Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 1 Corinthians 15:20
Jaroslav Pelikan, longtime Yale professor considered one of “his generation’s preeminent authorities on Christian history,” was renowned for his extensive academic career. He published more than thirty books and won the esteemed Kluge Prize as a lifetime award for his voluminous writing. One of his students, however, recounted what he considered his teacher’s most important words, spoken from his deathbed: “If Christ is risen, nothing else matters. And if Christ is not—nothing else matters.”
Pelikan echoed Paul’s conviction: “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (1 Corinthians 15:14). The apostle made such a bold statement because he knew that the resurrection was not merely a one-off miracle but rather the pinnacle of God’s redeeming work in human history. The promise of resurrection wasn’t only His assurance that Jesus would rise from the dead but His bold affirmation that other dead and ruined things (lives, neighborhoods, relationships) would also one day be brought back to life through Christ. If there’s no resurrection, however, Paul knew that we’re in deep trouble. If there’s no resurrection, then death and destruction win.
But, of course, “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead” (v. 20). Destroyed by the Victor, death loses. And Jesus is the “firstfruits” of all the life that will follow. He conquered evil and death so that we could live bold and free. This changes everything.
What difference does it make to understand the expansive hope of Jesus’ resurrection? Where do you need resurrection in your life?
Dear God, allow me to see how Jesus’ resurrection changes everything about my life now and forever.
For Paul, the reality of the resurrection was paramount (1 Corinthians 15), and he seized every opportunity to tell others about it. We see this when he stood in chains before King Agrippa in Acts 26. As Paul made the case for the resurrection, Festus, the governor who’d sent him to Agrippa, interrupted and said, “You are out of your mind, Paul!” (v. 24). The apostle immediately appealed to direct evidence. “The king [Agrippa himself] is familiar with these things,” he said. “I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner” (v. 26).