He is Risen Indeed!
It was Easter Sunday in 1972. My grandfather was preparing to sing an Easter cantata with his church choir when he suffered a stroke and collapsed. On the following Sunday, he went to be with the Lord. I never met my grandfather, but I’ve heard countless stories from my mother about what a wonderful man he was, full of joy, gentle-natured and filled with the love of his Savior.
Four years ago, on the night before Easter, my phone rang with the news that my sister, Jackie, had been taken by ambulance to the hospital and admitted to the ICU. Jackie had suffered with fragile health her whole life, so it wasn’t the first time I had received such a call, but it had been a relatively long time. After two days of intense prayer and wonder if this just might be the time that we lose her, she breathed her last breath on this earth and our family had to say goodbye.
Easter has always been such a joyful time for me and it remains as such to this day. Although it carries with it tearful reminders of lost loved ones (the memory of my sister is especially vivid to me), I find the timing of both my grandfather’s and my sister’s deaths to be, in a sense, a gift. For this is the day believers in Christ most intently worship Him for conquering death! I had always longed to know my grandfather and truly the impression left on my heart through my sister’s life and death is deeper than I’m able to express. Yet that desire and longing I have to be with them is tempered by the profound hope I have because Jesus rose from the dead and promises eternal life to those who trust in Him. I know I’ll see them again!
I’ve been spending a lot of time reading, thinking through and meditating on 1 Corinthians 15 recently. Walk with me, if you will, through a brief summary of the passage.
In the longest chapter of this letter, Paul summarizes in creedal form the most central tenets of the Christian faith: Christ died, was buried and rose from the dead on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (15:3-4). Corroborating the resurrection was important to Paul as he records that there were more than 500 witnesses of the resurrected Christ (vv.5-8). As Paul recites these truths again to the Corinthians, he repeatedly reminds his readers of how they responded to this message of hope when he first preached it to them: “you received” (v.1), “in which you stand” (v.1), “by which you are being saved” (v.2), and “you believed” (v.11). He’s drawing them in to remind them of their own personal engagement with the Gospel; it is not some abstract and far-removed concept. Furthermore, their faith is not simply a matter of a one-time, past acceptance of a teaching; Paul urges them to “hold fast” (v.2) and communicates their salvation in terms of a continuing process.
It then becomes clear that the reiteration of this message and the reminder of their acceptance of it was so important because some were saying “there is no resurrection of the dead” (v.12). Astonished, Paul spells out for the Corinthians the implications of this claim: “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (v.13-14). In other words, if Christ has not risen from the dead, then it has been to no purpose that we have staked our lives and all our hope in Him. There is such a future focus to the Christian faith that Paul even says, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (v.19).
“But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead!” (15:20). Not only that, he is the first to experience resurrection as the eschatological representative to all who believe in Him. Our joyful hope, for those of us who have faith “in Christ,” is that we too will be made alive (v.22). We too will be raised “imperishable” (v.42), “in glory” and “in power” (v.43). We will be raised in “a spiritual body” and will “bear the image of the man of heaven” (v.49). Such glorious transformation is ours through identifying ourselves with Christ in his death, which took the punishment for all our sins, and in his resurrection upon which basis our own hope for resurrection lies.
So when it comes to Easter-time each year, my heart’s meditation and joyful hope are solidly anchored in the resurrection of Christ. I remember my sister with a very real ache in my heart, but it is at the same time enshrouded with confident hope in this most beautiful gift of resurrection. Jesus Christ, in conquering death through His own resurrection, secured my salvation and future with Him. When I meet the Lord on the other side of death, I will join all those who have gone before me in the family of God to enter eternal fellowship and worship of God (1 Thes 4:17). Hallelujah!