There are some chapters in the Bible that have no rival for the level of importance they play. John 3 is one. In that chapter, we have what many have called the message of salvation in a nutshell. In John 3:16, “16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Another critical chapter is 1 Corinthians 15. Paul defends the truth of the resurrection in this chapter. There were some in Corinth that questioned the validity of Christ rising from the dead. So, Paul now is charged with dealing with the subject of the resurrection of the dead. In doing so, Paul builds the foundation for what the theological point he is going to explain in detail. His underlying defense is clear. The resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of the gospel and at the heart of our faith.
There are two essential elements in Paul’s argument.
- If Jesus Christ did not rise that casts doubt on the truth of God’s word and His promises especially as we deal with the death of loved ones.
Never is this more evident when the eternal fate of the one we love is in question. This doubt is apparent in this story. As Vice President, George Bush represented the U.S. at the funeral of former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. Bush was deeply moved by a silent protest carried out by Brezhnev’s widow. She stood motionless by the coffin until seconds before it was closed. Then, just as the soldiers touched the lid, Brezhnev’s wife performed an act of great courage and hope, a gesture that must surely rank as one of the most profound acts of civil disobedience ever committed: She reached down and made the sign of the cross on her husband’s chest. There in the citadel of secular, atheistic power, the wife of the man who had run it all hoped that her husband was wrong. She hoped that there was another life, and that that life was best represented by Jesus who died on the cross, and that the same Jesus might yet have mercy on her husband. – Gary Thomas, Christian Times, October 3, 1994, p. 26.
It is at the grave that the reality of the resurrection has its most significant hold on us or provides us with its greatest comfort. This widow felt the full weight of this truth as she said her final goodbyes. What is the more profound question of “is the resurrection real?” Underlining that questions for Christians are what the fate of our loved ones is? Can we have a confident hope that those who have died and gone before us are safe and sound in heaven? If they are then our mourning is tempered and temporary. This is the deep theological dive Paul is plunging into in I Corinthians 15. Without Jesus’ resurrection, the witness of the apostles is both useless and false. For the believer our faith futile. And the entire world is lost because of our unforgiven sins. As we say our final goodbyes, we must weep like everyone else because our Christian dead lost. And the cruelest trick of all is that we are all left without hope if the resurrection is not real, then Christianity is a farce and none of this matters if Christ has not risen from the dead. Our life, our faith, our hope is worthless.
Yet, in Jesus’s own words He refutes the claims that the resurrection is something made up by men to calm the masses. Jesus tells Mary at the tomb of Lazarus as that family is dealing with unmeasurable grief. 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26
- The Resurrection is Real!
Paul points out that just the opposite is true that indeed the resurrection is true. And to prove his point Paul points out that this is not some new, fangled idea. But that this was God’s plan from the beginning.
20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.21 Since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead came through one too. 22 In the same way that everyone dies in Adam, so also everyone will be given life in Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:20-22
Our Lord Jesus Christ’s resurrection is the pledge of that of believers, and an essential part of God’s plan to reverse the consequences of Adam’s sin. Due to one mans sin the entire world was plunged into darkness, through the sacrifice of the next Adam, Jesus Christ the entire world is redeemed and rescued. The word at the beginning of v. 20 indicates that this redemption is happening ‘now, at this very moment’!
The world needed a savior. We needed someone to take upon themselves the weight of sin and be our substitute, and Jesus was that Lamb of God sacrificed for our sins. Isaiah describes this so poetically.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. Isa. 53:5-6
There is a Time for Weeping
So, there is a time and a place for mourning and sadness.
A psychotherapist tells about one of her patients who had been taught not to cry. The patient said, “My intellect tells me it is healthy to cry, but I have been brought up to be ashamed of my own tears. I feel weak, out of control and unstable when others see me cry, and I sometimes give in to depression if I allow tears to come.”
That is a sad statement. But as a man, I have been guilty of buying into this philosophy and even at times teaching my boys that. I was taught if you fall down and hurt yourself don’t you dare cry to get up rub some dirt on it and move on. Today, God gives us permission to weep. The Almighty says it is ok to mourn. When we live our lives without mourning and sadness, we are hindering healing and help our souls need. We are meant to cry. Without grieving, we can’t get to joy.
No doubt Charles Dickens was right when he had Mr. Bumble in Oliver Twist say this about crying: “It opens the lungs, washes the countenance, exercises the eyes and softens the temper. So, cry away.”
You may experience pain that is greater than any joy you have experienced in the past. It is possible you are holding in grief now. Let it go. Know that one day you will be comforted. The pain will be replaced with rejoicing.
The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica: “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14. Hope for us Christians is grounded in the belief in the resurrection. This is why the resurrection matters. Mourning like the widow in the earlier illustration can only be replaced by hope if the person dies, dies in the Lord, with their eyes looking forward toward the resurrection of all flesh.
 “Why Do We Cry?” by Samuel A. Schreiner, Jr., Reader’s Digest, February 1987, 141.
 Schreiner, 144.