April 12, 2009
Some years ago, the distinguished publishing house of Grosset & Dunlap brought together a panel of 28 educators and historians and asked them to select the 100 most significant events of history, then list those events in order of importance. After months of labor, the panel reported that they considered the most significant event of history to be the discovery of America. In second place was the invention of movable type by Gutenberg. Eleven different events tied for third place, and five events tied for fourth place. The events tying for fourth were the writing of the Constitution of our country, the development of ether, the development of the x-ray, the discovery of the airplane and the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus tied for fourth.5
We gather together on this holiest day in all of Christendom to affirm that Jesus Christ is not fourth; He is first. There is no other person more important and no event more significant than the resurrection of Jesus Christ. When Paul wrote to the dysfunctional church at Corinth, he affirms for us the central importance of the resurrection.
First, he says the resurrection of Jesus Christ is essential for our salvation. Paul reminded the Corinthians, “I want to remind you what I preached to you lest you believe in vain.” It is possible to believe in things in vain, to hope against hope for something to happen and to have the mistaken belief that if we just have enough faith it will happen even against all odds. The word of the cross and the resurrection is both a warning and a promise. It warns us that it is possible to believe things in vain-to place our hope in empty vanities that have no life-transforming power. But, it is also a word of promise. Through faith in the resurrected Jesus Christ, your belief doesn’t have to be in vain.
Second, Paul tells us that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a historical fact. Paul taught and preached the essential core of the gospel-Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, He was buried, He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and He appeared to Peter and then to the Twelve. This is for Paul what is important for us to know about Jesus Christ.
What helps us to understand that the resurrection happened is to look at the lives that were transformed by that belief. Peter went from being a sniveling coward to the bold preacher of Pentecost. This “gang that couldn’t shoot straight” band of 11 rag-tag disciples went out and
literally changed the course of history because of the resurrected Christ.
That would be an interesting historical footnote if it were not for the third truth Paul teaches. That is, the Resurrected Christ can forgive you of your shameful past. Paul never could get over the fact that Jesus would use him. He felt that he was unworthy because he persecuted the church. Yet, when Jesus called him, he responded and found that God’s grace to him was not in vain. Paul had as much to be forgiven for as anyone, but he rejoiced that the resurrected Christ came and said, “I died for sinners. I’ll forgive you.” Paul now says, “By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.” Anything that Paul did in his past was now forgiven by the blood of Jesus and the resurrected Lord.
What shame is in your past? Would you like to know freedom from whatever shame in your past keeps you from living for God and knowing true peace? The resurrection is a word of hope to you that you can be a new person.
?5. Bruce Thielemann, “Christus Imperator,” Preaching Today, tape 55, 1988.