By Rev. Bernadette A. Morales
Scripture Text: 1 Corinthians 15:12-14
But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.
Over the centuries many desperately tried to disprove the resurrection of Jesus. In the gospel narration of Matthew (28: 11-15) the chief priests and the elders even resorted to an elaborate cover-up scheme. The Roman soldiers, after receiving large amounts of money, were instructed to spread rumors that the dead body of Jesus was actually stolen by his disciple. In modern times, many other theories disproving the resurrection have emerged. They range from the highly scientific to the utterly absurd. One theory argues that Jesus was just unconscious when he was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, and that he had simply regained consciousness after three days. Another theory argues that the disciples who apparently saw Jesus after his death were hallucinating because of extreme psychological trauma. The most outrageous theory I have encountered argues that the women who claimed to have seen the empty tomb of Jesus actually entered the wrong tomb because of it was still very dark when they left their homes!
One thing about “fabricated truth” is that it will eventually collapse. After three days, the tomb of Jesus was indeed empty. He had risen from the dead just as he said. In the next 40 days, he was seen and heard by many. The Bible documents about 11 post- resurrection appearances of Jesus. He appeared to Mary Magdalene; to two travelers on the road to Emmaus; to Peter in Jerusalem; to 10 disciples in the Upper Room; to 7 disciples fishing on the Sea of Galilee; to 11 disciples on the mountain in Galilee; to more than 500 men later; to his brother James; and finally to a number of his disciples in Mount Olives just before he ascended to heaven before their very eyes.
Today, after over 2,000 years, Christianity, the faith that was birthed out of the lives of those who believed that Jesus indeed rose from the dead, has never changed its claim:“…Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day …”(1 Corinthians 15: 3-4)
It’s amazing how the resurrection account continues to assure us that there is always a raising up! There is always a season of recovery! There is always an appointed time for restoration! What a joy to know that after suffering comes victory - - - after death comes a glorious hope that can never be taken away from us - - - a hope that we so desperately need in these very crucial times.
Weeks ago I had the privilege of speaking in a Holy Spirit Seminar organized by our ministry partners in Mindanao. It was attended by about 60 pastors and lay leaders from different parts of the South. The following day I spoke during a Sunday worship service attended by some patients and their families at the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City. When the altar call came, I called for those who needed special prayers. It was so moving to see mothers carrying their sick babies before God; patients on wheelchairs raising their hands in humility during prayer; and the weary of faces of people in tears - - - people who have taken the unbelievable burden of caring for their sick relatives whose sufferings are even beyond words to describe. It is in those moments that the resurrection Jesus becomes so real and so needed. It is in those moments that our faiths rise to believe and reach out to God. It is in those times that we realize that no matter how low or dark life has become, there is always a resurrection story that gives us hope and courage.
Our faith is REALISTIC
The word “death/dead” appears about 8 times in our reading covering 10 verses. This is a powerful reminder that the reality death surrounds us everyday. But more than physical death, there are deaths that are far more challenging to confront: the death of our dreams - - - the death of relationships - - - the death of hope in our hearts. You see, resurrection is a two sided coin. One part is the raising up, but the other equally important part is the pain, suffering and death that come before every victory. In that same conference I was telling you about, I met a minister who was dealing with so much frustration and rejection in the ministry. He attended that conference knowing in his heart that in a few days he will be quitting from ministry. During our prayer time, I was assigned to minister to him, and before I even started to pray, I held his hand, and just said to him over and over again, “Pastor, you are dearly loved by God …” Immediately, he started to weep like a little child. He shared his story, and he intimated that during the conference he received an unspeakable strength in his spirit. Consequently, he came to an important resolve: to persevere and uphold his call despite all that he was going through. You see, death and suffering are real, in fact, they are so real. But so are hope and eternal life.
What is the difficult reality you and your family are facing today? What is overwhelming us at the moment? When our lives are shaken and when we are overwhelmed by the complicated situations of our lives, it is such a blessing to remember the resurrection story that binds all our hearts in faith. When we are visited by sickness, when our financial resources are depleting, when our self-worth reaches a low point, when our families go through periods of shaking we cannot help but feel so powerless in the face of it all. But you see, this is the very message the Lord’s resurrection! Jesus came face to face with the painful realities of human existence: abandonment, betrayal, physical torture and an unjust and cruel death. But beyond the reality of all his suffering, he saw a greater reality that far outweighed it all. This is the reality that reminded Jesus that death will never have the final say - - - that God is always and absolutely sovereign no matter what happens - - - and that when we find ourselves inside a dark and lonely tomb, we can be assured that the stone will eventually roll away - - - and light will always come!
Our faith is REDEMPTIVE
After his death, the body of Jesus was placed in a solid rock tomb owned by a rich man named Joseph of Arrimathea. By means of levers, an extremely large stone weighing approximately two tons was rolled against the entrance of the tomb. Elite Roman guards were stationed to guard the site upon the strict instructions of Pilate. But you see, all these elaborate precautions were not enough to hinder God’s hand in that defining moment in human history. It was the day of vindication. As the song goes, “Death has lost its victory, and the grave has been denied!” The resurrection is too powerful to be explained humanly, this is perhaps why some would rather just think that the whole account was an elaborate story fabricated for all sorts of theological and political agenda. You see, the world will always trivialize Christ. The world will always underestimate the meaning of his life, his death and his resurrection. But for those whose hearts have understood and believed, the resurrected Jesus is indeed the Christ, Son of the Living God, Lord and Savior. He is the Firm Foundation on which we build our very lives, our destiny and our call to serve one another in justice, mercy and love.
As we continue to celebrate the Resurrection and embrace its fullest and freshest meaning in our lives, may we always remember that Jesus Christ, the firstfruits of those who have died, has indeed risen from the dead, just as he said he would! May the resurrection power of the Lord continue to raise us up over and over again! May it usher in us hope in the midst of all our troubles and blessed assurance in the face of our greatest pains! Hallelujah! Jesus is alive! Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed!