The Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, 4 April 2021

A Sermon on 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 by Samuel D. Zumwalt, STS

1 Corinthians 15:1-11 English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 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.

THE WORD OF GOD: OUR RESURRECTION

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

On this Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, Paul gives us three words about Christ Jesus that are also three words about everyone and three words about those baptized into the Lord Jesus’ death and resurrection: dead, buried, and raised. Please repeat those words with me.

Dead

He was dead. There is no surprise in the first of three phrases in verses 3-4 that Paul introduces with the Greek conjunction “hoti,” which the English Standard Version translates “that.” The neighbors back home in Nazareth would have heard the first of three words as pilgrims returned from the celebration of Passover in Jerusalem. It would have probably gone like this.

“Did you hear about Yeshua, Mary’s Son, you know the carpenter’s boy? You know…Jesus?”

“No… what did He do now?”

“Well, I’ll tell you what He did. He got Himself crucified by the Romans.”

“Ah… poor Mary. First, a widow. Now, this. Her only Son. You know the others are Joseph’s kids by his first wife. And, you know how children like that can be. No loyalty to their father’s widow. Now, no one to take care of her. It’s a nightmare. I tell you. And little Yeshua? He was always causing His parents such heartache. Remember the time He got lost at Passover. Mary and Joseph had to turn around, go back to Jerusalem, and where did they find that boy? He was in the Temple, talking the Law and the Prophets with the elders. And was He apologetic? Did He say, ‘I’m sorry, Ima and Abba. I lost track of time.’ No, I tell you because I heard it myself. Little Yeshua told His mommy and daddy that He had to be in His Father’s house. ‘His Father’s house,’ He said. And what did Mary and the carpenter say to that? Nothing. They just looked at each other as if that’s what a child should say that has disobeyed His parents like that and almost killed His mommy with worry. Ah… He was always strange like that. That One. So, poor Ima.’”

Yeshua was dead. No surprise. It happens to everyone. Yes, even to the baptized. The surprise is how. The surprise is when. Why are we so surprised? Because that happens to everyone else until it happens to those we love most. Until it happens to us. Yeshua was dead. He had to die, because Yeshua, truly God and truly human, is the new Passover Lamb, who takes away the sins of the world. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Surely, you remember the second word.

Buried

He was buried. Imagine the conversation back home.

“Poor Mary. Did they leave the body on the cross? You know that’s what those Gentiles do. It’s supposed to deter everyone else from rebelling. It doesn’t. It only makes us hate our Roman masters more. So… First, they strip them down to how they came into the world. Then, they put them up until they suffocate. Loved ones have to watch. And you can imagine the crowd of onlookers. Some have to stop and look, those kibitzers. Friends and family cannot bear to leave. And, after the crucified one dies, worst of all, the Romans leave him there as carrion. We cannot even bury our dead. Can you imagine the horror on top of horror? Poor Mary indeed.”

But then the one just back from Jerusalem says: “Well… that’s not what happened this time. You know the stories about little Yeshua, the rabbi from Nazareth. Always drawing a crowd, that One. Yes, you know He really had to make some powerful enemies to get Himself crucified by the Romans like one of those zealot assassins.”

And the other would ask: “What did He do? He didn’t try to kill one of the Romans? Not a rabbi! What did He do? Did He get one of His disciples to kill a Roman? Did He start a riot at Passover like those other Galileans the Romans killed a few years ago? You know that Roman governor Pontius Pilate. What an animal! He never misses a chance to flex his muscles… to let you know he’s the boss. Master of the Universe, why must we suffer like this? Where’s your Messiah?”

Then the pilgrim said: “I’ll tell you what Yeshua did. He went into the Temple and said where everyone could hear, ‘My Father’s house should be a house of prayer even for the Gentiles. But you have turned it into a den of thieves.’ Then He goes wild, starts kicking over tables of those changing Gentile money into Temple coinage so they could pay the Temple tax. Then, He takes a whip of leather cords and starts scattering the animals and all the vendors selling animals to be sacrificed for the peoples’ sins. You don’t have to imagine very much to know the chief priests wanted Him dead after that and the Romans, too, for causing such a fuss when so many Jews were in town for Passover. It could have been a bloodbath. What’s one rabbi from Galilee compared to the many? Imagine the kids of those merchants going hungry after Yeshua’s tirade.”

And the other would ask: “But how come He got buried? That’s not what Romans do with criminals bad enough to get crucified. What happened? Mary’s a nobody just like her Son.”

Then the pilgrim said: “Yeshua made some powerful friends, too. Even some of the Pharisees in the Sanhedrin. Master Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea went to Pontius Pilate and asked for His body. You know what happened next. The women from Galilee washed the body, wrapped Him in linen, one woman even gave some pure nard for the anointing of the body (imagine the expense!), and they placed Him into the tomb that Joseph of Arimathea had built for himself.”

So… He was buried like all of us should be, whether as corpses or as dust and ash. And you remember that third surprising word, because we confess it will happen to us, too. He was…

Raised

The Pharisees taught that at the end of time the righteous dead will be raised. The Sadducees, the chief priests and most of the wealthiest Judeans thought that was utter nonsense. How very 21st century “woke” of them! When you’re everything here and now, why would you even care to speculate about what happens after death? Just ask Soros, Zuckerberg, Dorsey, Pichai, Gates, Allen, and the other oligarch pezzonovate (big shots) with politicians dancing on their strings.

They should maybe pay better attention, because, according to Jesus, everyone will be raised from the dead to give an account of what they have done with what God gave them. As Jesus warned, “To whom much is given of him much will be required” (Luke 12:48). And to those claiming to be Christians while being friends with the world and serving money? Jesus warned: “Not everyone who says unto me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 7:21).

Paul reminded the Corinthian Christians: Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! The Risen Lord Jesus Christ appeared to over 520 of the brothers and sisters. And Paul says, “If you don’t believe me, just ask around. Many of those who saw the Risen Jesus, like I did, are still alive.”

So, now … imagine the rest of the story. The pilgrim back from Jerusalem says:

“But wait, there’s more. Yeshua wasn’t just dead. He wasn’t just buried. He was raised!”

And the other says: “What do you mean raised? Like what our Pharisee rabbis teach? Like from the dead? You mean like all those stories about Him raising Jairus’ daughter and the widow of Nain’s son? Like what some said He did with that brother of Mary and Martha… Lazarus?”

Then the pilgrim says: “Ah… it’s so much better than that. Jairus’ daughter, the widow’s son, Lazarus? They’re going to have to die again. Yes, the children are young. Their parents need them for old age. But Mary and Martha are loaded. A house big enough for a visiting rabbi and a bunch of disciples to stay overnight? And feed a bunch of hungry men like that? They’ll be fine even if they would be sad for the rest of their lives… like all of us when a sister or brother dies. But, no, the story is so much better than you could ever imagine or make up. For the best part of all is Yeshua is not just Mary’s Son. He is the Son of the Master of the Universe!”

And the other says: “What? You’re telling me what? You’re expecting me to believe what???”

The pilgrim says: “I know. I know. Believe me. I know. I wouldn’t have believed it if I had not seen Him with my own eyes. I tell you there were nail holes in His hands. There were nail holes in both of His feet. I tell you there was such a gash in His side where a Roman soldier stuck a spear when Yeshua was on that cross dead. And the mess His forehead was after the soldiers put a crown of thorns on Him and mocked Him as King of the Jews. Did I not tell you that Pilate was making the biggest sport of us all by putting a sign over His head that said ‘Yeshua of Nazareth, King of the Jews?’ As if to say, ‘This is what I think of the Messiah you think will come!’”

Then, the other one asks: “Are you trying to tell me that Rabbi Yeshua is the Messiah? The King from David’s family for which we have waited 600 years? What kind of Messiah dies like that?”

The pilgrim says: “I know. I know. Believe me. I know. But two of His followers from that little village Emmaus outside Jerusalem said, and I can tell you this because I heard it myself with these my own ears, that the Risen Yeshua walked with them on the way back home. They said He looked familiar, but it was getting late in the day. And they said He explained to them from the Law and the Prophets how what had happened was all according to God’s plan.”

Then, the other asks: “According to God’s plan? What Scriptures? Which?”

The pilgrim says: “Remember the Suffering Servant songs in Isaiah? He was wounded for our transgressions and on Him was laid the iniquity of us all?  Remember the Passover Lamb, whose blood was spread with hyssop over our doorposts when we were slaves in Egypt?  Did I not tell you that Yeshua was crucified at the very hour they were slaughtering the Passover lambs? Did you ever hear that the priest’s son, the prophet John who did the tevilah (the ritual cleansing) across the Jordan on the edge of the wilderness where we were, before God gave us the promised land? How he said when he saw Yeshua and gave Him a tevilah, ‘Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world?’ Everyone thought that one was meshugana (crazy) for sure!”

Then, the other says: “You expect me to believe all that, Levi? You always seemed like such a sensible fellow, although I hated you when you were a tax collector working for the Romans.”

Then, Levi also known as Matthew says, “You have to bring that up again? Always with the shame? Well, no more shame for me. Yeshua called me to follow, and I followed. I gave away money to those who I cheated. I’ve been with Him for three years now, and He told us three times what would happen, and I never believed it. He went to Jerusalem and was rejected and crucified. He was dead. He was buried. And I tell you, He was raised whether you believe it or not. But I believe it, and I know I am going to be dead, buried, and raised to give an account of all that I have done with all that His Father and mine has put in my hands. But it’s better than that, old friend. For those who have been raised with Yeshua, for those who are His friends, for those whose lives are covered with the Blood of the new Passover Lamb, there is a new life in which you can never die and never sin. Dear friend, it’s going to be so beautiful. Beautiful!”

Then, the other said: “So, you believe all that: dead, buried, raised Messiah, Passover Lamb?”

Levi said: “Oh, yes, every single word. I stake my life on it. And I hope you will, too. For Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Christ is …”

In the name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

©Samuel David Zumwalt, STS

szumwalt@bellsouth.net

St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church

Wilmington, North Carolina USA

Bulletin Insert

The Word of God: Our Resurrection

Praying

Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit; through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen” (The Daily Prayer of the Church, 1328).

Listening

1 Corinthians 15:2 “and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you…”

St. John Chrysostom [Late 4th – early 5th century Patriarch of Constantinople, Turkey]: “The Corinthians did not need to learn the doctrine, which they already knew, but they had to be reminded of it and corrected from their errors in understanding it” (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: 1 Corinthians, 149).

1 Corinthians 15:3 “…that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,”

St. Cyril [Early 5th century Patriarch of Alexandria, Egypt]: “He made his life be an exchange for the life of all. One died for all, in order that we all might live to God sanctified and brought to life through his blood, justified as a gift by his grace” (149).

1 Corinthians 15:6 “Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time…”

St. Cyril [4th century Patriarch of Jerusalem, Israel]: “So if you disbelieve one witness, you have twelve witnesses… if they disbelieve the twelve, then listen to the five hundred. After that he was seen by James, his own brother and the first overseer of this diocese. Since so noteworthy a bishop was privileged to see the risen Christ, along with the other disciples, do not disbelieve” (150).

1 Corinthians 15:8 “Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me …”

St. John Chrysostom: “Paul may have been the last but he was certainly not the least, since he was more illustrious than many who were before him, indeed, more illustrious than them all” (151-152).

1 Corinthians 15:10 “…by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain…”

St. Basil the Great [4th century Bishop of Caesarea, Turkey]: “This is the perfect and consummate glory in God not to exult in one’s own righteousness, but recognizing oneself as lacking true righteousness, to be justified by faith in Christ alone. Paul gloried in despising his own righteousness. In seeking after the righteousness of faith which is of God through Christ, he sought only to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable to his death, so as to attain to the resurrection from the dead…. It is God who grants efficacy to our labors” (153).

Reflecting

  1. Does Paul’s having formerly been a persecutor of Christ’s Church give, for you, greater credence to his witness to the resurrection of Jesus?

 Learning

 THE SACRAMENT OF THE ALTAR (from Luther’s Small Catechism)

 AS THE HEAD OF THE FAMILY SHOULD TEACH IT IN A SIMPLE WAY TO HIS HOUSEHOLD

 What is the Sacrament of the Altar?

It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ Himself for us Christians to eat and to drink.

Where is this written?

The holy Evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke, and St. Paul write: Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to the disciples and said: “Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of Me.” In the same way also He took the cup after supper, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying: “Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Doing

  1. Pray for every unbaptized child and adult you know and for the child’s parents, too. Place their pictures and/or names in a prominent place as a reminder to pray for them
  2. Pray for your unchurched loved ones and friends. Place their pictures and/or names in a prominent place as a reminder to pray for them. Invite one or more of them to worship.
  3. Discuss with your spouse, your family, or a friend what the Lord Jesus promises in the Words of Institution. Read 1 Corinthians chapters 10 and 11 for a greater sense of context.
  4. Consult Lutheran Book of Worship, p. 181, for the daily lessons appointed for Easter Week (Year One) and read them daily before offering your prayers on behalf of your family, the world, our nation, our state, and our local communities.
  5. Read Luke 24:13ff., the road to Emmaus experience, to learn Luke’s favorite name for the Lord’s Supper, “the breaking of the bread.” Read Acts 2 for further understanding of that.
  6. Read Exodus 12:21-28 to begin to make connections between the original Passover and the new Passover which Christians are celebrating today. Note the connection between the blood of the lamb in Exodus 12 and the blood of the Lamb of God given in the Lord’s Supper.

 For Husbands and Wives

Repeat daily: “I (name) take you (name) to be my wedded wife (husband), to have and to hold from this day forward; for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish until death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance, and thereto I pledge you my faith.”