch him. His physical body was changed. He could walk through walls and change his appearance, but the body was as solid as our own.

From the first day, hundreds of theories have been created to explain the disappearance of the body in the tomb and the appearance of Jesus over the next few weeks. I could argue against all of them, but the end result is: I believe.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Only the Best Need Apply

 

Isaiah 6:1-8, [9-13]

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Luke 5:1-11

Psalm 13

In last week’s lesson, Jesus made it clear that rejecting him as a prophet from God was a bad life choice. He traveled from Capernaum to Nazareth and returned to Capernaum to continue his ministry. The town along the shore of Lake Gennesaret (modern Yam Kinneret) is the hub of the ministry of Jesus.

In Luke 4:38, Jesus enters the home of Simon. He did not pick the house at random; it was already his headquarters. Mark 1:29 tells us that Andrew shared ownership of the house. Their mother lived with them, and Jesus cured her.

Simon and Andrew, in the American tradition, were upper middle class. They owned a sizable fishing operation with two or more boats, probably employees, and partners (James and John, who may have been relatives). They could afford a house large enough to hold at least two large families as well as numerous guests (Jesus and his followers). This picture is based on very few clues, but we know the Lake has always been generous with its catches.

In today’s reading, the boys have had a bad day, the kind of day every fisherman knows all too well. While they were striking out, other crews were hauling in the fish. It’s just part of the business. The crews quit early and took to repairing their nets, a constant chore.

We are given a beautiful picture of Jesus teaching the crowd from the boat with his voice reflection off the water like an amplifier.

But, back up a bit.  He got into one of the boatsNIV Simon is sitting on the shore working on the nets, and he sees his house guest climb into the boat. He does not fuss in any way. He gets up when Jesus asks him to row a few yards from the shore, and then sits there while Jesus teaches—and his partners continue to work on the nets.

After a tough day of work—unfinished work; unproductive work—Simon willingly takes Jesus out on the lake and works the ore to maintain position while he talks. I believe this is the image of a man who already knows Jesus pretty well. He is probably a follower.

He only gets grumpy when Jesus tells Simon to row out farther. Master, we’ve worked hard all nightNIV But, he puts the nets out as requested and we move into the main point of this reading.

The key sentence is, Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man! NIV Simon calls Jesus Lord, a term used of God, but also of a superior. In the mind of Peter at this point, it is likely a mixture of both. The Apostles always knew Jesus was their Lord and master but could not get their heads around the idea of him being God.

I am a sinful man! This is the key statement. Peter saw Jesus as a man of God, if not God. He may have believed he was Elijah returned. Whatever went through his mind, Peter knew he was unworthy to be near Jesus.

Many American churches have forgotten that Jesus chose sinners to be his Apostles. Jesus wanted sinners to come to him. He spent his ministry surrounded by sinners. We in the church too often reject people we consider to be sinners. We want to sit with properly washed and clothed folks who are just like us—sin free.

We give lip service to being sinners, but as we look at the great unwashed that superior feeling takes over our better natures. When Jesus was first born, shepherds came to visit. They were some of the lowest humans in Jewish thinking, slightly above lepers. Yet, they were the first to visit and were welcome to do so.

Fishermen were slightly above shepherds, but Luke tells us that Simon the fisherman was the first to be chosen by Jesus to be an Apostle.

We all sin in so many ways that are unrecognized by us. Even something we say that should not cause pain may cause it in someone who is going through a difficulty. “How is your mother?” That is not good if I don’t know that his mother died a month ago. Sometimes my tone of voice is heard as a negative by the other person. Deep in thought, I walk past a person who needs to hear a friendly voice.

Jesus always knew what the other needed because he was always in God. Strangers were open books to him.

God does not me love because I am a sinner. He loves me because He does not want me to continue to be a sinner. Jesus has shown us a better way to live, and he has given us the Holy Spirit to help us live that better way. Now we must share with our fellow sinners.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence