Easter Sunday: "New Life"
1 Corinthians 15:19-26
Hallelujah! Christ is risen! Do we know the implication of this that Christ is risen from the dead? We can grasp the whole meaning of it, run with it, and walk in it in victory. The Cross represents the farthest extent that God would go. The song says, “Even if we have strayed away, His love has sought me out and found me.” From the darkness corners of the human condition and the worst of the human experience, Jesus suffered and experienced them. He became man so that He can experience what we go through and suffer with us.
What Jesus did in experiencing what we went through doesn’t end there. He not only died and sacrificed for us, but He rose from the dead and filled it with His love. No one is beyond the reach of God’s love. The universe is unlimited, but God is beyond the farthest distance; and even if we intentionally go astray from God, it is just a small part of the universe of where God is. God fills all; His love fills all. We sing, “Yahweh, I know You are near. Where can I run from Your love? If I climb to the heavens You are there; if I fly to the sunrise or sail beyond the sea, still I'd find You there.” We can’t run away from God’s love.
This gives us a different understanding of what St. Paul says, “Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.” Ephesians 4 says, “When He ascended on high, He led captives with Him, and brought them with Him. He who ascended first descended to the farthest and deepest recesses of darkness or hell.” Jesus ascended on high so that He can fill all things. Every square inch of the universe is covered by the love of God. He reconciled everything to Himself and hope is open to all. My question is: what is hope and what is our hope?
A Greek philosopher named Plato had a doctrine that man is composed of soul and flesh, but to him flesh was temporary. The soul is important and the soul existed before the flesh, and when the flesh joins the soul at death, the flesh dies but the soul lives on. He also said that the body is a prison of the soul. Plato teaches that at death, the spirit becomes free.
Christianity teaches us that our goal is to be in heaven as spirits. I have been taught this, and I have heard this preached. One old Catechism goes that God created us to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him on earth so that we can be forever in heaven as spirits. We cannot be forever spirits because in the Apostle’s Creed, we declare, “We believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life and the life everlasting.” We believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. In the Nicene Creed, we profess, “We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” We will spend life eternal in our bodies, in our resurrected bodies because God created us spirit and soul. The Athanasian Creed says, “For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ.” God created man soul and flesh. Without the soul or the flesh, man is not complete; if soul and flesh is separated, it is a dead body. God’s will for us is to be whole. The flesh decays because of sin. Sin entered and so, death entered through sin. One day, God will resurrect our bodies and we would be with Him in our fullness – with the resurrected soul and body.
St. Paul says that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, but what he meant was the flesh and blood that was perishable. He said, too, that the perishable cannot inherit the kingdom of God which is why we will take off that which is perishable and put on the imperishable that does not decay. God is in the business of Zero Waste Management. God does not waste anything; everything is useful. Jesus says, “All of that He has given Me, I lose nothing.” The imperishable will live on; it will have a new heaven and a new earth that it will live in. This is our blessed hope; this is our Christian hope.
God does not hate what He creates. Our humanity was just compromised by the enemy, but he was not successful in destroying mankind. God is in the business of restoring that which He created because He loves His creation. We look forward to a new creation, and this is what Easter is all about. Jesus is the first fruit and He gives us an idea of the world to come that we are looking for – free from sin, not in bondage to death and living righteously and pleasing God. This is our destiny. When we got baptized and was born again, this was the process of restoration in us started. Old things have passed away; behold, all things are new. We are a new creation, and we are destined for a new heaven and a new earth.
We ask, “When we die, will go to heaven?” No, we will not. We will be in heaven but we will not go there because heaven is coming down to earth. Thy kingdom come! Heaven and earth will be wed. They will be one again as before. We were separated from heaven because of sin. We are part of heaven and we are being fully restored so that we will be united with the kingdom of heaven again.
Titus 2:11-14 says, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” At the appearing of Christ, we will be like Him. The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men instructing us to deny ungodliness because this is what makes our soul and flesh perishable. We don’t need this in the kingdom that is coming that is imperishable and we look forward to this with hope.
The coming of Jesus Christ, His appearing, is good news not doom; it is hope. It is all because of Easter. Jesus is what the life of the world to come looks like and He will come to judge. Judgment is not something that we are to be afraid of. Psalm 1 says that sinners will not stand in the judgment but the righteous will be there. Judgment is like a house renovation where a mallet is used to bring down the parts that are needed but the permanent structure remains. The perishables will be removed; the imperishable will stay. We are destined to live in thekingdom of God but certain things are not acceptable there. Wood, hay, or stubble will all be burnt up but gold, silver will be useful.
2Peter 3 says that since earth and its perishable works will be burned up by fire, what sort of conduct are we to have? Lawlessness has no place in the kingdom of God because it will perish. Our selfishness, the things that we pursue that are not of the kingdom of God will not be brought to the kingdom of God. The things that will last like gold and silver – our righteousness – will be useful in the kingdom of God. Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth that are perishable – that moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal, but store up for yourself things that will last.”
We need to die to the perishable things and put on the imperishable and prepare ourselves to enter the life of the world to come. Get with the program. If we die with Him, we will also live with Him. 1Corinthians 15:19 says, “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied,” because we do sacrifice but we don’t hope. In Romans 8:18, St. Paul says, “The sufferings of this present time are nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed.” Do not grow weary.
Psalm 73:1-10 NASB, “ 1Surely God is good to Israel,To those who are pure in heart! 2 But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling, My steps had almost slipped. 3 For I was envious of the arrogant As I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4 For there are no pains in their death, And their body is fat. 5 They are not in trouble as other men, Nor are they plagued like mankind. 6 Therefore pride is their necklace; The garment of violence covers them.7 Their eye bulges from fatness; The imaginations of their heart run riot.8 They mock and [i]wickedly speak of oppression; They speak from on high. 9 They have set their mouth against the heavens, And their tongue parades through the earth.” Verse 12-13 continues, “2 Behold, these are the wicked; And always at ease, they have increased in wealth. 13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and washed my hands in innocence.”
Have we ask God why others are prospering even if they operate in wicked ways as compared to us walking with a pure heart? “Until I came into the sanctuary of God; Then I perceived their end. 18 Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction. 19 How they are destroyed in a moment!” 19 How they are destroyed in a moment! They are utterly swept away by sudden terrors! 20 Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when aroused, You will despise their form. 21 When my heart was embittered And I was pierced within, 22 Then I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a beast before You. 23 Nevertheless I am continually with You; You have taken hold of my right hand. 24 With Your counsel You will guide me, And afterward receive me to glory.”
Do not grow weary or forget what Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” Remember that giving your life ends up in Easter resurrection. Don’t forget that dying to self, discarding the perishable leads to eternal life and it is preparing us for eternal life.
In the gospel according to Luke, the women were perplexed and terrified and they were seeking a dead Jesus. The angel said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? Don’t you remember what He said?” Don’t you remember Psalm 37 that says, “Do not fret if you see the wicked prosper? because the righteous will flourish.” The women told the apostles, and it appeared to the disciples as nonsense because they forget and they were terrified.
Hebrews 2:14-15 says that Jesus became incarnate, partaking of flesh and blood, so that He could experience our sufferings and taste death for Himself, but also to destroy death by His own death. This is to set us free of all those who through the fear of death has become slaves all their lives. God wants to set us free. It was for freedom that Christ set us free. Do not be enslaved to a yoke of bondage to fear, to a fear of the future, to fear of death, and the anxiety to those that the Gentiles pursue.
We prepare ourselves for that which is imperishable. Come to the sanctuary and remember, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” Jesus already conquered death on our behalf. We need to learn what this means and to live this victory.
Christ is alive, the Spirit burns through the Eucharist and every future age until all creation lives and learns of His joy, His justice, His love and His praise and His victory. Learn it; don’t forget; and more importantly, live it. All creation is for them anyway.
Isaiah 25:6-9 says, “The Lord of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain; A banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, And refined, aged wine. 7 And on this mountain He will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples, Even the veil which is stretched over all nations.8 He will swallow up death for all time, And the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces, And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; For the Lord has spoken. 9 And it will be said in that day, Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.”
There is a funeral pall, a burial cloth that is over all the earth, and it representative of death. God says that He will remove this cloth and will turn this funeral cloth into a Table cloth for a feast with marrow and choice pieces. God will prepare a feast for ALL peoples and He will remove the veil and tears He will wipe away. This is what Easter is all about! Learn it! Live it because Jesus has won it and this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.