Mark 16 and 1 Corinthians 15, What if There Was No Resurrection?
Years ago one of my students came to me asking about if the bodily resurrection of Christ was a fact. The minister of his church had made some comments in his sermon that sounded like he did not believe in the literal bodily resurrection of Christ. I told him the resurrection is a fact, and he should ask his minister what he meant in his sermon. Sure enough the minister at one of the largest and oldest churches in Dallas told him, “I don’t believe in the literal bodily resurrection. I believe Jesus is alive in my heart and in your heart, and his teachings are excellent directions for our lives. I am proud to say my student left that church and joined one with more correct biblical beliefs. Nevertheless, it made me think about a very important question, “What if Jesus was not resurrected from the dead?”
If there is one word that expresses the value of the resurrection I think it is HOPE. In the 20th and 21st century we have seen many events that have changed our lives—two world wars, the Nuclear bomb, computers, the internet, terrorism and 9—11, cell phones, and many others; but the only event in history that changed our lives eternally is the resurrection of Christ. It has given us hope in at least three ways. First we have hope for today. As the song goes, “Life is worth the living just because He lives”. There is nothing better for life here and now than to know the happy glorious ending that Christ is alive and with the same power we will be raised from the dead to spend eternity with Him in glory. In order to verify the value of hope, just look at the lives of the Apostles before and after the resurrection. They were clueless ineffective followers of Christ who were terrified that Jesus was leaving them. At the Last Supper in John 13-17, Jesus had to tell them over and over “do not be troubled” and do not fear because He would be raised on the third day. At the Garden of Gethsemane, He asked them to pray with Him and they fell asleep. When He was arrested they fled for their lives and Peter denied Him. After the resurrection, they were totally different people filled with hope. Secondly they had hope for tomorrow, the future. I read a story about millionaire Eugene Lang speaking at the 6th grade of an elementary school in Harlem. Talking to the principal he was told the dropout rate would be huge and most would not graduate from High School. Lang promised them in his speech that if they stayed in school through High School, he would pay for their college tuition. Amazingly about 80% graduated because they had hope for the future. In the same way, we have something in our future guaranteed that gives us the hope to persevere through all the bad things in this fallen world. We have God’s promise that it will end well, so no matter what trouble we go through in this life, we know the power that resurrected Jesus will resurrect us as well.
Thirdly, Jesus’ disciples have hope for eternity. Our future resurrected bodies will be eternal. We look forward with excitement to a renewed perfect body suitable for heaven. These bodies are aging and falling apart, but our new bodies will be perfect spiritual bodies for eternity. Jesus is alive. He was resurrected! He is not behind us in ages past in a tomb. He is before us at the right hand of God Almighty. When I think of our hope, I am reminded of that great sermon that S. M. Lockridge preached about 40 years ago—“It’s Friday but Sunday is Coming”.
It’s Friday, but Sunday is Coming by S. M. Lockridge
About 40 years ago one of the greatest preachers ever, S. M. Lockridge preached a sermon on Easter that really illustrated the hope that Jesus Christ’s resurrection gives us. Let me give you the short abridged version: Early Friday morning on the last day of Jesus’ life, Jesus is praying, Judas is betraying, and the disciples are sleeping—but it’s Friday. The soldiers are arresting Jesus, the priests are condemning but it’s Friday, and they don’t know Sunday is coming! Pilate is judging, the Romans are beating Jesus, but its Friday, they don’t know Sunday is coming! Christ is suffering, people are mocking, Mary is crying, the disciples are hiding, but its Friday and they don’t know Sunday is coming! Jesus is nailed to the cross, Jesus is left alone and dying, but it’s Friday. Hope is lost, Satan is happy but they don’t know Sunday is coming. Jesus is dead, He is buried, but its Friday and Sunday is coming! The Pharisees are celebrating, but they don’t know Sunday is coming! Its Friday, it grows dark, the earth trembles, the veil in the Temple splits—it’s only Friday and Sunday is coming!
That is the good news, that is the heart and hope of the Gospel message that Friday was tragic, it was painful, every believer was fearful, and appearances were really bad, but God had the wonderful plan of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ on Sunday, which made everything right. Even now in the fallen world we live in, as messed up as it is, we can say we have all the hope in the world because our Sunday of resurrection is coming! Worldly evil people seem to be having their way, but its Friday for us, and Sunday is coming!
In the Gospel of Mark we have the shortest version of the resurrection in any of the four Gospels. The two Marys went to the tomb early Sunday morning to pay their respects to Jesus by anointing His body with spices. They had no idea how they were going to roll away the stone that covered the tomb, but as they approached they saw it was already rolled away. They entered to see the tomb empty except an angel was there who told them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, He is not here”. The rest of the resurrection story of Jesus’ many appearances can be found in the other Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John, and also Paul’s First Letter to the Church at Corinth in chapter 15. Mark 16:9-20 should be in brackets in your Bible because it was not in the original writing of Mark, and was a later addition by some copyist probably in the 6th century. The oldest and best New Testament manuscripts like the Codex Sinaiticus and the Codex Vaticanus dating from about 350 A. D. do not have verses 9-20. This makes sense to me because there is some strange stuff in these verses that do not appear anywhere else in the New Testament.
1 Corinthians 15, Paul’s Important Question
In this passage, Paul asks the question, “What would it mean if Jesus was not resurrected?” What difference would it make, if it were not true? Paul mentions at least six tragic consequences: First, all the preaching of the Apostles was wasted or “futile” as he says. He meant that their lives dedicated to preaching the good news about Jesus would have no purpose or meaning. All preachers today even should resign and get honest jobs because the core of the gospel message is “He was raised again”. Secondly, “our faith is in vain”, meaning we are trusting something that is not real. If our Savior is dead our faith means nothing. For eternal life, how could we trust someone who is dead? Romans 1:4 says Jesus “is shown to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead”. We trust that we will be resurrected because He has been! Thirdly, all the Apostles would have been liars. They all testified as eyewitnesses that they saw and touched and heard the risen Christ. All of these good men were credible witnesses that were willing to be martyred because they knew it was the truth. Could all of these men knowingly, deliberately commit perjury? It would have included not just the 12 disciples, but the 120 we find gathered with Jesus in Acts 1, and the 500 disciples who saw Him in 1 Cor. 15:6.
Fourthly, Paul says if Christ was not risen then we are all still dead in our sins (1 Cor.15:17). The promise of the atonement for our sin was guaranteed by the resurrection. We read in Romans 4:25, “He was delivered over for our transgressions and was raised because of our justification.” The fifth consequence if Christ was not resurrected is that He is still in the grave, and death still is final. In 1 Cor. 15:18 we read, “Then those believers who have died have perished (permanently)”. Without the resurrection, death would be final. The sixth consequence is that none of us has a future! All hope would be gone. Paul sums up his argument in v.20 by saying, “But now Christ has been raised from the dead”.
1 Corinthians 15:35-50
As they say “dust to dust”, so how could human bodies that are made of the basic elements of the earth, ie dirt, be resurrected? What kind of new body are we talking about? In v.36-38, he uses the image of a seed that becomes something much greater and fruitful. Just as you bury a seed, and then later it becomes a beautiful plant so is the comparison with the human body. God created the grain and God after that creates the plant it becomes. In v.39-49, God has created many different bodies that are suitable for different environments. Fish have a different body because God created them to live in water. Birds have a different body, and in the same way there are bodies suitable for heaven and bodies suitable for earth. We will die in a perishable earthly body, but be raised in a heavenly imperishable body. God has an infinite creative capacity as we see in His creation. We were first created with an earthly body, but then we will be created with a body suitable for heaven. His conclusion is that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God”, therefore God will rejoin our soul/spirit in a new heavenly body that is spiritual, eternal, and without sin.