Easter: Jesus Is Alive!
- Describe at least two of Jesus' post-resurrection appearances.
- Imagine what it was like to see Jesus alive again.
- Feel sure that Jesus arose from the dead and that someday we too will see the risen Jesus.
- Praise and worship the risen Jesus.
It probably seems strange to have a passage from one of Paul's epistles come up for Easter. Why not one of those vivid gospel stories about what happens in the early dawn on the first day of the week?
Actually, this is probably the very earliest account of the resurrection there is in the Bible. It's widely acknowledged by scholars that most of Paul's epistles predate the gospels by decades. And when Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians, most of the eyewitnesses to Jesus' resurrection were still alive, eager to tell others what they had seen and heard. Many of these accounts---but not all---are preserved in the gospels. For example, none of the gospels mentions the "more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time" that Paul talks about here.
We certainly have enough eyewitnesses recorded to know and believe that the very same Jesus who died on the cross and was buried also rose again on the third day, and is still alive today.
Paul concludes his account of the eyewitnesses by adding his own name---"last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born" (1 Cor. 15:8). While Paul was not there that awesome Easter morning, the Lord clearly met him in blazing light on the road to Damascus and called him to be the apostle to the Gentiles.
Many Christians have a strange habit of describing salvation in a way that downplays the importance of Jesus' resurrection. We say, "Jesus died for our sins," or "We are saved by the cross of Christ." Of course, that's true, but it's only part of the truth.
Paul could not express the crucial importance of Christ's resurrection more sharply than he does here. He raises the big "if" question. "[I]f Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. . . . If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied" (15:17, 19).
If Christ is not raised, then he died like all of us. If Christ is not raised, then death finally defeated him and the grip of sin and death has not been lifted.
But Christ has been raised. The resurrection of Jesus means that God wins! It means that Jesus is victor! It means that sins are truly forgiven, and the grip of death has been destroyed. Easter Sunday is God's answer to Good Friday's terrible question: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34). When Jesus breathed his last and placed his Spirit in God's hands, it was in the hope of God's resurrecting power.
What difference does it make to you today that Jesus rose from the dead? Spend some time this week thinking about that. What would your life be like if Jesus hadn't risen? Would you be a Christian? Would anyone?
What’s so important about the eyewitnesses Paul describes?
Why doesn’t Paul mention the women who were the first eyewitnesses in most of the gospel stories?
Have you ever doubted that Jesus was raised from the dead?
Paul emphasizes eyewitnesses. Be careful that the kids don’t interpret these as “sightings,” like flying saucer “sightings.” Jesus appeared to his disciples; that is, he revealed himself to them alive, showing his glory and also his continued humanity (eating and drinking with them). This is the time to testify to your own faith in the resurrection and to the difference it makes in your life.
As group members arrive today, have the song “You Are My King” (DwellSongs CD) playing. Greet each of the children with the words “Happy Easter” or “Christ is risen.”
Gather everyone around the table and ask them what events or sights they’ve been eyewitnesses to during the past week. (Explain that an eyewitness is someone who sees an event with his or her own eyes.) Listen to their responses, and explain that today’s story is about some eyewitnesses to the most important events that ever happened in the history of the world!
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