History's Greatest Event -- The Resurrection of Jesus Christ
- Friday, December 01, 2006
Could you ask for stronger language? Paul is about as straightforward as he can be. He recapitulates the Good News that, several years before, he had brought to the Corinthians. He was not the inventor of it. It had been delivered to him. It was the Gospel, the news of the crucified and risen Lord.
Paul reminds them that they had received it. He reminds them it was something in which they stood. It was foundational to all they were. It was something by which they were saved.
Now we're down to the basics, aren't we? This is the essence of the Christian faith. It was something they must hold fast. He was aware that life bombards us in ways that threaten to strip us of our faith.
William Barclay puts it in these words:
Things happen to us and happen to others which baffle our understanding; life has its problems to which there seems to be no solution and its questions to which there seems to be no answer; life has its dark places where there seems to be nothing to do but to hold on. Faith is always a victory, the victory of the soul which tenaciously maintains its clutch on God.
This is bottom-line truth. The Gospel is not something to be handled haphazardly. It's the most important news one can ever receive. You and I need to be reminded frequently what it's all about. It's important that we remember the basics.
So, Paul continues to state the facts of religious and spiritual life. They are clearly declared in 1 Corinthians 15:3-11:
For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them — though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.
Some of this sounds like the Apostles' Creed, doesn't it?
For several years here at St. Andrew's, we stated the Apostles' Creed every Sunday. Why did we do it? We did it to remind you and me of the basic facts of life about the Christian faith. Why do we no longer do it every Sunday? We don't do it because simply to recite a creed doesn't guarantee our own heartfelt commitment and existential involvement with the Person of Jesus Christ about whom the Creed speaks.
You see, we live in a push-shove relationship between the facts about the faith and our commitment to the crucified, buried and risen Lord. There is more to theology than the Creed. There is more to faith than the Creed. But the facts of life are basic. We dare never forget them, or we end up like those high school young people who remain U.S. citizens but are lacking the rich knowledge of their historical, literary and cultural heritage. So today we recited the Nicene Creed, and periodically we state the Apostles' Creed, hopefully as a fresh, vital reminder of the content of the faith once delivered to the saints.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the greatest event in all human history. It is the basic event, in fact, undergirding our faith. Why? Because it takes our vague notions of the existence of God, perhaps a loving God, and fleshes out in understandable terms that this God loves us so much that He took upon himself humanity and exposed himself incarnationally to our human existence and ultimately bore upon himself our sins, our guilt, our brokenness, our alienation, capturing all that in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The fact is that God's real name is Jesus Christ.
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