The Resurrected Body

When the world confronts us with a perplexing question, we often put it aside, assuming someone with greater knowledge will provide the answer.

In the same way, when the Bible confronts us with teachings about our heavenly home, we are tempted to put the subject aside and say, “Why bother with figuring out the details of heaven? We will just have to wait and see, and be more practical in our Christian practice today.”

It is interesting that God, in his Word, whets our appetites with thoughts of eternity. He reminds us that “. . . here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is yet to come” (Hebrews 13:14). So today we discuss the theme, “Our Resurrected Body.”

I like what William Barclay writes concerning our text in I Corinthians 15:42-44: “Before we begin to try to understand this section of God’s Word, we do well to remember that Paul is talking about things that no one really knows anything about. He is not talking about matters of fact, but matters of faith. He is trying to express the inexpressible and to describe the indescribable, and he is doing the best he can with human words, which are all he has to work with.”

During the forty days between Jesus’ resurrection and his ascension into heaven, he made several appearances to his disciples and others. On Easter evening he came into the room where some disciples gathered. Though the doors were locked, Jesus entered through closed doors. He showed them his hands and side, and then left. This brought great excitement to those disciples (John 20:19-20).

Thomas, one of the twelve, was not with them in the room, however. They were excited to share this news when Thomas joined them and said to him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But Thomas quickly replied, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”

A week later when the disciples were together and Thomas was with them, Jesus appeared again. “Thomas, put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas replied, “My Lord and my God!” (v. 26-28).

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen me and yet have believed” (v. 29).

Another example of Jesus appearing to his followers was on the road to Emmaus. They were visiting about the hottest bit of news: that Jesus had been raised. Jesus joined them in their discussion about his resurrection; however, neither of the followers of Jesus recognized him (Luke 24:13-16).

As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. However, they convinced him to stay with them since it was getting dark. So he accepted their invitation (v. 28-29).

While they were at the table, Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. It was then that the lights came on and they recognized him. But then he was gone, and they asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning when he talked to us?” (v. 30-32).

What do we learn about bodily recognition from Jesus’ appearances after he came forth from the tomb?

1. Jesus had a different appearance, though he was the same person. His body was not limited, as it was before the resurrection. To go from one room to another, he had to go through a door. Now the doors were locked and he still stood among them. Once in the room, his actions showed them that he was Jesus.

2. Before the resurrection, Jesus talked about the mission before him. Now his mission was accomplished. However, his disciples’ mission is about to begin by going into the world and making disciples of all people through baptizing and teaching.

Now we move to our resurrected body. Paul gives us a few insights: “The body that is sown is perishable; it is raised imperishable” (I Corinthians 15:42).

1. Our body deteriorates. It will return to the dust. Attend your high school or college reunions and you will quickly learn that after a few years we hardly recognize each other. The beauty queen has lost some of her physical attractiveness. The strong body of the athlete has been attacked by disease or accident, and now he could not run a hundred yards under any condition.

A few days ago I had an X-ray on my knee. As we were walking down the corridor to the machine, the technician asked what I thought was wrong with my knee. The answer came easily: “It is old and has many miles on it. I believe it is worn out.” She tried to be kind by saying, “Maybe not.”

However, the good news is that the new body is raised imperishable. It will never die. What a message!

2. “It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory” (v. 43). We have not always lived God-pleasing lives. Peter denied Christ; Paul stoned the Christians. His sins were so many that he identified himself by saying, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24).

We are sinners, but because of Christ we go to the grave as forgiven sinners. We are not as righteous as we try to present ourselves. But when we receive our resurrected body, it will be different, for we will be sinless. Wrestle with that thought for a moment. Can you imagine yourself without sin?

3. “It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power” (v. 43). Physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually speaking our weaknesses are apparent. We cannot hide our real self very long. This is what every newlywed couple experiences.

We will be raised with bodies that have not inherited our sinful nature and have no temptation, for sin has been conquered at the cross.

4. “It is sown in a natural body; it is raised in a spiritual body” (v. 44). In this mortal body even God the Holy Spirit is limited in what he can do with us. The natural body can say no to God. But we are raised in a spiritual body. With the spiritual body, God can fill us with his spirit.

These explanations are lacking. As Paul says, “Now we know in part; then I shall know fully” (I Corinthians 13:12).

Remember when we were children, how we dreamed about what we would become? We would be a successful person Ð maybe President of the United States, a popular athlete, or a talented musician. We were told to continue dreaming.

As Christians struggling with the cares of this life, we have a right to dream of the life that is to come. When the going is rough, do not forget to dream, for we know there is a tomorrow and God will walk with us into that tomorrow. We know that, although we may feel this life is good and we do not want to leave it, life on the other side of death will be better.

Two of my friends have expressions that help me with what lies before us. One man said of his son who was killed, “He is on the other side.”

Lloyd Ogilvie refers to his wife’s death by saying, “She graduated to heaven with a resurrected body.”

What we are going to be like will be a surprise. Just remember that God will give us a new and resurrected body. Hallelujah.

What If Christ Had Not Been Raised?

When people talk about Jesus’ resurrection, they have many questions. So also did the early church ask many questions about the resurrection.

In his commentary on the resurrection in I Corinthians 15, Paul mentions some of these questions, which he answered for the people of his day. His answers are still truth today.

¥ What if Christ had not been raised?

¥ What kind of body did Christ have?

¥ What kind of body will we have?

¥ Does Christ’s resurrection affect our understanding of death?

Today let’s talk about the first of these questions: “What if Christ had not been raised?”

In our daily life we have a lot of what-if questions, which can be mind-boggling to ponder. Take a ride through the slums of a large city. You will see poverty, rundown housing, crowded living conditions, and crime. You might ask yourself what your life would be like if you had been born in these conditions.

Now take a ride through the neighborhoods of the elite. The houses are large, the lawns and flowers are beautiful. Wealth and social status is evident.

I remember one of those rides when I was young. We drove along the Eastern Promenade that looked out on the Atlantic Ocean. The spacious houses were beautifully decorated for the Christmas season and the cars were large and well-polished. We knew who lived in some of the homes, and we would point them out to others: “This is where a prominent surgeon lives. This is a famous professional ballplayer’s home. This one belongs to the owner of a large department store.” Oh, it was fun and I wondered: “What if I lived in one of these homes? Would I like it?”

But then, just a few miles down the road, you would find yourself in the dilapidated part of the city where it was dark with few, if any, decorations. Only a few people were walking on the streets, and you locked your car doors and prayed you wouldn’t have a flat tire. What would I be like today if I had been raised in that environment? Perhaps I would not be here, but would have died of some childhood disease after never being taken to the doctor.

What if I had been raised in a home where the family never went to church? What if my parents had not believed in the importance of education and did not encourage their children to go to school? How different my life would be!

Paul takes this “what if” to a far deeper level when he asks, “What if Christ had never been raised?”

He answers this question this way:

“And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (v. 14).

What would our worship services be like if Christ had not been raised? We would not have a living Lord, but a dead martyr. Sermons might give a lesson in moral living, but that is something we could get from other organizations. We could talk about the Good Samaritan and learn that we must love one another.

Although these lessons are important subjects for the pulpit, they are not the core of the gospel. The gospel presents a living Lord who gives us hope and walks with us while we live on this planet. This same Lord brings us into the heavenly kingdom when these years on earth are over. We are his forgiven children in Christ.

This type of preaching is often heard at funerals. If Christ had not been raised, how do you comfort those who mourn? Memories would be your only source of comfort. We might go so far as to talk about life after death where we depict an eternal coffee party with our earthly friends, regardless of whether they were Christians on earth or not. After all, everyone would be saved. It is pretty empty for it is only the product of our human imaginations.

Paul goes on answering the question, What if Christ had not been raised?

“More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God . . .” (v. 15).

We would talk about a God of love who may be likened to a senile old grandpa. There would be no mention of godly righteousness. We would often talk to unbelievers trying to convince them that we are all God’s children, even though the Bible tells us that this relationship is ours only when we have been born again in Christ.

We would feel sorry for the addict and assure him that he is a strong person. If he would only make up his mind that he is not going to indulge again in drugs or alcohol, he could live a sober life.

This is a false witness, for the power to overcome such addictions is not within our heads, no matter what our intelligence may be. The power is only within God, who will bring that person back to sobriety.

If Christ has not been raised, the whole idea of Christianity is a hoax.

“If all that we have is hope for this life, we are to be pitied more than all men” (v. 19).

Think of it! If Christ has not been raised, then Christianity is of little value. It is simply two thousand years of nothingness, another unrealistic philosophy of life. Billions of dollars have been invested in something with no lasting truth.

However, Paul discounts all this foolishness and he shouts,

“But Christ has been raised from the dead and in that resurrection we have hope” (v. 20).

Christ’s resurrection ushers in a new age. Death came through Adam. Life comes through Jesus Christ. In Christ, all men have conquered sin. Our living Lord has returned to his Father, and so shall we when our stay in this life is over.

And so we conclude our discussion on the question of what if Christ had not been raised.

We are humans, and Satan prowls among us. Doubts come, and we have our what-if moments. But when those doubts begin to weigh on us, we can turn to Paul’s inspired commentary in I Corinthians 15 to help us with them, for Christ lives.

We do have an Easter. Praise God! Through this message of the resurrection, life is different. It presents us with an eternal hope.

He Has Risen! He Is Not Here

Now we turn to I Corinthians 15, where St. Paul writes, “I want to remind you of this Gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this Gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise you have believed in vain” (v. 1-2).

Paul, who was then known as Saul, had heard about Jesus who was tried by Pontius Pilate, persecuted by the religious leaders, and finally sentenced to crucifixion at Calvary. Now Jesus’ followers were teaching that he had been raised from the dead. Many were being won as his believers, and little groups were organizing to learn more about him and become his witnesses. This small sect had to be stopped, and Saul wanted to have a big part in doing it.

So he went to the high priest and asked for letters allowing him to take any of those he found belonging to “the Way” as prisoners to Jerusalem. Permission was granted, and Saul set out. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what to do.”

The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus.

In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord said to him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man named Saul. He is blind. In a dream he has seen you. Restore his sight.”

Ananias was hesitant because he had heard about Saul, but the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Ananias found Saul, talked to him about Jesus, and baptized him. Saul stayed in Damascus for a few days and began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. His message was so powerful that the Jews decided to kill him. But his friends managed to get him out of the city, and Saul returned to Jerusalem where he tried to join the disciples. (Taken from Acts 9:1-26.)

On the basis of this experience, Saul, whom we will now refer to as Paul, could say to the Corinthians, “Brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand” (1 Corinthians 15:1).

Paul emphasized that he had received this message. It was not something he had made up or learned from others. Christ appeared to Paul. And Paul gives the Corinthians and the world Ð including us Ð this Gospel.

In a report from one of our nation’s largest investment companies, an officer pointed his readers to the future when he said, “Our history is rooted in those basics from which we have not strayed.” He wanted those who had invested in stocks and bonds to know that their company, which had experienced great losses, still had a solid foundation, and on those principles they would build their business in the future, just as they had in the past.

I know little about this company, and my point is not to enter the financial world of which I also know little, but I like his statement: “Our history is rooted in those basics from which we have not strayed.”

Paul, in his commentary in I Corinthians gives the basics of our Christian faith. Listen to these glorious words: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures . . .” (vs. 3-4).

These are the basics that we who are Christians, as individuals and as a church, must pass on to our world. We are to carry the message of the resurrection to our families, communities, nation, and elected leadersÑto all people. We must pass it on.

Within the past year I attended a meeting of men who had invited a leader within the Muslim faith to speak about his beliefs. He was an educated gentleman who expressed his convictions well and was quite positive in what he believed. One had to respect him for this. He has this right in our nation.

After his presentation, each man in attendance asked him a question. The questions were not confrontational but dealt primarily with issues like the religious customs in their homes and what relationship Islam’s teachings had to the war in Iraq. When it was my turn I, too, tried to be kind and shared that there were parts of the Christian faith we had in common with them. However, I also wondered about a different, more important issue. This man has no Savior. I am a sinner, and I have a Savior who has died and been raised to pay the price for my sins. Through faith in Jesus, I have forgiveness for my sins. What about his savior?

The speaker said that in his religion there was another way to deal with sins that did not call for a Savior. A huge difference.

Leaving the meeting, a friend grabbed my hand and thanked me for my question to the speaker. He said, “I, too, need a Savior.”

Yes, we all need a Savior. In this perilous time, Jesus, the risen Lord, walks with us. We build our lives, our families, and Ð I would pray, though I am not sure it is true Ð our nation on the Risen Lord. He alone can heal our storms of life. He comes to us today, as he came to his disciples of old, and says, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31).

In these quiet times with this Savior we find our strength and comfort. Only then does life still make some sense in a culture that has lost its way.

Yes, friend, it is another Easter Sunday, assuring us that Christ lives and wants to live in our lives.

Where Is Security?

What a scene it must have been that first Palm Sunday! The streets were packed with people; Jesus rode in on a donkey; excited people cut down branches from trees and waved them at Jesus. What great cheering! Many people threw their blankets and coats on the street for him to ride over. And their chants! “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of David!” they shouted. The scene was one of excitement with an air of expectation, hope, celebration in the streets.

Why all the excitement? Have you ever heard the saying, A picture is worth a thousand words? Well, in that grand entrance, by riding on a donkey, Jesus was making a declaration without saying a word. Instead of speaking, he gave them a picture with which they were familiar. Zechariah the prophet foretold of a king who would come riding into town on a donkey. God’s people had been waiting for this promised king for a long time Ð waiting and hoping for a messianic king who would usher back in the golden days of King David.

So, when Jesus came riding into town, they got the picture and welcomed him as their conquering hero and king. Even so, they didn’t really understand the nature of his kingship, as we’ll see on Good Friday when they screamed for his crucifixion.

But notice something missing in this Palm Sunday picture that Mark has drawn for us. Thousands of people in the streets Ð a king arriving Ð excitement Ð chaos. Wait! Where is the security? The usual trappings for a king entering a community would be an army of men protecting the king, acting as security. Did you watch the Inauguration Day parade on TV as President Obama made his way down the streets of Washington, D.C.? Thousands of security people were present, and precautions of every sort were used to protect him and keep him safe.

Yet with Jesus there was no security Ð and he was entering hostile territory! The religious authorities had made it clear they didn’t like him or his message. The Romans weren’t taking kindly to this talk of a new king of Israel, either. Yet he went into Jerusalem, with no security for himself. Why do you suppose he did that?

You and I know where this story is going, don’t we? Jesus will be arrested on Thursday and crucified on Friday Ð led like a lamb to the slaughter, as Isaiah predicted. Jesus will tell Peter to put away his sword when he tried to act as security. He will go on to tell Peter that there are legions of angels he could call down to protect him, but he won’t.

Why? Why no security and protection?

The answer is really quite amazing and simple: He didn’t want it! It didn’t fit into the plan! God’s plan.

Three times before this day, Jesus had told disciples what would happen to him. He told them that he must go to Jerusalem to suffer and die, and then rise again. They didn’t get it then, but they soon would.

¥ The King will wear a crown – a crown of thorns.

¥ The King will be enthroned on a cross.

¥ The King will rise again just as planned.

King Jesus was born for this moment. That is why there was no security for King Jesus. He came without it, so that you and I could have it. His suffering and death had a purpose, which was to pay humanity’s debt for sin.

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. There is no way human beings can fix that relationship with God. We need a Savior. On the cross Jesus took upon himself the punishment and wrath for your sins and mine. He took our place and announced, “It is finished,” meaning, paid in full; mission accomplished. And on Sunday God raised him up and said, “Yes!”

God promises that all who place their trust in his Son and what he did for us will be rescued and have security. What security?

The security of knowing that I am a forgiven child of God. I belong to him. And as I go through life, I can leave my sin at the foot of the cross and be assured of the promise that it has been covered by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. When God looks at me, he sees me as clean because of Jesus and what he has done.

The security of knowing that whether I live or whether I die, I am his forever. Jesus told us, “Let not your hearts be troubled. You who believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many rooms. If it were not so would I have told you that I go and prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I’m going. I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:1-6).

The security of knowing that this one who died and was raised will never leave me or forsake me as I follow Him and serve Him in this world. “Lo, I am with you always, to the very end of the age” he promised (Matthew 28:20).

The security of knowing he holds the future. As I hear the bad news of the world around me and wonder if this is a runaway train out of control, I still know he is coming again Ð not humbly on a donkey Ð but in majesty and power. And every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11).

What a King! Self-emptying, sacrificial, a servant king who lays down his life for his subjects. What love this King Jesus has for you! Jesus even rode into Jerusalem without security, so that you could have it.

We hear a lot about people looking for security in this world: national security and financial security within this economic crisis. I can’t claim to know the future in regard to those issues. But I do know the bigger picture. A songwriter once wrote:

“I know not what the future holds.

Lord, I have no way of knowing.

But I know the one who holds my future.

So I have no fear of where I’m going.”

That is security!

Friend, have you come to know the One who holds your future? If you would like to learn more about him, why not talk to someone who knows him and ask some questions? Also, find a Bible that reads easily, and begin to read the Gospels over and over again. You see, He is not hiding; he is knocking and waiting. Jesus came to ride not just into Jerusalem, but into your life.

Feel free to contact us at Christian Crusaders, and we will do what we can to help you discover for yourself the ultimate security of trusting and following the King who rode into town without security, so that you and I could have it.