Resurrection Christ

Epiphany 5 – 6th February 2022

One of the articles of true Christian faith is that on “the third day [Jesus Christ] arose again from the dead” (The Heidelberg Catechism). The empty tomb is an established fact of history. There may be different theories surrounding how it became empty, but use your mind and think about that fact. Consider the psychological and sociological facts connected to the historic fact of the empty tomb.

  • A frightened band of cowardly disciples were changed into men of courage and conviction (Paul Little).
  • The Early Christian Church emerged from Jews in Jerusalem (J.P. Moreland).
  • Worship changed from Saturday to Sunday (McDowell).
  • Baptism changed from Jewish proselytism to Christian identification with the resurrected Jesus (McDowell).
  • Passover changed from a commemoration to Communion (J.P. Moreland).
  • Entire social structures and believes changed. “The early church was a community of Jews who had significantly altered or given up … five major [social] structures” (J.P. Moreland).
  • Lives were radically changed. “One of the most dramatic changes was their willingness to go everywhere proclaiming the message of the risen Christ. We must ask, what could have motivated such a change? (McDowell).

The message today is titled, “Resurrection Christ”. There are 3 points in this brief message that I hope will both challenge and encourage you today:

  1. Loving with Mind
  2. Defining the Gospel
  3. Invitation to Follow

Let us now move through these points, beginning with:

Loving with Mind

To love God intellectually is to become a student of God—a student who really takes an interest in God. Have you ever noticed that a fair number of Christians are not particularly interested in God? Some of them are ministers. These are people who don’t ask about God, don’t talk about God, and maybe don’t even think about God unless they really have to. Their interest in God seems merely professional. Isn’t this strange? Shouldn’t we be somewhat preoccupied with God? Lovers get preoccupied with their beloved, they notice things about the one they love.

Cornelius Plantinga Jr.

But how can you love someone if you do not believe they are alive? You can love the memory of them – but you do not have a memory of the Jesus who walked this earth 2,000 years ago. So how can you love Jesus truthfully unless you know Him as your personal Saviour – someone who is alive today and real in your life?

In her book Operating Instructions, Anne Lamott quotes “this guy I know” as saying, “My mind is a bad neighborhood that I try not to go into alone.” I feel this on a deep and spiritual level. Until these last few years, I never understood the importance of maintaining my mind or checking for the scripts I am believing or cutting out the lies. I had to wake up and realize I would have to fight for a healthier brain, and that God joins me in that fight every single day.

Jesus said we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our MIND (Mt 22:37). 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 challenges us to THINK. The historical understanding of this passage is that the early church saw the resurrected body of Jesus. Our faith is not some emotions-based phenomenon. Our doctrine is not some vision-inspired teaching. Our practices are based on historic facts.

Defining the Gospel

The Gospel is often assumed to helping the poor and loving your neighbour. That is taught in the Gospels for sure. But post Gospel understanding of the message is preserved in 1 Corinthians 15:1-5.

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.

Did you catch that? The Gospel preached by the early church by which your salvation is understood must be believed otherwise your religion is vain. What is it that you are meant to believe?

For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

The physical, literal death, burial and resurrection of Christ IS the Gospel. Helping the poor and loving your neighbour is good religion but it is not salvation. Salvation from sin, sins, and hell itself, are dependent upon your acceptance of Christ’s resurrection. And attached to that statement are a list of eye-witnesses who saw the resurrected Jesus starting from Peter and going through to Paul. It includes a mass sighting of 500 people all at once.

Why does this matter?

  • First, by his resurrection he has overcome death, so that he might make us share in the righteousness he obtained for us by his death.
  • Second, by his power we too are already raised to a new life.
  • Third, Christ’s resurrection is a sure pledge to us of our blessed resurrection. (Heidelberg)

What is “resurrection”? We have to ask that question because now it is associated as a “vision” akin to our dreaming at night. N.T. Wright explains how the word “resurrection” was used and what it meant to those living in the ancient world, whether they believed in resurrection or not. He noted:

Resurrection was not one way of describing what death consisted of. It was a way of describing something everyone knew did not happen: the idea that death could be reversed, undone, could (as it were) work backwards. Not even in myth was it permitted.

Invitation to Follow

Time does not permit me carry on. I can only hope your mind has been challenged enough to research further. These sermon notes contain hyperlinks to its resources. Let me close with a practical application.

The Gospel passage associated with 1 Corinthians 15 this week tells one of the stories of Peter and Jesus. Luke’s story of Peter falling before Jesus Christ in worship is similar to Isaiah’s vision. Feeling unclean and unworthy after witnessing the holy power of Jesus, Peter was scared to remain in Christ’s presence. However, Jesus gave him words of reassurance that removed the fear, as Isaiah’s fear was removed by God in Heaven.

Peter was one of the early church leaders who found the courage to proclaim a resurrected Jesus. Jesus invited Peter and his mates to follow him by using fishing terms.

Did Jesus word the invitation to “catch people” in this specific way because the disciples were fishermen? If the disciples had been bakers or lawyers, would Jesus have worded it differently?

Imagine, Jesus says, “Come follow me, and I will…
Mail carriers- send you to carry Good News to your neighbours
Electricians- empower you to bring light to the nations
OB/GYN- breathe with you as you midwife new life in people and communities
Guard- stand with you as you make people secure in their relationship with God
Teacher- instruct you in how to make people wise in the ways of God
Parent- rear you to raise up children of God
Judge- give you the authority to release all who are imprisoned by sin and death
Chef- share my recipes with you so the world can taste and see that the Lord is good
Mechanic- give you the tools to repair broken souls
Poet- open your lips to proclaim justice and freedom for those who have no voice

How is Jesus calling you?

Lisa Degrenia

Rest assured that Jesus is calling you this morning to follow him.

God has already equipped you to make the contribution that God wants you to make. Sure, you grow and learn as you follow Jesus, but that doesn’t mean you’re trying to be something or someone you’re not. It means that as you follow Jesus, as you offer up to him all that you are, you become more fully who God created you to be.

Jeff Stiggins

Collect

Almighty God,
by whose grace alone we are accepted
and called to your service:
strengthen us by your Holy Spirit
and make us worthy of our calling;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Published by St Johns Papatoetoe

Presbyterian Church, Hunters Corner, Papatoetoe, Auckland, New Zealand belonging to Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand (PCANZ).

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