Hungering for Easter (Lenten Reflections)

Text: 1 Corinthians 15:19-28

Death is an enemy.

On occasion death can be a relative good. When the quality of life, for example, is significantly diminished and there is unbearable pain, we might think dying is better than living—but only in a relative sense. Life is better than death since God created life but not death.

But death, the enemy, reigns. We are powerless before it. We cannot control it. We have no authority over it. Death comes when it wills. We may be able to delay it, but it still comes.

Indeed, death has a long history. It goes back to Adam (and Eve). Though shalom (peace) once ruled a world in which God delighted and rested, sin vandalized the goodness of creation and death assumed its dictatorship. Death was an alien invader in the world God created. Chaos now reigns through death. In Adam all die.

Without hope death gives way to despair. But God has a plan. Christ is God’s response to Adam; resurrection is God’s answer to death. God does not intend for his creation, including our bodies, to disappear into nothingness. God will raise our bodies from the dead in order to live fully in the renewed creation, the new heaven and new earth.

God has a plan, and it is Jesus the Messiah. Jesus was not only human—authentically human in every way, but he is the new human through his resurrection. He is the first of a new humanity, one that will live forever on a renewed earth. His resurrection promises a future humanity. In Christ all are made alive.

Jesus is the first of a coming harvest. Jesus is the first fruit of the harvest; there is more to come. The resurrection of Jesus belongs to the future but occurred in the past as a prediction of the future.

The resurrection of Jesus is a preview of coming attractions. But this preview does not leave us wondering what the end of the drama will be. Instead, in the resurrection of Jesus, we see death destroyed.

The resurrection of Jesus is the power of God that destroys all authority, power and dominion. Death no longer reigns, but Jesus. The Empire no longer wields power, but the kingdom of God. Satan no longer holds the keys of Hades (death) but the living Christ does.

Death is the last enemy and it will not last. Death will not win. This is what we celebrate every Sunday, and this what we celebrate on Easter. God has given us hope in this life and through the resurrection God will give us life after death—not just life “in heaven” after death, but life after life after death in the new heaven and new earth.

God will not abandon his loved ones in the grave. Life wins. Death loses.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Is death an enemy? In what sense?
  2. Identify the contrasts that appear in 1 Corinthians 15:19-28. What do they tell you about our hope?
  3. What does it mean to say that Jesus is the “first fruits” of the coming harvest?
  4. How has hope shaped your life? What difference has it made? In what way have you experienced hope in the face of death?


9 Responses to “Hungering for Easter (Lenten Reflections)”

  1.   K. Rex Butts Says:

    I know this question may be a little beyond the scope of your post but since it deals with 1 Cor 15, I want to ask it…

    Is there continuity between the “old” which perishes and the “new” which is raised? In v. 42-43 it seems very much where what “…is sown…it is raised…” that Paul is implying continuity. But then in v. 50ff Paul stresses that ‘flesh and blood’ – not denying the bodily resurrection but meaning the ‘perishable’ – cannot receive the kingdom inheritance which some, perhaps many, scholars believe necessitates that the imperishable must be different from the perishable and thus their being a discontinuity between the two.

    I wrote a paper for Dr. Oster for his class on the Corinthian Letters and wrestled with this question, for which I never really resolved to my own understanding. Except to conclude that even though the paper was exegetical and not theological, I don’t think the question can be truly answered without an appeal to theology.

    Grace and Peace,

    Rex

    P.S. Have a blessed Resurrection Day! Easter is hope and promise!

    • Avatar of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

      Rex,

      I appreciate the question. It is a difficult one.

      In my opinion, “flesh and blood” refers not to the materiality of the body but to the sustenance of the body. That is, the life source (what animates the body) of the body–life in the Adamic (psuchikos, natural) body is sustained by the blood that nourishes the flesh. However, the resurrected body, that is, the Christic body (pneumatikos, spiritual) body is a material reality that is animated by the Holy Spirit (thus, Spiritual). The life of the ressurected body is the life of God himself by the presence of the animating work of the Spirit.

      So, I think the continuity is high: both are material and I would assume recognizable (just as Jesus was recognizable). The model is the body of Jesus–he is the first of the resurrection (harvest) and we part of that harvest. His resurrection body was material, recognizable and useful (eating, walking, speaking, etc.). But it was the “firstborn” from the dead–his body was not longer animated by flesh and blood (though it was “flesh and bones” as Luke 24 indicates, that is, material and not a ghostly reality) but by the Spirit of God through whom Jesus was rasied from the dead (Romans 8).

      There is a level, of course, that this is beyond us–we can’t imagine it since we are so limited by our present experience. At the same time, however, the hope is not inconceivable nor is it a denial of creation itself. It is the renewal of creation.

      I hope that helps somewhat, at least where I would take this.

      John Mark

      •   K. Rex Butts Says:

        Thanks for the reply. You are right, it is a difficult issue. When I wrote the paper, I took the position of discontinuity but that has changed since then, in part due to some of N.T. Wright’s writing and in part due to some further conversations with Dr. Oster. However, despite writing a feeble exegetical paper that dealt with the resurrection of the dead, there is still a lot I do not understand in this chapter and therefore any opportunity I have to ask someone else who knows something about the topic…well, I won’t pass the opportunity up. Yet I also recognize that some of this is beyond our human-finite comprehension.

        I do like your explanation of ‘flesh and blood’ and what make the spiritual body (being animated by the Holy Spirit) different from the Adamic body.

        It is also a comforting thought to consider how we will be recognizable in our spiritual-resurrected body. I am thinking of those we have lost…and what it will be like to be reunited as recognizable people no longer plague by a dying body that has been robbed of life but to be full of life animated by the Spirit.

        Grace and peace,

        Rex

  2.   Randall Says:

    I appreciate the post as well as Rex’s question. I look forward to John Mark’s reply as I know if will be better than my musings. I wonder if there could be a degree of continuity in the resurrection body, say enough that we would recognize each other as well as recognize our own bodies; and at the same time some discontinuity in that it would be a “spiritual” body that is real and tangible rather than a “flesh and blood” body that is corruptible.
    Peace,
    Randall

  3.   Terrell Lee Says:

    And will we be able to walk through walls, jump over tall mountains, travel anywhere on the planet very quickly, etc. Not trying to be funning…just can’t wait (sort of) to find out.

  4.   rich constant Says:

    what seems to be interesting to me with all our imagination that god gave us the wonder of mind and seances it would seem to me to not put anything on what our god has in store for us.
    something light, my thought our not your thoughts …
    any way what a wonderful very good time we will have…
    in every respect each one of us could come up with there is no way we could possibly entrain even an inkling of comprehension of a god that’s says let there be light

  5.   eirenetheou Says:

    In another place our brother Paul writes, “… to live: Christ; to die: gain.” We do well to ponder what he means.

    Trapped as we are in decaying flesh, “this body of death,” there comes a time for many of us when death, if not exactly a “friend,” is no longer an “enemy.” Because God has conquered death in raising up our Lord Jesus, we may look forward in faith to life with Jesus in the very presence of God. Nothing that this flesh may offer us can surpass life in God’s presence.

    If we think of death as the end of us, then death is indeed an enemy. As Thomas Wolfe wrote of humankind as a species, “he would still love life more dearly than an end of breathing. . . . He has endured all the hard and purposeless suffering, and still he wants to live.” When our suffering, indeed all of our life, has meaning and purpose, it is then, paradoxically, that we can say, “to die is gain.” Death becomes not an ending, but another passage. Thanks be to God.

    God’s Peace to you.

    d

  6.   Randall Says:

    What “eirenetheou” said – Amen.
    Randall

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