Thursday of Epiphany VI – I Corinthians 15:1-20

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

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. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

On the highway which skirted the little town in which my father preached, his congregation had placed a sign on some property owned by a member of the parish. It was made up of long, wide individual boards, each of which had been painted with a single line of text. The sign announced the name of the congregation, service times, etc., but on one of those boards it proclaimed, “We preach Christ crucified!”

That is, if you are not aware, a quote from I Corinthians 1:23, but it is only part of the sentence. In the rest of it, Paul goes on to say that this is a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the gentiles. For the one who believes, however, it is power and wisdom of God. But would Paul have put that out on the highway? I am not sure. Reading this passage and hearing Paul’s sermons in Acts, it seems to me that he would have preferred that we say, “We preach Christ resurrected!” Paul does not deny the crucifixion. He mentions it here too, but it was the resurrection of Jesus which knocked him off his horse on the road to Damascus. It was Jesus’ power over death which gave Paul the impetus to do a thorough re-reading of his Torah and come to re-understand the death of Jesus as a fulfillment of the Jewish sacrifices. I am glad we have a cross on top of our building and that has long been the symbol of Christianity. But our sermons, our lives, and our message is that Jesus has risen. That is the point on which this whole Christian enterprise stands or falls. Jesus, crucified for our sins, has been raised. His sacrifice has paid the price. Hell has no hold over him or us who have been baptized into Him.

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