Those of us who have looked death in the face understand the power of the Christian confession: "I believe ... in the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting" (Apostles' Creed).
By confessing these 10 simple words we spit in the face of the Grim Reaper and declare our allegiance to a power that is higher and greater than the grave, namely our Lord Jesus Christ.
It is not primarily His teachings or His sermons, but Christ's resurrection, that turned the world upside down or, shall I say, right side up. The rabbi Saul was a different man after he saw the resurrected Christ. He received a new name (Paul) and a new identity (apostle of Jesus the Messiah).
To people in Rome, center of world power, he wrote that Jesus of Nazareth was "declared with power to be the Son of God ... by the resurrection from the dead" (Romans 1:4). To people in Greece, sophisticated devotees of science and logic, he reasons from an impressive list of more than 500 eyewitnesses that "in fact Christ has been raised from the dead" (1 Corinthians 15:1-8, 20).
Paul electrified his contemporaries with the astounding message that God raised this Jesus from the dead in their own back yard and during their own lifetime. This was not ancient history. This was front page news in the Jerusalem Post. This was not wistful thinking. This was hard news grounded by eyewitness accounts.
In fact, Paul is always proclaiming the death and resurrection of Jesus in his sermons and in his letters. He clearly understood the absolute centrality of the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Without that event Christianity is little more than a high-minded philosophy. But with Jesus' resurrection Christianity is the holy grail of religion: the source of eternal life.
Christians confess that Jesus is this life source. Jesus said of Himself, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live" (John 11:25). Christians believe that the power of the risen Christ is still available to people today. He feeds us the very Body that defeated death in His Holy Supper, to which the ancients gave the name "the medicine of immortality."
Yes, with our own lips we both taste of this salvation and spit into the face of the Grim Reaper with joyous shout: "Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory? ... Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
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