A reflection on 1 Corinthians 15:12-20 for the Sixth Sunday After Epiphany, February 13, 2022.
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.
1 Corinthians 15:12-20 (NRSVA)
Paul’s rhetorical argument is revealing: the resurrection of Christ is central to his message.
It is not fringe. It is not an added bonus that can be taken or left. It is not a way to make the ending more palatable.
The resurrection of Christ is so central to the declaration of Paul about God’s work in the world that he chooses to point out that he is either a liar or working in ‘vain’ if this is not true.
A raised Christ is not optional for Paul.
After all, not only his message, but his hope for his own and his hearer’s destiny depends on it. What God did in Christ is what God is doing to all.
First-fruit makes reference to a young fruit tree in its early seasons. Then it may produce only a few pieces of fruit. Each one, however, is an indication of the nature and quality of many harvests to come.
Those lonely pieces of fruit are a promise!
In the same way, Christ’s resurrection – and the nature of this resurrected body – is a glimpse of resurrection for all who entrust themselves to God.
So Paul can declare – even after vulnerably opening himself up to charges of misrepresenting God – that ‘…in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.’
How central is the resurrection of Christ to your understanding of the Good News?
Think back to the gospel appearances of the resurrected Christ. In your own words, how do these stories describe resurrection? How do these descriptions inform your hope of resurrection for yourself? For others? For creation?