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, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
This dysfunctional church had become so concerned about themselves that they had forgotten the gospel which brought them to Christ. In addition to Paul’s rebukes, corrections and training in this letter, he wanted them to be clear that the gospel was all about Jesus. Paul had received it directly from Jesus. The essence of the message was that Jesus died to pay the punishment of our sins, and that He was raised to life on the third day . Jesus is therefore the only living Saviour.
The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ was a historically unique event. Despite being mummified in linen strips which wrapped over 30 kilogrammes of burial spices against His body (John 19:39-40), He was seen alive by many people. Paul gives a little list of some of them: Simon Peter, the other disciples, His brother James; and on one occasion, five hundred people all saw Him at the same time. Paul’s comment, ‘most of whom are still living’ meant that if anybody doubted, they could go to the eye witnesses and check. The evidence for the resurrection is overwhelming.
But for Paul, his own encounter with the risen Christ was just as remarkable. He describes himself as ‘abnormally born’. Although he was not one of the original disciples, his appointment to apostleship came after Jesus had personally confronted him on the Damascus Road. Paul did not want to become a disciple; he had violently opposed the church and Jesus, persecuting Christians and throwing them into prison. He certainly did not want to be converted and yet God chose Him. Then, and as he surrendered to the Lord, Jesus personally commissioned him as an apostle (Acts 22:1-16).
The resurrection was an essential part of Paul’s evangelism (Acts 24:21) . It proved that God had accepted Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, and so we may be spared God’s wrath and be made right with Him (Romans 5:9-10) . It proved that Jesus is alive and therefore it is possible to enter a relationship with Him, and to receive Him. It proved that death is not the end for the believer. It proved that there is a life to come and that in the meantime, we can have confidence that His grace is sufficient for us. It also proved that those who die in Christ will also be raised with new and perfect bodies. So, the resurrection should give us confidence in our witness today and hope for every tomorrow. Deny the truth of the resurrection and you are left with a dead religion following rules you have no power to keep. Proclaim the resurrection and you will start some very interesting gospel conversations about the unique and living Jesus.
Living Lord. Thank You that Jesus is alive, and that all who trust in Him will be raised with new bodies when He comes again. I am sorry that I have not cherished this part of the gospel as I should, nor proclaimed it as I might. Please teach me again the essential importance of the resurrection and then help me to speak to my friends and colleagues about the Lord Jesus who is alive and wants to be in a real relationship with ordinary people like me. In His Name. Amen.