So, if the message that is preached says that Christ has been raised from the dead, then how can some of you say, “There’s no resurrection of the dead”? If there’s no resurrection of the dead, then Christ hasn’t been raised either. If Christ hasn’t been raised, then our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. We are found to be false witnesses about God because we testified against God that he raised Christ, when he didn’t raise him if it’s the case that the dead aren’t raised. If the dead aren’t raised, then Christ hasn’t been raised either. If Christ hasn’t been raised, then your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins, and what’s more, those who have died in Christ are gone forever. If we have a hope in Christ only in this life, then we deserve to be pitied more than anyone else. But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He’s the first crop of the harvest of those who have died. (CEB)
Christ’s resurrection is at the very heart and soul of what it means to be Christian. For followers of Jesus, the risen Christ is at the center of life. New life means freedom from sin, death, and hell. It means experiencing life without the shackles of our past indiscretions, present failures, and future anxieties. Christianity is grounded and dependent upon a very real physical rising from death. To put it another way, the new spiritual life which Christians experience in the here and now as a result of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection is a foretaste of our own bodily resurrection.
If you are asking yourself, “Does this guy believe we are going to walk out of our graves like Jesus did?” the answer is a rollicking, “Yes!” Although Christians have been granted deliverance, our salvation is not yet here in its fullness. We still need to deal with systemic evil in the world, our old habits of sin which occasionally rear their ugly heads, and an Adversary who seeks to exploit it all to undermine God’s redemptive work in us. There is a time coming when Christ will return and the dead will be raised; and, this will not be merely an ethereal going into the clouds to strum on a harp. It will be a bona fide physical resurrection with a new body. Thus, just as we have been given a new spirit within us, a new body will follow at the end of the age.
The Apostle Paul insisted that if there was no bodily resurrection, then our faith is a sham and its worthless. One of the simple observations to make about today’s New Testament reading is that our faith and life are inextricably linked to the life of Jesus. Christ has purposefully joined himself to us. That link is so strong and vital that, in other places, Paul uses the metaphor of a head and a body – Christ is the head and we the body. Just as one cannot separate head from body and expect to have life, so nobody can separate Christ’s resurrection and our resurrection. We will have a new body to go with our new life because of Jesus Christ’s redemptive events. That new body will be as much real as the one you have right now – just without the residual effects of the curse which so stubbornly cling to it.
So, what does this mean for us? Glad you asked. Christian spirituality is also very much sacramental, that is, we inhabit a bodily faith which is firmly grounded in material reality. God’s grace is communicated to us both spiritually through the unseen world and sacramentally by means of the physical creation. We are to be reminded of that sacramental nature of our faith each time we approach the Lord’s Table and ingest the very real bread and imbibe from the tangible cup. Touch and taste help us to know our faith is meant for the creation of our five senses, as well as to impel us to labor in this world for real causes of alleviating poverty, disease, social injustice, and a myriad of ailments that bog this old fallen earth. In short, both body and soul are of great value to our God, and so, ought to be for us, as well.
What’s more, we have both a spiritual and a sacramental inheritance which awaits us at the end of the age when Christ returns to judge both the living and the dead. For the Christian, this is the basis of our hope – a confident expectation that God will make good on his promises.
Almighty God, through your Son, Jesus, death has been conquered and new life unlocked for us. We pray that all who hold to his bodily resurrection may, through the renewal brought by your Spirit, rise up both spiritually and sacramentally; through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
In this season of Eastertide, click Christ Arose and we’ll keep the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection coming.