He Is Risen!

Unlike Christmas, the traditional date of Easter is historically reliable. Jesus was raised on the Sunday following the Passover, so scholars have worked out the chronology to suggest that Jesus was raised on April 7, AD 30 (except for scholars who come up with another date entirely). The exact date is not important. And how we may decide to observe or not to observe this holiday we call "Easter" isn't all that important either. What is important is that we understand that it really happened-- Jesus really did die on a cross and He really did come back from the dead. And those facts of history really do have a deep theological meaning.

Our world has all but banished the miraculous. We live in a world of scientific law and technological discovery. More and more people have less and less time for the miracle of Easter. Oh, only few people are so bold to suggest that Jesus never existed, but many do suggest that Jesus was only a man— perhaps the greatest UPREACH of humankind but certainly not the DOWNREACH of God Himself. And while Jesus may have died on a cross, he certainly did not rise from the dead. Resurrection is the ultimate miracle, and modern minds now understand that miracles just don’t happen (unless you count the 69 Mets).

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul seeks to dispel the noble fiction that Christ has meaning even if there was no resurrection. There were some in the church at Corinth, likely led my an affinity for Greek philosophy, that wanted to deny an end-time resurrection. Paul’s logic is pretty easy to follow. If there is no end-time resurrection, then Christ did not rise. And if Christ did not rise, then Christianity has no meaning whatsoever (1 Cor. 15:13-19). If Jesus did not rise, then Christianity is false. The very essence of our faith is wrapped up in the so-called “Easter story.” Without it, there is no gospel. Indeed, the story of the cross and empty tomb is the gospel! Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:8, “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel. ”

Why is this the case? Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 15 is an end-time argument. We live in the hope that one day we will live with God forever in heaven. We endure difficulties and hardships here, but they cannot compare to the glories of our eternal reward (Rom. 8:18). If there is no resurrection, then there is no heaven and no reason to look to the future. Paul’s argument is that Christ is the firstfruits of the dead (1 Cor. 15:20-23). Jesus was the first to rise, and he is a guarantee that we will rise as well. That’s why Paul begins 1 Corinthians 15 with the basic affirmation that Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the tomb are of first importance—they are the part that matters (1 Cor. 15:3).

Almost two thousand years after it was first proclaimed, the Christian gospel is still summed up in the angelic announcement of Luke 24:5-6, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!”