First page of the Gospel of Mark, by Sargis Pitsak, a Medieval Armenian scribe and miniaturist (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
1 Corinthians 15
The early church, persecuted to the point of imprisonment and death should have failed. The message they carried triggered division. Their leader was murdered and yet He was resurrected. Many saw him and heard him speak after He rose from the dead. The Roman guards were paid off to tell a lie.
And yet, His followers flourished. Everywhere new churches were forming. The Gospel Message was getting out. But how would they identify who they could trust. They had to have a way of identifying each other and to find safe places to hide and meet. For a while, Christian homes would display the ixthus (fish symbol, ‘ikh-thoos’) to identify a safe haven. Jesus calling of fishermen as His first disciples and the idea that spreading the gospel is like catching fish was easy for them to relate. Inside the sign of the fish would include five Greek letters. The letters formed “ixoye” is an acronym comprised of the first letter of five Greek words: iota – Jesus, chi – Christ, theta – God, upsilon – Son, and sigma – Savior…Jesus Christ is God’s Son, our Savior.
These five Greek letters became the message that Christians clearly identify with.
A password was also given that would be easy to identify and yet be general enough that the non-believer would not understand. The pass phrase would be spoken, “He is risen”. If the other person responded, “He is risen indeed” that would be the authority that they were followers of Jesus the Messiah.
History tells us of statements made that we will always remember.
- J. F. K’s “Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.”
- Do you remember when we were made to memorize the preamble to the Declaration of Independence?
- I still remember every word of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
- I remember hearing the scratchy recording of FDR’s words; “a day that will live on in infamy.”
- In addition, I remember when Linda said she would marry me. These words are forever etched in my mind.
Today I would like to remind you of some words uttered by an angel to a follower of Jesus at His empty tomb that mankind must never forget.
“He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay” (Matthew 28:6)
In churches all across the world today, the message of the resurrection of Jesus the Christ is celebrated.
This is the Christian High Day.
We remember today that death and the grave could not hold Jesus. Throughout the early church, the cross was not commemorated as the central theme of the Gospel, the resurrection became the capstone. All through the book of the Acts of the Apostles, we read that the Gospel presentation always included the resurrection as the cornerstone.
Biblical scholar, G. E. Ladd, stated, “The entire New Testament was written from the perspective of the resurrection. Indeed, the resurrection may be called the major premise of the early Christian faith.”
The Gospels reveal the remarkable events that Jesus said and did during his three and a half years of ministry. However, the remainder of the New Testament barely mentions these miracles. The emphasis is on Jesus death and resurrection. Much of what we consider Christianity and the message of the early church; how to live, how to love, how to defeat sin, and our hope for the future is centered on the resurrection of Jesus the Messiah.
- Without the resurrection, Jesus was just a prophet going about doing good. With the resurrection, Jesus is the Lamb of God that takes away our sin.
- Without the resurrection, many of the prophecies remain unfulfilled. With the resurrection, only the final chapter remains.
- Without the resurrection, God’s redemptive plan is without the perfect sacrifice. With the resurrection, Jesus sits down next to the Father waiting to return to earth to gather in His bride.
References to the Resurrection in Scripture
- In the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians, the Apostle Paul clearly identifies the importance of the resurrection of Jesus.
“And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain”…”And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17)
- In order to be considered an Apostle, the qualifications included seeing Jesus after His resurrection. (Acts 1:22)
- On that great Feast Day of Pentecost, Peter spoke of the resurrection of Jesus. (Acts 2:31)
- Peter and John preached the resurrection of Jesus, after which they were arrested. (Acts 4:1-2)
- The Apostle Paul preached “Jesus and the resurrection.” Acts 17:18)
- The Apostle Paul in writing to the church at Rome declared “Jesus to be the Son of God and His resurrection”. (Romans 1:4)
The Apostle Paul lays out the importance of the resurrection to the church at Corinth. He takes great care to give the brethren hope and encouragement to those who are grief-stricken. Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophecies. With the resurrection, Jesus conquered death.
The Bible speaks of resurrection in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.
Resurrections of the Bible
Elijah raises the Widow’s son 1 Kin. 17:17–22
Elisha raises the Shunammite’s son 2 Kin. 4:32–35
Unnamed man thrown in Elisha’s grave 2 Kin. 13:20, 21
Jesus raises Jairus’ daughter Matt. 9:23–25
Widow’s only son in Nain Luke 7:11–15
Lazarus of Bethany John 11:43, 44
Many saints Matt. 27:52, 53
Dorcas Acts 9:36–40
Paul’s first epistle to the Church at Corinth…
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: 5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: 6 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. 7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. 8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)
12Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: 14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. 15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. 16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: 17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. 18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. 20 ¶ But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. (1 Corinthians 15:12-20)
51 ¶ Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 ¶ Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 15:51-58)
The resurrection of Jesus is the pinnacle of Jesus being God. Other religions may be ethical, moral, agree that there is an afterlife and even have their own scriptures. But Christianity stands alone because God became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus died for His people and He was raised from the dead in power and glory.
You may be saying, “Preacher why are you so focused on the resurrection?” Well let me give you some reasons why the resurrection of Jesus is so important.
- The resurrection proclaims the deity of Christ (Romans 1:4)
- The resurrection turns the tragedy of the murder of Jesus into the triumph of God’s redeeming power.
- When Jesus was raised from the dead, the world now faces redemption instead of ruin.
- When Jesus rose from the dead, He conquered death and therefore His Bride will conquer death as well.
- When Jesus rose from the dead we know that He will keep all the promises recorded in Scripture.
- When Jesus rose from the grave that early Sunday morning, the Church was given a message to proclaim to the world. The Apostles preached that Jesus had been raised from the dead!
- The resurrection of Jesus gives us hope in times of great tragedy and hope for the future.
- The resurrection of Jesus assures us that Jesus is on the throne, sitting on the right hand of God.
- The same power that resurrected Jesus will one day bring our mortal bodies to life. (1 Corinthians 15:12–19).
- After the resurrection Jesus has been preparing a mansion for me (John 14:1-6)
In Christian denominations, we can look different, worship differently, and even have differing views on politics, how to live our lives and varying theologies. But the one point that is true of all Christians today is: Jesus rose from the dead.
The resurrection celebration of Easter invites all to believe that Jesus is the Son of God!
The decision is yours. The gift has been laid before you. Will you accept it?
 Thomas Nelson Publishers. (1995). Nelson’s quick reference topical Bible index. Nelson’s Quick reference (530–531). Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson Publishers.