The Resurrection of Our Lord April 16 and 17, 2022
“Nothing Else Matters” I Corinthians 15:12-26
Rev. John R. Larson Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
There was this Yale University professor, smart as smart can be, who taught in their School of Divinity, who said, “If Christ has not been raised; nothing else matters.” And then he added, “And if Christ has been raised; nothing else matters.” That smart guy from Yale (Jaroslav Pelikan) got it right.
There was another smart guy – St. Paul – who said the same thing. In a series of “if-then” statements, Paul tells us what life would be like if there wasn’t a resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised him from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” (I Corinthians 15:14-19)
Do you understand? That smart guy from Yale gets it. “If Christ has not been raised; nothing else matters.” If this resurrection stuff is made up, if we are only confessing what other people want us to believe, if this is some type of religious fairy tale, we are just the most miserable of folks. If this is just a myth and we have been deceived by some wild story about women going to the tomb, and some angels telling them that Jesus had risen, and then Jesus, Himself, showing them His body, riddled with scars – if there is no truth to this, then nothing else matters. Preaching is useless – I should just save my breath. Faith is useless. Life is empty. We are still yoked with our overwhelming sin. We are living a lie, a fantasy, a “happily-ever-after” when there will never be a happily-ever-after. And all those family members, folks, grandparents, friends and kids that we have buried, that we said are in a far better place, and we said that we would see again, well, such a hope is just a dream. It won’t ever happen. We should just join with the rest of the world who says of the dead, “Dead is dead” and when you’re gone you just have simply stopped existing. Everlasting life? No!! Talk about a crummy Easter!! If Christ has not been raised; nothing else matters.
But after the whole troubling, “if-then” debate, Paul gets to what he really wants to tell us. “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. (I Corinthians 15:20-22) This isn’t made up. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from death truly happened.
I agree with that smart guy who would say, “If Christ has not be raised; nothing else matters.” It is like that proverb that says. “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” Life has turned in on itself and has lost its focus on anyone else but self.
But more than that, I agree with that smart guy who would also say, “And if Christ has been raised; nothing else matters.” We have the ultimate answer to life and death, life now, and also eternally. Our reading says, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (I Corinthians 15:26).
What is going to happen to us when we die? What is going to happen to those who we treasure and love? Will we be ok? Will they be ok? Yes. Jesus died and after the battle in the grave He came to life again. Listen to this sure promise of God, “If you confess with your mouth that ‘Jesus is Lord’, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scriptures says, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’” (Romans 10:9-11)
Nothing else matters because Jesus Christ has everything in His hands. He has me, and you, and them, and everyone, in His hands. His might is stronger than all evil and hopelessness and all death. When He says, “No one can snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28), Jesus is telling us of that grip that He has on us. Whatever obstacle we face in life we will always know that He is stronger and mightier and bigger and greater. In another writing of St. Paul, he speaks about the abiding love of Jesus Christ, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39)
I think there is a cockiness to someone who is convinced of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. They know that He is Lord and Master of everything. They know that He is stronger than any form of evil. They know that they are secure in His love. Do you have that? Do you have that faith, that assurance, that confidence? Today is Easter – the strongest word that God has ever spoken. Listen to its truth and know that nothing else matters. You have that which is foundational to how you are going to live and how you are going to die. You can look at death, all because of Easter’s truth and say, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O grave, is your sting?” (I Corinthians 15:55)
But I want to add something to that line from that smart guy from Yale. “If Christ has been raised (and He has been) then everything, and everyone, matters.” Who matters to you? Those people around your table have to matter to you. But also the people who aren’t around your table should matter. The people that have life all put together matter to you. But also the people who struggle with life, who don’t quite have it all right, must matter to us.
I find the resurrection appearances to Peter, Mary Magdalene, and Paul a word from God that everyone matters. Peter, the one who was so weak in faith when he disgraced Jesus, who took an oath that he would never disown Christ, yet denied Him multiple times, was visited individually by Jesus following the resurrection. Jesus forgave him, restored him and told him that He had great plans for the life of Peter. Because Christ has been raised then everyone and everything truly matter.
How about Mary Magdalene? Jesus cast 7 demons from her. Now, I don’t know what that all looked like. But maybe her character wasn’t like your average Sunday School teacher. After the resurrection, when she is weeping, not knowing what had happened to the body of Jesus, Jesus changes her life with one word. That word? Her name. “Mary”. (John 20:16) To Jesus everyone matters.
Paul? This guy who once confessed that he hated Jesus and all of those who followed Jesus, who described himself as “a blasphemer, a persecutor and a violent man”, (I Timothy 1:13) was sought out, called, cleansed, and then filled with the Holy Spirit to be the vessel of Christ’s working. God’s reclamation project tells us what a resurrected Jesus can do in our lives. Paul saw that because Christ was indeed raised, everyone and everything matters.
Jesus said, “Because I live, you too will live.” Eternally. Yes. What glory that will be. What comfort that brings as we get older and older and know that soon that day will be ours. And we’ll live with a new body on the day of the resurrection of all flesh. But also now, right now, we live with the Holy Spirit guiding our life with power and purpose.
Simplify your life on this Easter and know with an utter conviction, that Jesus lives and you and your life, you and your eternity are all set. In His resurrection it is true that nothing else matters. And it is also true, that because He lives, everyone we come into contact with, and everything that God brings into our lives, truly matters.
We live life in the truth of the resurrection. Christ is risen. He is risen. Indeed!! Amen!!