Preaching the Resurrection
It is remarkable how easy it is to overlook how God has expressed great truths using some of the simplest language. When Paul wrote the Corinthians he used the expression “first of all.” We sometimes use this expression when we have a long list of things which are of equal importance. We talk of the first item, not because it has greater importance, but simply because it is the first thing on the list. This is not how Paul used the expression.
Paul said, “For I delivered to you first of all that which I received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4). At first reading, it is so easy to overlook that which the Greek text makes so abundantly clear. Both the NASB and the ESV translations reflect this when they say, “I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received.”
The life of Jesus has many historical events which bring such joy to those who hear them, but there is one of greater importance than all the rest. His death, burial and resurrection surpass all the rest combined. They are the supreme events of all that He did. Without these He is just another prophet sent by God, but with these He is Supreme Prophet! His death and burial are indispensable in the story of our redemption, but it is the resurrection which gives meaning to both of these. One cannot honestly look at Christianity and walk away from it without dealing with that empty tomb.
The resurrection was at the heart of the preaching in the early church. It was mentioned four times in the sermon on Pentecost in Acts chapter two. In the next chapter it was mentioned twice in the sermon preached by Peter in the temple at the hour of prayer. Then when Peter and John were arrested they were brought before the Jewish council twice and on each occasion it was proclaimed. It was preached to Cornelius, the first Gentile convert. Paul mentions it five times in the sermon he preached at Antioch. This pattern is found throughout the New Testament, where it is mentioned more than 150 times!
Now imagine that you had been with those women who first came to the tomb. You are faced with a decision—what happened to His body? Did the disciples take it? Did the enemies take it? Did grave robbers take it? The answer is found in the message from heaven given to those women, “He is not here…Come see the place where the Lord lay…He is risen…as He told you.” Had you been with them and heard these words, what would you have thought? Our hearts sing, “We serve a risen Savior…He lives, He lives!’