Have you ever tried to have an egg burrito without the eggs? If you do, you end up with just a tortilla, some cheese and maybe some bacon or Cholula. Now while that may still taste good, you don’t have an egg burrito. There are certain things that are at the core of what makes a thing what it is. For the egg burrito it is the eggs, without them you may still have a burrito but it is not an egg burrito.
As we approach Easter Sunday where we think about the resurrection of Jesus Christ we must understand its place in Christianity. We need to ask the question, can we have Christianity without the resurrection? If you remove the resurrection from the equation is Christianity still Christianity in the sense that the Bible portrays it?
To aid in answering these questions we need to take our queue from the Apostle Paul. In I Corinthians 15, Paul lays out the case for the resurrection so lets take a look there, if you have a Bible please grab it and open up to I Cor. 15. (Don’t worry I will wait for you. Don’t blow me off, go get your Bible! And maybe an egg burrito if you have the ingredients handy.)
In the first eleven verses Paul points out that there are some things that are “of first importance”, namely the death, burial, resurrection and appearance of Christ. These things are at the core of our theology as Christians and we must keep them that way.
For the remainder of chapter 15 Paul gives us many reasons as to why the resurrection matters, and in this blog post we will look at four of those reasons. The first three come at the issue from a negative standpoint, meaning, “if the resurrection did not happen then…” The fourth reason provides a more positive, encouraging viewpoint.
First, if the resurrection is not true Christianity is a lie. As the apostle Paul stated in the initial verses of ch. 15 the resurrection is one of the core truths of Christianity, so it stands to reason that if it is not true Christianity is a lie and cannot be trusted.
14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
If there is no resurrection from the dead, then Christ has not been raised, and if Christ has not been raised then Christians have misrepresented God and have lied about what God has done. If that is true then Paul argues that we are most to be pitied because we not only have been deceived and have been deceiving ourselves, but we must face the reality that we have misrepresented God. What a pitiable state indeed! But, Paul implies, Christ has been raised (and has been seen to be raised) so the general resurrection can be counted on, that leads us into the next reason.
Second, if Jesus was not raised from the dead, then death still reigns. Paul argues that since Christ was raised from the dead, death will fully and finally be put under Christ’s feet as he reigns on high. This is the point of vv. 20–28,
20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep… 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
Christ is the firstfruits and the ruler of all things. But if Christ was not raised, he has not conquered death and if death still reigns then God is not on the throne, death holds the victory because it holds Christ. Yet Christ is raised, and when he comes again he will put death under his feet, he will present his people to the Father and he will take up his rightful place as the ruler of all.
Third, if there is no resurrection, then life is meaningless and there is no justice. Paul makes this argument in one of the most recognizable in the entire Bible, ‘If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die”’ (v 32b). This line gets picked up by everyone from Nihilistic philosophers to pop music stars to people who just want to sound smart and hip, but one must ask the question, do they understand what they are saying? Paul quotes this from Isaiah 22:13, where Isaiah is pronouncing an Oracle against Jerusalem for their lack of dependence on God who is the one who provided care for them. Paul picks this up and argues that if the resurrection did not happen then there is no reason why we ought to care about God and the afterlife, all that matters is today, now, what we do in this moment. So live it up! But that is just it, Paul says, the resurrection did happen and this is not all that matters. Paul is telling us that there is a larger point to life than our pleasure. All of these negative points would be true if Christ were not raised, but because CHRIST WAS RAISED they are done away with. That moves us to the last point.
Fourth, since the resurrection did happen, we now have an everlasting, imperishable hope. Paul makes this argument in vv. 50–58. He encourages the believers at Corinth, telling them that since Christ was raised from the dead we know that one-day, when Christ returns in victory death and the grave will finally and fully be done away with. This is true hope, and Christ’s resurrection seals it for all eternity for those who believe. Yet for now we still live in this sin-cursed world and we still feel the pangs of death and the grave. But not for long, as we gather together as God’s people on Sunday, as we focus our mind on the empty tomb every Easter, it is a reminder that the new creation is close at hand, our resurrection is near. Christ’s resurrection to imperishable glory is a reminder, a picture, and a sure present hope of what will happen to those who believe as the perishable puts on the imperishable, as the mortal puts on the immortal and we spend eternity with the one who saves us. I want to end this post with a quote from the Lutheran commentator R.C.H. Lenski where he says,
Death is not merely destroyed so that it cannot do further harm while all the harm which it has wrought on God’s children remains… The destruction of death is far more intense: Death and all of its apparent victories are undone for God’s children. What looks like a victory for death and like a defeat for us when our bodies die and decay shall be utterly reversed so that death dies in absolute defeat, and our bodies live again in absolute victory. Yea, more! For these bodies will be restored, not merely again to be “flesh and blood,” but henceforth, to be incorruptible, immortal, “spiritual” (v 44), “heavenly” (v 49).
 Obviously this is not a rigorous defense of the historicity of the resurrection. What is in focus in this blog post is why the resurrection matters to Christianity.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (1 Co 15:12–19). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
 It is also interesting to think about the reality that death is even now being put under Christ’s feet even as it already has been.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (1 Co 15:20–28). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.