1 Corinthians 15:35-50
“Don’t Be Silly”
Post-Easter Series: “Living for Jesus”
May 19, 2019, Fifth Sunday of Easter
You may have seen the news this past week regarding the Supreme Court’s controversial ruling that a lawsuit filed against Apple can proceed in which IPhone users may seek remedy for what they consider to be inflated prices charged them for apps they download. I haven’t followed the arguments that carefully, because I can’t think of any apps I have downloaded on my smartphone that have cost me anything. All of the apps on my phone are free ones. Call me a cheapskate, but I think it would be silly for me to purchase anything that I can get for free.
Speaking of silliness and cellphone apps, I did notice a story the other day that got my attention. It was written by Matt Fitzgerald, a popular millennial pastor in Chicago, and describes his fascination with a new app he had downloaded, which he claims has changed his life. The app is called “WeCroak.” Five times a day the app sends an alert to its users, which arrive at random moments during the day, but always with the same message: “Don’t forget, you’re going to die.” The app is based on a Bhutanese proverb that suggests that in order to find happiness in this life one should contemplate death five times a day. If you’re interested, the app will only cost you $.99/month, until you cancel or until you die.
Personally, I think I’ll pass. The notion of contemplating my death doesn’t have any real appeal to me. But then I guess I’m not their target audience. As for my own well-being, I think I prefer to contemplate my life after my death and to allow that promise to infuse every moment between now and then with meaning and purpose and power and significance. For me, having an app on my smartphone that reminds me throughout the course of the day that I’m going to die just seems a bit silly.
As I read our text for the day, I find myself to be in good company with none other than the Apostle Paul, who had to contend with similar silliness with respect to the question of life and death and life after death. We’ve been looking at Paul’s teaching on the resurrection in his letter to the church at Corinth, a fractious and divided church, in large measure, because of their wrong beliefs on substantial matters, such as the necessity of being guided through this life by the hope of our resurrection for the life that is to come.
By now, you’re familiar with the aspects of Jesus’ resurrection that kept tripping up some in the Corinthian church. Essentially there were two. (1) While God may have raised Jesus from the dead, his resurrection has no bearing for us in terms of our future hope; and (2) Because we’re Greeks, we’ve bought in to the concept of the soul’s immortality, so that the whole business of a bodily resurrection is absurd and pointless. If the soul is immortal, who needs a body in the afterlife anyway?
It’s that last objection that commands Paul’s attention in the text that is before us this morning. Making use of a stock rhetorical technique in the ancient world, known as diatribe, Paul engages his critics in the church as to the patently obvious answers to their objections. And so when Paul anticipates their niggling doubts, “How are the dead raised and with what kind of body will they come?” he calls out their silliness with three examples of how their concerns are answered in ways that should be clear to them all. One answer comes from botany. When you plant a seed in the ground, what comes up is not the same thing that you planted. It has a different “body.” The second answer comes from zoology. Not all flesh is the same. People have one kind, animals another, birds another, and fish another. And the last answer comes from the celestial world. Look at the stars they differ from one another in splendor and glory. But the body the plant receives and the flesh that each part of the animal kingdom gets and the splendor of the heavenly bodies is precisely what God gives as God has determined, one that parallels what God provided Jesus, the last Adam. Nothing will be left to chance. To allege that the bodily resurrection is an impossible or an inconceivable notion is to question God’s power and resources, the evidence of which we see all around us.
So, “How are the dead raised?” God does it in the same way He raised Jesus. “And with what body will they come?” They will receive a body that is consistent with that of the Risen Jesus, the last Adam.
Clearly, Paul’s intent with this teaching is to convince his readers to move from doubting God’s power to trusting in it even now in the face of a world that has become way too reconciled to death. It is to invite them to see their present life as a sort of “seedtime” in which they begin trusting themselves to the Spirit of the Risen Jesus so that they will bear his image even now in part and in fullness in the world to come. It is to give a compelling witness to the fact that in spite of how utterly contingent this life is and how helpless we humans are as we go through it, because of our devotion to the resurrection of Jesus we know that its power has been defeated and it holds no more sway over us. Instead, death becomes the means by which we inherit the splendor of the coming Kingdom of God.
So, are you ready to place your trust in the Risen Jesus to the extent that you demonstrate on a daily basis that your Risen Savior and Lord is a never failing source of challenge and enrichment and enlargement because of how he is at the very center of your life? Are you willing to bet your living and ultimately your dying on the confession that Jesus will have the last word because of how he is both the Alpha and the Omega?
Let’s think of it this way. Suppose this afternoon you were to get a notification on your smartphone from one of the news apps you no doubt have on it saying, “Jesus Christ Will Return in Two Weeks.” What would you do? How would you respond?
Some of us, out of shock and fear, would be glad that we were in church on the day we got that notification. And moreover, we’d make sure we’d be in church the next two Sundays before Jesus returns. And as far as the other days of the week, we’d be sure to make some changes as well. For example, prayer would no doubt become a greater priority. And those grudges we held against other people? We’d drop those and probably even seek some reconciliation with our enemies. We’d forgive and we’d most likely forget because something much bigger would be on our minds.
Of course, there might be others who might say, “Two weeks? What can I do to get ready in two weeks? God has already decided my fate, so I’ll just keep doing what I’ve been doing all along.” But that wouldn’t be the best response; in fact it would be quite silly for anyone to see his or her eternity in such a pessimistic way.
My hope is that there would be at least some of us who would say, “Isn’t this moment what we’ve been waiting for? Isn’t this the reason we’ve ordered our lives around the teachings of Jesus? I’m not going to do anything different. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing until my faith becomes sight.”
But, of course, there is no such notification that we can expect to receive; only the last trumpet. One day the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. So, in the meantime, as we continue to bear the image of earthly man, the first Adam, let us lean upon the Easter power that God makes possible so that even now we might begin to bear the image of the heavenly man, the final Adam. Let us be steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of our Risen Lord, because we know that in light of our coming glory, a glory that is very much similar to his eternal glory, our labor is not in vain in the Lord.