Why is Resurrection so important? Paul devotes a long chapter (58 verses) to the subject in his letter to the Corinthians (it is 1Corinthians 15, and today we read 1 Corinthians 15:12-20), and it begins to come clear. It sounds very much as if the news that has come back to him from that church has included some nervousness and uncertainty. Some of the members had died. Had they made some terrible mistake? Would these people miss out what had been promised?
Paul wants to calm them down, and takes the opportunity to explain a fundamental part of Christian faith. He starts by saying that he had passed on the Christian message as he had received it: Jesus died for our sins, as scripture had foretold, and had been raised from death to appear before witnesses. It was the way he was proved right in all he had said and done. It was the ultimate seal of approval.
But this isn’t only about proving Jesus right, important as that is. Paul adds v19 “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied”. Why try to live as a Christian if it is difficult and sometimes even dangerous? Why didn’t Paul settle somewhere comfortable and teach only people who wanted to hear him? Why the courage of missionaries, the persistence of those looking for justice, and the endurance of those who have accepted hardship and slander to serve? Why? Because Christian faith is not lived to make life easy. It is lived in gratitude and service to God with an eye on eternity, and a judgement on our stewardship after life is done.
The Resurrection of Jesus the “first fruits of those who have died” v20 is a promise of our future – a promise, even for the extremely elderly, of glorious things to come, with justice and mercy. There are lots of questions. Some are tackled in the rest of the chapter, and some remain unclear. Life in the Resurrection is going to be very different, and probably unimaginable. But the resurrection of Jesus, reported by witnesses and evidenced by the change in the disciples lives from despair to hope, is vital to our faith.
It vindicates what Jesus said and did – all that he was.
And it gives us hope of life in eternity, which underlies our life of service, and sometimes difficulty, now.