Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany [c] February 13, 2022
1 Corinthians 15:1–20
1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not 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. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
In the Name of Jesus.
How much like you is Jesus? Your life, your humdrum duties, your mundane, daily tasks and problems, your fears of keeping the house safe from crime, fears of catching a sickness—how much like you is Jesus?
One way Satan afflicts the Christian is to tempt us to spiritualize God, to spiritualize Jesus. To have us think that down here, on Earth, we have our lowly, bodily lives where we have to worry about cooking food, paying bills, fixing the stucco, cleaning the kitchen—we have these lowly, bodily lives, but, on the other hand, in Heaven is the spiritual existence of God. An existence pure and holy, unencumbered by the grittiness of creaturely life with our feet in the dirt.
Jesus is pure and holy. His is the unstained life of soul and spirit; ours is the bodily life of dirty fingernails, lying neighbors, and bodies always one step away from sickness.
Jesus, spiritual and mystical. You and me, earthly and bodily.
And to that, the resurrection says, “No!” The resurrection says the division between Jesus and you is not the division of spiritual vs. bodily, not mystical vs. earthly.
The resurrection says, “No!” Paul wants the Christians in Corinth to be left in no doubt that Christ Jesus is raised up from the dead; he bodily, on his legs and feet, walked out of that tomb, and because he is raised up from the dead, so will be every one of the Christians in Corinth.
Paul wrote not just for them, of course. Paul’s an Apostle, he’s writing for the whole Church, even for you and me and our children. You are to know that Christ Jesus is raised up from the dead, and because he is raised up from the dead, so are you.
He walked out of the tomb as the One who had been crucified, but now lives.
He walked out of the tomb as the one who was blessed because he made himself poor in spirit when he did not count equality with his Father a thing to be held onto, but he became human and took the form of a servant, to be poor in spirit and be with sinners, taking their sin upon himself. Luke 6:20:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”
He was bodily raised up from the dead as the one who was blessed because he hungered for righteousness. Righteousness to be given to the sinful woman at the well, righteousness to be spoken as gift to the tax-collectors and drunks, righteousness to be bestowed upon those of unclean conscience and under the verdict of the Law—he was blessed as the one who hungered for righteousness given as gift to every sinner living in fear. Luke 6:21:
“Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied.”
He was bodily raised up from the dead as the one who is blessed because he weeps with those who weep. With the family of Lazarus as they wept outside Lazarus’s tomb before Jesus raised him from the dead; he was with the widow of Nain as she wept over the body of her dead son, before Jesus raised him from the dead; with his own mother as she wept while he was dying on the cross and he spoke so kindly to her—he is blessed as the one who weeps with those who weep. Luke 6:21:
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.”
He was bodily raised from the dead as the one who is blessed because he was hated by the Pharisees and teachers of the Law, for he came not to condemn sinners, but forgive them. He was blessed as the one excluded from the company of the Sadducees and keepers of the Temple, for he proclaimed himself to be the Son of Man standing in the stead of all men, all sinners, to ransom them from sin and death—he is blessed as the one reviled and spurned by those fighting to keep sinners under the accusation of the Law. Luke 6:22:
“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!”
He was bodily raised up from the dead, then, as the one who before he was raised up descended into Hell to proclaim to the demons that his cross was their defeat, his crucifixion was the blood ransom for every sinner, and because he shed the righteous blood on the cross, they, the demons, had no more accusation to hold against those whom he has ransomed, no more power of death over those who belonged to death, so that in walking out of the tomb, he was calling the sinners his own. He was bodily raised up from the dead so that, having been reviled and spurned on the cross, having by his cross fulfilled righteousness for every sinner who’s sin he had taken upon himself, and having proclaimed this victory over the demons, he rejoiced. He leapt for joy. For his reward in Heaven he gained not for himself—he already had Heaven—but his reward in Heaven was the gift he freely and joyfully gives to the sinner. Luke 6:23:
“Blessed are you … Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward in Heaven is great.”
Jesus is raised up from the dead, writes the Apostle. You may think of your Lord not spiritually, not mystically, but bodily, for that’s what the resurrection gives.
The division between the Lord and us never was the division of spirit vs. body, never was the division of mystical vs. earthly.
It was always the division of holy vs. unholy. Of righteous vs. sin. Of clean vs. defiled. So he came in the body, he died in the body, he was raised up in the body, to ransom and forgive and cleanse us, for we live in the body.
Now, his bodily resurrection is your resurrection—the bodily resurrection of you and me and our families. The promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are far off, to all whom the Lord of life calls to his Name.
Jesus is bodily raised up from the dead. But he is not alone. He is, Paul says, the firstfruits of all those who have fallen asleep. The firstfruits is not first fruits except that it has the fruit which follows.
Jesus is bodily raised up from the dead as the one blessed by his Father and leaping with joy in eternity. He is your firstfruits, you are his fruit. You are baptized into him. He gathers you to his Name. Gathered to his Name, you hear him speak to you all the gifts of his resurrected, eternally living body: Take and eat, my Body, Take and drink, my Blood, for the forgiveness of your sin.
Because he is bodily resurrected, he has body and blood to give. No corpse gives body and blood.
Because he is bodily resurrected, when you hear those words, Take and eat, take and drink, you may know that he is giving himself to you in the fulness of his crucifixion and resurrection. In that piece of bread, in that drink of the wine he has taken up into his use, you are given to receive the fulness of him in his Body and Blood—the fulness of what he did toward that woman at the well, toward that widow in Nain, toward the tax-collectors and sinners he ate with and drank wine with—you receive him and all that he is, all that he has done, nothing left out.
Because he is resurrected, his Word of forgiveness forgives you your sin here on Earth, cleanses your conscience here on Earth, even as by that same Word he justifies you before his Father in Heaven.
For he is resurrected from the dead, blessed by his Father. And his blessing he speaks to you.
In the Name of Jesus.