Okay, so I’m thinking a rewrite of the old Easter hymn may be in order. Instead of “He Arose!”, perhaps it should be “He Appeared!”
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.
(1Corinthians 15:3-8 ESV)
You think Paul’s trying to make a point with that repetition? Me too!
Being a Christian in Corinth wasn’t a gimme. Talk about swimming upstream. But then to have this teaching infiltrating the church that the idea of a resurrection from the dead was but a fanciful myth? Talk about discouraging. No point swimming upstream if your carcass is just going to end up rotting away on the bank like everybody else’s.
So Paul comes out with his “reminder” (15:1) to the brother and sisters with guns a blazing. If there’s no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen then the whole deal is useless. Preaching the gospel is in vain. Believing in the gospel is in vain. Deliverance from sin is a joke. The hope of life beyond this life but a pitiable promise (15:17-19).
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
(1Corinthians 15:20 ESV)
And not only did He “arose,” He appeared!
Jesus was seen. He was beheld. He was optanomai (I’m no Greek guy, but that opta in the original word looks like it might be tied to optical).
Stared at. Gazed upon. Observed with eyes wide-open.
By Cephas (aka Peter). By the twelve. Then out in public — on one occasion, by a crowd of more than five hundred. By James his brother. By all the apostles. And by the least of the apostles, Paul himself.
Hallelujah, Christ appeared!
I know we walk by faith and not by sight, but praise God for those who sighted Jesus. Eyewitnesses of His resurrection from the dead. Kind of an important thing to have in those days following His death and burial. Crucial corroboration that the tomb was empty not because His body was taken and hidden somewhere to perpetuate some scam, but because He was up and around and really was the Author of Salvation, the Conqueror over sin and death.
He appeared, you Corinthians. Don’t fall for anything that leads you to believe otherwise. Consider the eyewitnesses. And keep on keepin’ on.
How important is that witness for our endurance? I’m thinking, “Pretty important!”
That’s why we need to be in fellowship. And I’m not just talking about going to church once a week, two or three times a month. But hanging with believers on a regular basis throughout the week. Regular interactions with others who have encountered the risen Christ, are abiding with the living Lord, and testify to His palpable presence.
I think back over this past week and the number of brother and sisters in the faith who I have been with. With some talking “business.” With others talking about suffering. With others still, talking about struggling. And as I think back I realize that in each and every case, regardless of the nature of our conversation, while these folks may not have been eyewitnesses of the living Christ, they are all faith-witnesses. Each having experienced the reality of a risen Christ. Each able to speak of the evidences of walking with Jesus, whether that encounter of the divine kind was being led by Him, comforted by Him, or convicted of sin by Him.
You ask me how I know it’s real? I see it. I behold it. He appears in every brother, and through every sister, I rub shoulders with throughout the week. And it helps me keep on keepin’ on as I strive to swim upstream. Because this week, He appeared to me.
That’s why small groups are so important. Why having coffee, breakfast, or lunch with other believers on a regular basis is important. Why practicing hospitality is so important. Why we need to be with believers on a regular basis is important. So we can be reminded of the reality of our faith.
Hallelujah, Christ appeared!
Now, through eyes of faith. Soon, face to face. Even so, Lord Jesus come!
Because of grace. For His glory.