Based on: 1 Corinthians 15:20-28
You can understand why they feel this way, can’t you—the people to whom Paul is writing, the people at Corinth? Can’t you identify with their fears and doubts?
There were many people in Corinth who had trouble with the whole idea of resurrection. Not just with Jesus’ resurrection, but with resurrections generally. “Dead people just don’t come back to life again,” they might say. “When you’re dead, you’re dead–and that’s it! We might wish for someone to come back to life, but it just doesn’t happen.”
It’s hard to argue with that. After all, how many resurrections have you heard of taking place in the last ten years, or even in the last century?
That’s the position the people at Corinth were in: They were struggling with the whole idea of someone who was “dead and buried” coming back to life. So the Holy Spirit moved Paul to write this chapter in which the apostle affirms the truth of Jesus’ resurrection. But more than that, Paul shows what the resurrection of Jesus means to you and me personally. And what he emphasizes in our portion of this chapter is that our Lord Jesus is risen and reigns. He has literally risen, which assures us of our resurrection and he reigns as king for our good.
In the verses just before this section of God’s Word, Paul says, “Let’s think about what life would be like if there were no resurrection.” It is not a pleasant thought. As the apostle says, if there is no resurrection, then Christ isn’t raised either, our preaching is “vain” or worthless. Even worse, we’re actually lying when we preach. What is more, our faith isn’t worth anything. It doesn’t do us any good to believe in a “dead and still buried” Jesus. In addition, all those deadly, damning sins you and I commit are still clinging to us. And those who have already died are now suffering the consequences of their sins in hell. If there is no resurrection then we would have to admit, as Paul does, that “we are to be pitied more than all men.”
But that’s not the situation we’re in, because Paul tells us “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead . . .” Human nature and human reason may tell us one thing—people just don’t rise from the dead; but the reality is something far, far different—now Christ is risen from the dead. Physically. Literally. We have a risen, living Savior and King!
Do we always live in the joy of our Lord’s resurrection? Do we always reflect that in our daily lives? Or do we sometimes have our moments of weakness and doubt?
Perhaps we need the periodic reminder that now, right now, at this very moment, Christ is risen from the dead.
And that makes all the difference in our lives, as Paul says “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 again.”
Did you catch the picture that Paul uses? Paul tells us that our risen Savior has become “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” The picture refers to the first sheaf of grain the farmer harvested. This first sheaf became an offering to the Lord. He gladly gave this offering to God, because he had confidence that there would be many other sheaves to follow. And that’s the confidence we have. Our risen Lord is the firstfruit, the first of countless millions who will follow him in his resurrection.
Let it sink into your heart and comfort you. Jesus is only the firstfruit. That means other fruits will follow, and you and I are the “other fruit.” Just as Christ was raised, so we and all who believe in Christ will be raised as well.
We, who started dying the unending death the moment we took our first breath, have had our immortality restored when Jesus rose from the dead. On the cross our Savior paid in full the penalty for all sin, including yours and mine, thus satisfying the demands of divine justice. And when he rose victoriously on Easter morning, he rolled away the stones in front of our graves and opened the doors of heaven to all believers.
How do we celebrate the glorious news that because Jesus lives, we shall live also?
When Luther had days of doubts and discouragements, he would write “Vivit!” in large letters on his table and the walls of his room – Latin for “He lives!” Luther was reminding himself that he had a living Lord, and that makes all the difference in the lives of God’s people. Christ our King has saved us from death. Shouldn’t we write that on our hearts and minds, if not on our walls, and then read it and rejoice in it everyday?
But there is something else we can do—something that reflects what Paul says about Jesus. We can use that same idea Paul uses of the firsfruits offering from the Old Testament. Wouldn’t that be a fitting way for us to respond to our Lord’s grace as well – bringing the firstfruits of our financial harvest to our God to reflect the joy and delight we have in our Lord Jesus, the Firstfruits of the resurrection.
There are certainly opportunities to give our firstfruits here at St. John’s. Just look in the bulletin and you will see opportunities. We also have opportunities to give to our Synod. The Synod has placed a special emphasis this fiscal year on paying off debt and the synod needs our help to do that. And why not help them, after all, the synod is simply a group of congregations walking and working together. The synod is really an extension of St. John’s, Sleepy Eye, formed to enable us to train pastors and teachers and send missionaries to make disciples of all nations as Christ commands.
Offering our firstfruits is a fitting way to celebrate Christ’s resurrection and our future resurrection. (And we can certainly be reminded that God welcomes not just our money, but the firstfruits of our time, our skills, our energy, and everything else.)
We can do this because we know that our risen Lord is also Christ the King. Even when the world is fraught with worries about difficult financial times – you can give firsfruits.
Paul tells us “But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority, and power.”
Christ the King is not just king as we spend eternity with him in heaven, but he is king now. And he is not just king over believers, but he is king over over all of creation. How different you and I look at life, because Christ our King has risen.
Christ our King rules for our good. His death and resurrection prove that he wants what is best for us. As king over all creation there is nothing stopping him from giving us the best there is. So we are free to give our firstfruits even in a financially uncertain world and we are free to give the firstfruits of our time even when it seems we don’t have much time. In fact we are far better off when we keep our focus on Christ and let him take care of us than when we worry about ourselves.
Eventually all earthly power will come to an end. There will only be the rule of our victorious Lord Jesus, and “He will deliver the kingdom to God the Father.” He will hand over to the Father his rule of grace, which will include all who are “in him,” whether they are still alive at his return or he calls them back to life.
It will truly be a glorious day when Jesus returns in his full majesty. All the hosts of heaven and the saints of God will sing in joyful praise! Let our song of celebration and joy begin on this Christ the King Sunday; and let it never stop until our Lord returns and we sing it with even greater delight before his throne.