New years’ are for resurrections. They are an opportunity to start over. They are an opportunity to wake up from the dead, leave the old man behind and usher in a new beginning. Such new beginnings are possible for every one of us because God has chosen to recreate the world.
Upon meeting Billy Graham, Konrad Adenauer, the first Chancellor of Germany after WWII asked, “Do you believe that Jesus really rose from the dead?”
Graham, “If He didn’t, I have no gospel.”
Sometime later, Konrad would declare his own faith and say, “Outside the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I know no hope for mankind.”
Paul shared this sentiment, declaring the resurrection of Jesus as of first importance.
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. (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)
The things of first importance are not, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life”, but, “Jesus died for the forgiveness of sins, rose from the dead and is seated at the right hand of God.”
The resurrection of Jesus is something on which we either stand firm and by which we are saved (1 Corinthians 15:1-2), or else something on which we waiver and perish (1 Corinthians 15:12-19).
For Billy and for Konrad, the resurrection of Jesus was not just good news for Jesus, but good news for everyone.
How does that work? How is the resurrection of one man Good News for all men?
Made in God’s image as we are, we share a nature that only the resurrection can satisfy.
We long for peace and shun discontent. We long for life and shrink from the thought of decay. And we long for direction, and fear being lost.
First, the resurrection establishes peace on the earth. This desire for peace has been built into who we are. It’s universal.
The problem is not with the desire. The problem is how we plan to obtain it. Take former US President Nixon’s supposed telephone call from a landline to the boys on the moon.
“Because of what you have done, the heavens have become a part of man’s world. And as you talk to us from the Sea of Tranquillity, it inspires us to redouble our efforts to bring peace and tranquillity to earth.”
Yeah, good luck with that.
One of the ways we express our innermost desire for peace is by attempting to conceal the thing that took our peace away: Namely, the destructive effects of sin. (1 Corinthians 15:16-17)
We settle for the unsatisfying game of hiding our sin, our fear, despair and our rage in a multitude of ways. We drug our heavy hearts with booze, entertainment, immorality and plastic toys in a vain attempt to deal with our discontent.
But all these things fail us because they only conceal the sin rather than taking the sin away.
The resurrection of Jesus establishes true peace by taking the sin away. Forever.
Jesus died as a man without sin on earth and He was resurrected as a man without sin on earth.
Something perfectly good, perfectly pure and untainted has entered humanity. Something that establishes peace in our hearts and peace on earth by finding peace with God.
In the second place, the resurrection establishes our escape from decay. (1 Corinthians 15:18-19)
Apart from the resurrection, we perish. Death, decay and darkness are all that lay ahead.
Our billion-dollar pursuit of youth and beauty testifies to this hope and of our war against decay.
Now, youth and beauty are to be enjoyed. The young girl who puts on lipstick and blush, signally her readiness for marriage, is drawing attention to something she actually has. Namely, youth.
But when you’re still trying to look 21, 40yrs later, the effect is rather tragic.
The desire for life is there, written on the heart, but we can’t lay hold of it, despite the extra ten pounds of spack filler applied to the face.
But the resurrection establishes and satisfies that hope. It opens the door to eternal life and delivers us from decay by raising us from the dead. (Psalm 16:9-11)
Thirdly, the resurrection establishes Jesus Christ as Lord of Heaven and Earth
We long to be governed and will gladly surrender our liberty for a little extra security or safety.
If 2020 taught us anything it’s that we love to be told what to do. “Lock us up, Lock us up”.
But, as with all human institutions, such governments make poor saviours and tend only to highlight our lost and powerless condition.
But now, through the resurrection of Jesus, God has established the rule of God by a man over all men.
This is what lies behind Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 15:23-27.
As Lord overall, we now have a government that can liberate us from our discontent. We have a Good Shepherd who is able to seek and find those who are lost and a Saviour who is able to deliver us from death and give us life.
As descendants of Adam, our desires are hard-wired into who we are and it’s only the resurrection that satisfies these deepest longings.
Which is why, if you reject the resurrection, you don’t just carry on in your merry way.
Instead, you will first seek out a counterfeit, and afterwards, when it fails, you will perish.
Now, we look around and we still see discontent, death and the gradual decay of any number of people walking around lost. And we might wonder – if the resurrection is that phenomenal, why don’t I see its effects?
Sin came suddenly, the damage came gradually. So also the glory and promises of the resurrection. The deliverance came suddenly, but it’s effects, like the growth of a mustard seed, are gradual.
Such a remedy requires the patience of daily faith. It means holding fast to God’s promise that what He has begun in the resurrection of Jesus He will one day completely satisfy in us.
For us who hold fast and keep our eye on Jesus and the things of first importance, renewal, restoration and re-creation are happening day by day.
And they will continue to happen until the end when He will have perfected all things.