Thursday, September 15, 2016

I Believe

By Colleen O’Sullivan

Brothers and sisters:  If Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead?  If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, then empty too is our preaching; empty, too, your faith…  (I)f Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins.  Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all.  (1 Corinthians 15:12-14, 17-19)

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.  He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.  He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.  (from the Nicene Creed)

The apostle Paul must have faced a tough crowd in Corinth.  (I fear he would face an equally skeptical audience today in many places.)  Toward the end of this letter to the Christians in that city, Paul addresses those who claim there is no resurrection of the dead.  In a series of “if…then” propositions, he challenges the Corinthians’ logic.

There are a slew of ramifications for every one of us if Jesus Christ wasn’t raised from the dead. 
  • If Jesus’ dead body was merely surreptitiously removed from the tomb, then not one of us is going to be raised up on the last day or ever.  When we die, that’s it.  The end.  No heavenly reunion with loved ones or eternal life with Christ. 
  • All those sins we’ve committed over a lifetime added to the weight of original sin?  We may have forgiven ourselves, but that’s as far as forgiveness goes.   
  • The prayers we’ve offered up every day and every night – who’s receiving them?  No one’s listening; they’ll never be answered.
If all those things were true, as Paul said, we are to be pitied.

Even though no one photographed Jesus rising from his deathbed and leaving the tomb, even though we have no artifacts that “scientifically” put any doubts to rest, I firmly believe in Jesus’ Resurrection.  Too many people reported seeing the Risen Lord and too many lives were changed not to believe.  Who but Jesus could have turned Cleopas and his traveling companion around on the road to Emmaus?  The two of them were trudging home in the depths of despair.  Their lives had gone bust.  They had staked everything on Jesus and now they were slinking home, tails between their legs, dreading the ridicule of family and friends.  But, in the breaking of the bread, they recognized their friend and teacher.  They barely finished their meal before they were racing back to Jerusalem, bursting with the news that Jesus was alive!  They had seen him!  Mary Magdalene saw Jesus in the Garden and she, too, reported this to the other disciples.  Her tears dried up, transformed by joy.  Her beloved Jesus lived!  Peter, ashamed and repentant to the depths of his being for his betrayals of the one he loved deeply, met the risen Christ and was forgiven and made clean again at an early morning fish fry.  Even the apostle Paul himself encountered the risen Christ on the road to Damascus.  Stopped dead in his tracks and rendered blind, he went from brutally terrorizing and persecuting Jesus’ followers to becoming one of the most fervent and renowned Christians throughout history.

Auferstehung (1916), By Christian Rohlfs - repro from artbook,
Public Domain,
I believe because of these reports of the first-century lives being turned around and transformed by the risen Christ.  I believe because, as I look about, I still see the power of Resurrection at work in our lives.  A young man I know attempted to dull the pain in his life with drugs and became addicted.  Today, he is a drug counselor.  Someone I know, who years ago seemed somewhat skeptical about the faith, met Jesus on the road he was traveling.  Today, he carries the Gospel and Jesus’ healing and mercy to people in distant areas around the world.   In my own life, and I’m sure in yours, there have been instances when my own efforts have turned to ashes, yet the Risen Christ has coaxed new life from the ruins.

Take a few moments when you are praying to consider what your life would be like if Jesus hadn’t been raised from the dead.  Then pray a prayer of thanksgiving because Jesus is very much alive in our hearts and in our world.  

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