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The Resurrection is Truly Extraordinary! by Pastor Paul Becker

Resurrection Sunday, more commonly referred to as Easter Sunday, is a day when the resurrection of Jesus receives focused attention. In 1 Corinthians 15:12-19, the Apostle Paul lays out an argument that the resurrection of Jesus is essential to the faith and life of a believer. In this passage, we are confronted with the fact that some early Christians did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. This is also true today. Let’s first consider how this could be possible.

Jewish religious thought flowed from two general sources: The Pharisees and the Sadducees. The Pharisees, experts and teachers of the Hebrew scriptures, believed in the resurrection accounts in the scriptures, and they believed in a more comprehensive, universal  “resurrection from the dead,” whereby the righteous and unrighteous would be resurrected when the Messiah came. The Sadducees, who served as priests at the temple or as judges on the Sanhedrin, rejected the idea of resurrection from the grave after death. They did not believe in eternal blessing or punishment beyond this life. For the most part, early Christians would have been Jewish. The teachings of the Pharisees or the Sadducees would have influenced them. Therefore, it is conceivable that there were early Christians who did not believe in the resurrection of Jesus or the resurrection of the dead. The fact is, today, some claim to be Christian and yet do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus. Research published by Lifeway in 2020 reported that 7 of 10 Mainline Protestants and Catholics believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus. Conversely, 9 of 10 Evangelicals and Black Protestants believe in Jesus’ resurrection. Jews and Christians are not uniform in beliefs about resurrection.

When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he put the necessity of Jesus’ resurrection at the center of a believer’s faith. To Paul, the resurrection of Jesus is extraordinary in three ways:

1 - Jesus’ resurrection is incomparable. The Hebrew scriptures and the known accounts of Jesus' life offer eyewitness testimonies to the reality of resurrection. (Click here)  But how was Jesus’ resurrection incomparable to all the others? First, all other people who were raised from the dead experienced a second death.  Jesus was raised from the dead and to everlasting life. Second, Jesus’ resurrection is tied to the following two attributes.

2 - Jesus’ resurrection is indispensable. In verse 14, Paul states that if Christ had not been raised, our faith would be futile, and our sins would remain unforgiven. Jesus’ death is indispensable when it comes to the forgiveness of our sins. When God raised Jesus from the dead, it signified God’s satisfaction with Jesus' offering of himself as a sacrifice for our sins. It is good news that our sins - past, present, and future - were laid on Jesus and were crucified and put to death.  In Romans 6:5-8, Paul teaches that we have been united with Jesus in a death like his and that we will also be united with him in a resurrection like his. The resurrection is indispensable because it is strongly tied to God’s plan to forgive our sins and defeat death.

3 - Jesus’ resurrection is inescapable. In the scripture, Paul links the resurrection of Jesus to what is called “the resurrection of the dead,” which is declared across the span of all scripture. Daniel 12:2 declares that those who have died and are the dust of the earth will awake, some to everlasting life and others to shame and everlasting contempt. In John 5:28-29, Jesus declared that a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out.  Jesus declared that those who have done good will rise to the resurrection of life and those who have done evil will rise to the resurrection of judgment. The question raised in these scriptures is this: How is anyone qualified to be good when even one violation of God’s laws convicts us to be lawbreakers deserving of death? The answer to this question is in  Eph 2:8-9 and Rom 6:8.

Friends: God is just and fair; he offers no surprises; he declares his will concerning what happens when we live and die. Jesus' resurrection is extraordinary because Jesus did not experience a second death. Jesus’ resurrection is extraordinary because it is indispensable to the forgiveness of our sins and the gift of everlasting life. His resurrection is extraordinary because though our resurrection is inescapable, all whose faith is in Jesus have hope of eternal life rather than judgment. Friends, Jesus’ resurrection is an offering of hope to all who turn from sin, put faith in him, and offer the devotion of their hearts to him in a life offered in complete gratitude.

Let these words from Paul be your benediction and code of conduct for life: I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Rom 12:1)

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